Friday, April 6, 2007

Buffy Season 8 Comic: Issues 1 & 2 Review


When you were a kid, did you ever have a best friend, or a pet, and one day, that friend moved away or the pet passed on? Yeah, you knew it was coming. The friend told you months in advance, or the pet was very sick. It didn't make it any easier though.... Well, did that best friend or beloved pet every come back!? No, because Steven King taught us resurrecting animals never turns out well.... or something like that. But for me, it has happenned! My once lost best friend slash cuddly animal (not a bunny) has returned, and that pet's name is Buffy!

Ok, catch-up time! The 7th and final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended on May 20th, 2003. After moving over from the WB to UPN, the show took a very different turn. The 6th season was very dark, and put the Scoobies into very adult situations involving addiction, sex, abandonment, sex, marriage, sex, and money. And sex. While the 6th season gave us the perfect 52 minutes of entertainment with the musical episode "Once More With Feeling" many critics and fans never really enjoyed this season because of its dark themes and the major absence of humor. While it was not my favorite season (ironically, my 6th favorite overall), there was still a lot to love aside from OMWF. The 7th season was all about changes again. It was a return to the themes of the first season; how hard high school is, pure evil, what it means to be a slayer. The 7th and last season ended with a bang, as Buffy (and thanks to Willow's magic and an ancient slayer weapn, a hundred or new slayers) sealed the Hellmouth and caused Sunnydale to collapse upon itself leaving nothing but a crater behind. The last scene was an optimistic Buffy realizing she has the chance to live a better life, now that so many other Slayers are now empowered. Did I mention Buffy was the Slayer? She is, its true!

The comic is the official 8th season, with the first story arc and overall them for the series written by Buffy creator, Joss Whedon, with different sections and arcs written and inked by different writers and artists. For those of you who do not know who Joss Whedon is, stop reading this right now and stop breathing too, you have no right to live. The first two issues are pure Whedon humor. The dialog is straight from the show, and I can hear the actor's voice in my head as I read. Nothing seems out of place or wrong. This is the Buffyverse on paper. Which is what leads me to my favorite thing about the comic so far: fan service.

Everything about the first two issues screams fan service. Yes, there is a story here that anyone can enjoy, even if they only watched a few episodes, or stopped watching at the end of the 5th season... but why would you do that? What makes the comic work the best is the dialog that is written for each character, and the little in jokes that they say. Xander telling Buffy she is "five by five" or Andrew telling his group of Slayers to never use guns (which there seems to be some debate over this conversation). The best part being Willow appearing at the very end of the 2nd issue, when a witch declares she is unstoppable, and saying "as a good friend once said, 'I would like to test that theory."' Each of these moments is a little gift to the shows biggest fans. Oh, and Giant Dawn? I love Giant Dawn. Dawn always wants to be the biggest thing around, get all the attention, have everyone think about her... and she got that wish granted. Dawn does not learn her lessons very well....

The next best thing about the comics is the delivery of the surprises and powerful moments. Whedon is a master at laying out a comic. When you read something at the bottom of the right page, you will be truly curious or shocked. When you turn the page to see the splash or next part, Whedon proves how creative he is with laying out the panels in the perfect order. He has an incredible sense of framing and creating the right moment, whether it is on the TV screen, or comic book page.

So what is the story with the story? The comic takes place an unknown amount of time after the series ended (2-3 years?). All of the potential Slayers from season 7 now have powers, and most have been split into several teams. Xander and Buffy have a large group in Scottland, Giles has his group, and even Andrew has a team at his disposal. All the teams have high tech gadgetry and weapons, and I have no idea where they got the money and time to get this organized. Hopefully that will be revealed at some point. The story is the same as the TV series; Buffy and the Scoobies dealing with their daily lives, but in a whole new, grander setting. Buffy misses sex (great muppety Odin does she miss the sex!) and wishes Dawn trusted her, Xander is loving being Mr Military/Agent Fury (he acts like he enjoys having to wear the eyepatch), Andrew has a group of people who respect him and want to be around him (even though he answers serious questions with Star Wars metaphors) Giles is being all Watchery in Europe, and Dawn.... is a giant.... didn't we cover that already? You have a horrible memory. And Willow has just appeared on the last page of the 2nd issue. We covered that already too. Did you forget to take your Ginkgo?

There are 2 Big Bads so far; the US Military (or is it?!) and Amy the witch. The military found the Sunnydale crater, and Amy inside of it. They want to take out Buffy and all the Slayers, afraid they are some new terrorist organization. Amy wants to help them. She puts Buffy into a sleep she can't wake up from as thousands of zombies raid the castle (there's a castle now!). The pace has been somewhat slow for a comic so far, but the last 10 pages of the 2nd issue moved things along at a good pace. And each issue ends in a famous Whedon cliffhanger.

The next issue comes out on May 2nd, and I cannot wait. After 4 years of no Buffy, 3 with no Angel, and 2 with no Firefly/Serenity, Whedon steps up and delivers big time in a great new format. While he may not be a stranger to making comics, his brilliant humor and passion shine through amazingly in just 64 pages. I of course recommend reading the series, but those who are going to have already picked up their copies of the first two issues by now (first issue in its 2nd printing). May 2nd never seemed so far away.... ya know, except for on May 3rd, cause then its a whole year and stuff.

5 Stars (out of 5)

(images courtesy Dark Horse)

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