Dark Horse Advance Reviews: Joss Whedon's Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9 #2 & Tom Morello's Orchid #1

Today we’ve got two advance, spoiler free reviews of Dark Horse comics for you! But you know, some light spoilers anyway. So be careful, friends.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 9 #2

I’m not going to recap everything I said in my review of the last issue of Buffy Season 9, but here’s the gist: after an increasingly convoluted Season 8, Joss Whedon and team used issue one to bring things back to basics, ending with a laugh out loud funny page that very clearly grounded this new series in reality. Well, sure, a reality where super strong girls fight the undead, and demons demand payment for student loans, but reality nonetheless.

Luckily, this second issue is even more grounded. Where Whedon went for a time jumping structure through issue one, Andrew Chambliss – a writer on Dollhouse, among other TV shows – takes the writing chores on issue two, and with one exception makes things even simpler.

No spoilers, but this issue picks up where we left off, clarifying the last page, and then mixing in a few of the subplots from issue one. The most surprising thing about this series right now? Due to the events from the last series – and particular the actions of one vampire named Harmony, the world is drastically different. Not just from the elimination of most magic when Buffy destroyed The Seed last “season,” but because the world at large knows what vampires are, and what slayers are.

That’s a pretty weird development, and even more strangely, it was dealt with as a side-plot last year. That said, now that its in the mix, it makes Buffy’s life even more complicated than it was before, as she ends up embroiled with the law for all the wrong reasons. Plus, as usual for the start of a Buffy season, her friends are off doing their own things… Until they all, inevitably get back together to face the Big Bad at the end.

What that Big Bad is for Season 9 isn’t quite clear yet, but there’s a rather big development with a new character introduced at the end that once again will drastically overturn the world of Buffy and company. That said, unlike the casually thrown out, “Oh, vampires are real, FYI,” this new development seems like it will have at least ramifications for the arc, if not the whole season.

The only thing missing from this issue? The cracking sense of humor in the last issue. Chambliss keeps things moving, and has a light, easy touch with comic writing, but its just not as laugh out loud funny as we usually want Buffy to be. Granted, this may be because issue two is so packed with plot, but I hope we get a little more hilarity in issue three.

In summation? Buffy continues to be back to basics, fun, creative, and thankfully now a title I’m going to be looking forward to reading month after month. Five by five, people. Five by five.

ORCHID #1

I’m a little mixed on this comic, the first written by Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave’s Tom Morello. On one hand, he’s created a richly populated post-apocalyptic world filled with strangely familiar customs, terrifying genetic monsters, and the classic heroes journey structure, accompanied by art by Scott Hepburn that feels fondly reminiscent of Tom Fowler. On the other hand, there’s too much plot, and not enough character development to make this a great first issue.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s enough here that I’ll probably pick up issue number two, just out of curiosity’s sake; but at the same time, the story of Orchid, and her inevitable journey to becoming the savior of the world (I assume) isn’t quite grabbing me – yet.

So here’s the gist: many, many years in the future, after total global collapse and pollution caused the genetic mutation of animals around the world, the Earth has been reduced to a medieval culture with some updated clothes and technology. Of course, there’s some guys on the top, and even more guys way on the bottom. And double of course, there are the Rebels, which is where we pick up our story – as they liberate a fabled relic that’s supposed to grant amazing power.

Like I said, this is the typical heroes journey story, and I expect we’ll hit all the points along the way: refusal of the call, the other eighteen bullet-points of Joseph Campbell’s myth that no one remembers, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s a prototypical story structure for a reason. However, that also means we’re only at the very beginning of our journey here. This issue is straight up world building, from the exposition heavy first few pages that play like the scroll at the top of a Star Wars movie, to the exposition heavy dialogue that follows.

That all said, given the mash-up of genres and ideas that follow, I’m on board to learn more, and its quite possible this could develop into something special. At the very least, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, it isn’t a disaster. Often when a rock star or movie star tries to write a comic on their own, it’s a vanity project at best, and terrible at worst. Here, if I didn’t know who Morello was, I’d think we were on board for another post apocalyptic tale with some intriguingly new elements.

Fans of the musician definitely won’t be disappointed, and I don’t think comic fans will, either… Let’s just start to deepen these characters in the next issue, okay? Okay. Glad we had this talk.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9 #2 and Orchid #1 both hit comic book stores on October 12, 2011.

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