Monday, January 24, 2011

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight

The 40-issue run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight published its final issue last Wednesday, which incidentally was also Buffy's 30th birthday.  The "season" lasted more than 4 years, and had some serious ups and downs. It certainly doesn't command the same feelings as the television show did for me, but there were definitely some things I enjoyed.  Here are some of my thoughts and reactions:

...The format is simply not as emotional to me as the show.  I just can't get as engrossed by each issue as I was by every episode.  Plus, at best there is a month between issues, during which plot details seep from my mind.  Just as I get into the story, the issue is over.  And while the writers do a pretty bang-up job writing Spike and Faith, some of the other characters (especially Angel) just don't sound quite right.  The change in medium removed the concept of budget constraints from the production, but it came with a pretty major set of drawbacks.

...Further riffing on the above, one of our core group of friends gets killed.  I can't even imagine how it would destroy me in the show.  In the comics, while I was left feeling a bit surprised that Joss would go there, that was about it - I was totally dry-eyed. 

...According to the letter from Joss that was included with the final issue, part of the mission of Season 8 was to take the optimism and empowerment that concludes Season 7, and reconcile it to the hopeless dystopia of the Fray world.  They nailed this.  At the end of Season 8, Buffy is back to slaying vampires, patrolling, nursing her broken heart.  These are the things we love her to do.  The army of slayers is broken apart and no more will be called; magick (at least in the form we understand) is ended; the Fray world can now be plausible.  Plus Willow is completely depressed, Xander and Dawn have gone domestic (which I totally think works, and think the groundwork was laid in the Season 7 episode "Chosen"), Faith has all of Giles' stuff (plus the mission of rehabilitating Angel), Spike is still on his insect-crewed spaceship and mooning over Buffy... the stage is set for adventures just the way we want them.

...I loved seeing Oz again. 

...I'm glad Kennedy is out the door.

...I thought that the "Riley" one-shot was one of the best issues of the entire season (and it's not even one of the sequential 40).  We got to see Riley (for whom I have no love) interact in the only way that was flattering to him during the series - with his badass wife.  They basically talked about why he needed to help Buffy, and it was powerful.  It did a great job of encapsulating this incredible character from the point of view of another person.  Plus, the explanation of how Angel became Twilight made some sense. 

...That said, I'm still having trouble with the "Angel is Twilight" thing, as well as the space-banging causing the apocalypse.  Angel has been the bad guy before - Angelus was pretty freaking bad - and I'm not sure I want to sit through another character rehab.  If anything, it might make him even broodier.  And really, who needs that?

So all in all, I would call the Buffy comics a success, but not a definitive one.  It had some problems.  But I liked seeing the Scoobies have new adventures, and I will read the new ones brought to me in Season Nine. At this point, I'm way to comfortable in a comic book shop to bail out now.

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