Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Buffy has a housewarming party (the most traditional narrative technique to bring the audience up to date). We find out that Buffy still works in the coffee shop and is friendly enough with her boss to invite him to her party. Xander has a secret from Dawn, apparently something bad (he looks gloomy and doesn't crack a single smile during the issue). Willow now dresses like Lilah Morgan and dates her former classmate Aura ("Some guy was stuffed in Aura's locker!" - WttH); she and Buffy are friends, but the destruction of the Seed strains their relationship. Spike still lives in his bug ship and joins Buffy during patrols. Riley works in an anti-terrorist unit and is still married to Sam. Andrew organized a disaster relief organization for slayers.
We meet Buffy's roommates - Anaheed, a failed writer who works as fact checker at a website; and Tumble who plays Mass Effect non-stop and wants to create a rock band with Spike.
The party and post-party hangover are interspersed with several plots points for future issues:
-- rookie police inspector Dowling and his more experienced female partner Cheung find a body of a young girl without any clue or explanation of her death (no wounds or traces of drugs or illness) and no ID or match from missing persons. She's the third one this month.
-- A demon escapes a magic prison: the magic bonds weakened because the Seed has been feeding them, I guess. We already know the demon's name from the next previews - El Draco.
-- Simone drives in San Francisco in a van loaded with weapons. She plans "something big" - "to show them we're still here".
-- a couple of suits hire a demon to make Buffy pay for something. On the last panel the demon finds her and roars "Buffy Summers it is time for you to pay YOUR STUDENT LOAN!"
...But, of course, it's just the hors-d'oevres. The main course are Buffy's relationships.
Once upon a time, very long ago, when I was only discovering the wonderful world of fanfiction, I stumbled upon a gem on ff.net: Buffy slept with somebody but can't remember if it was Angel, Spike or Riley.
Joss went further. Spike and Riley are in the tally, and instead of Angel, there are Xander, Willow (yes - Willow!), Buffy's boss and a mysterious neighbor. The scenes between Buffy and all her possible one-night stands are ambiguous enough to be interpreted any which way you like. Buffy herself doesn't remember anything - or doesn't want to remember. Joss teases all the shipper groups, and he does it in his inimitable style, half-jokingly, half-seriously.
So far, the only consequence of season 8 is the loss of magic. Buffy's "terrorist" activities are forgotten. Bank-robbing is forgotten. Giles' isn't mentioned at all. Unless the guy in red glasses in #40 is really Ripper, Giles is forgotten. (Pity.)
The contrast between season 8 and the first issue of season 9 reminds me the contrast between the tragic ending of season 5 and lightness of early season 6 episodes like "Life Serial" and "All the Way". The new season is smaller in scope and is dedicated to smaller problems.
Buffy's rommates represent two dead ends of her potential future. Anaheed is a walking proof that education isn't a solution of your problems while Tumble who plays computer games all the time, is apparently single and satisfied with it. Interestingly, Anaheed and Tumble's dynamics resembles that of Willow and Xander in season 1 - they are buddies, they apparently know each other for a long time, she is an intellectual, he is a slacker close to the nerd culture. Looks like they'll be recurring characters.
Re: the mystery subplot. I like Emmie's version about the cause of the girls deaths: that they are former vampires, killed by detachment of the demon who animated the body. It doesn't explain why there is no male victims, but I think we'll find out in time.
El Draco is a very colorful character. Looks like he spent so much time in his jail that he has almost lost the ability to speak. His jailers don't look like good guys. His line "Kill all" is followed by a scene in which Buffy screams "Kill! Kill" as she and her guests play Chicken in the pool. Maybe it's an unintentional parallel - but I have the impression that El Draco isn't a bad guy, and that eventually he'll become Buffy's ally.
The mysterious neighbor, Heinrich, is intriguing. (BTW, Joss indended to give The Master the name Heinrich Joseph Nest). We don't see Heinrich and Buffy doesn't remember visiting him - but in the morning he sends her flowers. Is it only my suspicious mind, or Heinrich's flowers *do* have an uncanny resemblance to Twilight boots in the first issue of s8? :) A reclusive type (nobody even knew his name before the party), sends Buffy flowers after spending 20 minutes with her. Sounds like a set-up.
I wonder what secret Xander hides from Dawn but shares with Buffy. I hope he's dissatisfied with his job but doesn't want to quit because he wants Dawn to be able to continue higher education. Or maybe he is unhappy that Buffy wastes her life waitressing and throwing parties. He always put her on pedestal, and now that pedestal is crumbling.
Willow wants to talk to Buffy alone, without Spike at her side. It's about the Seed, but not about blaming Buffy. Maybe Willow wants to restore the Seed and needs Buffy's help.
Spike and Spuffy:
When Spike arrives, Buffy is already quite drunk, and she openly flirts with him. He is unimpressed. Later we see him kissing a random girl at the party. When Riley gives Buffy a pep talk, she replies that he sounds like Spike.
The next evening when Spike joins Buffy and Willow at patrol, Buffy is angry at him; she calls him Stalky the Clown. I like her passive-agressive reaction; it's obvious that these two have a lot of unresolved issues. But the season only starts. We have a lot of room for development. So far, I have the impression that Spike slowly turns into Angel circa season 1: he provides Buffy with cryptic clues and tries to protect her. It jibes well with Jeanty's recent declarations at DragonCon.
Overall, I liked the issue. The dialog is quintessestially Jossian, the narrative is energetic and the final twist about the student loan is silly and funny and very season 1.