Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 8 Graphic Novels
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
This will be only my second mainly negative review. I did enjoy parts of this comic series, but overall I felt it lost the focus of what made the TV series great, along with presenting some character dynamics that are too forced and frankly difficult to accept. Even Joss has admitted that in an attempt to make this series more "epic" they strayed from the formula too much, and he will endeavor to make the proposed Season 9 comics more grounded and accessible to fans. This is understandable in the context of the conclusion of this comic series, as several of the characters are essentially back to square one. This is the same way each of the television seasons concluded, capping off a story arc while also leaving it open for a continuation.
I will admit that a lot of my negative reaction is because the story is in comic form rather than live action with the actors I grew to love in the TV series. I've never been a comics fan, and have only recently started buying them, both these Buffy issues as well as the Angel ones, along with those related to Firefly and Serenity. Reading dialogue balloons in a comic is quite different from hearing an actor delivering the lines, both in tone and inflection, as well as the typical Whedonesque cadence. One thing I don't like in a comic is when a line of dialogue is presented as in a voice-over from a scene coming up, and it takes a bit to realize who is saying the line. Segues like that also work best in video form because you can usually tell immediately which actor is delivering the line and that it is from an upcoming scene, not the one on the screen at the time.
The cover art is exceptionally good, but I suppose it would have required too much time to have the interior panels reflect that kind of detail. While I had no trouble identifying Buffy and Xander in most scenes, there were times it was only evident to be Willow by her red hair. There was not a consistency in her appearance from story to story, which were drawn by various artists over the years. Some other minor characters were next to impossible to recognize since I don't think the artist's rendition of them was very accurate. The most obvious examples of this for me were Oz and Riley, in fact the first time Riley appeared I didn't realize who it was although I assumed it was supposed to be self-evident. Those cameos were another weak part of the story, as their appearances seemed to be merely an attempt to include as many of the TV show's characters as possible, whether or not that appearance advanced the story.
I also had a difficult time figuring out the timeline. It obviously follows from the Season 7 television conclusion, but how many months have gone by since then, or has it been as much as a year or more? After Buffy ended on TV, its spin-off Angel continued for another season, and then approximately eight months after the first Buffy comic from Dark Horse, the Angel Season 6 (After the Fall) comics began from IDW. Joss was able to negotiate with IDW and Dark Horse for an Angel crossover in the Buffy comics, but what does that mean for the actions that we see from Angel in the Buffy story? A completely different story line was unfolding in the Angel comics, so it seems obvious that the two stories were separated in time, I'm just not sure how. Are the actions taken by Angel here concurring with that television series' Season 5, or is it sometime between its conclusion and the beginning of the Angel comics? If the former, I'll have to rewatch Angel Season 5 to see if any of this falls into place, because it sure doesn't seem to fall into the time line of the Angel comics themselves. Sorry to ramble on about that, but color me confused. I'm not going into details about this crossover so as not to spoil anything for those who have yet to read the comics, but I wish I felt like doing so because it involves one of my biggest complaints about the story.
There were 40 separate comic issues, which have now been released in various trade paperback omnibus volumes. A few of the issues were singleton stories, others were part of a four or five issue story arc. Last year a motion comic was released in a DVD/Blu-Ray combo (unfortunately covering only the first 19 issues), and as I suspected, each comic comprises what would amount to about 10-15 minutes of a TV show, or basically the segments of a show between the commercials. Hence we have the equivalent of only seven complete episodes, with ten other shorter stories interspersed throughout. That wouldn't be a problem of course if the stories themselves were comparable to what we saw in the TV series, but in my opinion only one of them is that good, the second arc, "No Future For You," which features Faith. She and Giles were the two characters serviced best by the comics, the rest just didn't seem to be the same as they had been in the series. Well, Xander was still his wise-cracking self, but that is about all he was here, whereas his character had been developed to considerable depth by the end of Season 7.
In conclusion, the bad outweighs the good in this story, but I am glad I read it. The ending points to a much more satisfying story for Season 9, which is supposed to begin sometime in late summer or early fall this year.
My review of Buffy the TV Series
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