And so we begin our journey back to Sunnydale. Well, not Sunnydale but the parts around it. As in the rest of the world.
Scripts: Joss Whedon and Brian K. Vaughan
Pencils: George Jeanty, Paul Lee, Cliff Richards, and Jo Chen
Inks: Andy Owens and Jo Chen
Colors: Dave Stewart and Jo Chen
Letters: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
What They Say:
After the destruction of the Hellmouth, the Slayers-—newly legion–have gotten organized, but it’s not long before new and old enemies begin popping up. Buffy, Xander, Willow, and a very different Dawn are introduced to the season’s big bad, Twilight, and are only beginning to understand the incredible reach of this mysterious threat. Meanwhile, rebel Slayer Faith teams up with Giles to handle a menace on the other side of the Atlantic. It’s a dirty job, and Faith is just the girl to do it!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Joss Whedon is the dude we know and love for making the Avengers, but before that he was (and is) known for getting cult classics cancelled on TV. Look at his repertoire: Dollhouse, Angel, Buffy, and Firefly. Firefly! They cancelled Firefly and I’m…pretty alright with it. I liked Firefly well enough, and it showed promise, but it’s nothing to be up in arms about.
That’s not what I’m talking about here, though. I’m here to talk about the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic; you know, those ones that started in 2007 as a continuation to Buffy’s seventh TV season, which ended in 2003 (and made Joss Whedon into the cult icon he is).
Buffy spent a popular five seasons on the WB network from 1997 to 2000, with a peak viewership of 5.3 million, according to Wikipedia. The WB wouldn’t pick it up for a sixth season, so Whedon shipped it around until UPN picked it up for its final two seasons. Now, both television networks are gone, having folded into the CW in different years.
I watched Buffy in my much-more-free-time-filled college days, starting with a recap of the first two seasons from a friend and needle dropping the third season until I just started to watch every episode of the fourth season and fell in love. To call it one of my favorite American television shows would not be a stretch (and I hold Buffy above Angel in that regard, but more on Angel later).
I’m not the only one who was captured by Buffy’s charm. Universities across the country (probably across the world) have classes devoted to the study of Buffy’s fantastical world and its feminism; it’s exactly what drew me to the show. I loved watching Buffy and Willow kick ass and I loved the deep mythology Whedon constructed around such complex characters.
Buffy is literally the alpha woman—a slayer, and that means she’s stronger than most on the planet. But she goes around killing vampires under the tutelage of her watcher, Giles. The watcher’s role in itself is quite interesting, as it shows humanity’s reluctance to trust in power greater than their own. Giles rises above this mold and the two become a pain to the Watcher’s Council, defying them on more than one occasion. Quite the not-so-subtle nudge against unexplained authoritarian rule.
Then there’s Willow, the spunky lesbian witch. Her journey through the show has always been the nerdy researcher and it’s not until she discovered her magic that she really fell into her role, so to speak. She’s always had a place in the Scooby Gang, but secondary to Buffy. Well, everyone’s secondary to Buffy, but every girl wants to feel as badass as Buffy Summers.
Meanwhile, Xander is left to the side. He’s delegated to the sidekick role because, as he says in this comic, “I’m not a fighter. I got no magic.” But Xander has always played that important role of side kick because, without him, the world would have ended in season six and the girls would have nowhere to come back to. He’s like a totem to ground them between this crazy world of vampires and demons and the real world.
Xander spends his days with his good ol’ eye patch pretending he’s Sergeant Nick Fury. But wait, he’s asked, wasn’t Fury a colonel when he lead S.H.I.E.L.D. Well, yeah, he was and Xander gives you nerd cred for that, but Xander also prefers Fury “in the howling commando days.” After all, there are hundreds of newly born slayers to take care of thanks to the events of the end of the TV show and someone’s got to lead them all. Buffy’s ma’am now, Andrew has a group in Italy, and Giles is back home still. Willow is MIA and Buffy, Dawn, and Xander have relocated themselves to Scotland. To say things have changed is an understatement.
Things have changed in Buffy’s world and we’re reintroduced to it like a pilot of a TV show. Everything is similar, yet everything is different. These events would make no sense to someone who hasn’t seen the TV show, for sure. I mean, it’s season eight of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
As is usual, we’re introduced to an all new Big Bad, this time named Twilight and they’re trying to impart evil on the world just like everyone else before them. Well, the impressive thing about Joss Whedon’s writing is that imparting evil isn’t always evil. The “evil” that Twilight is trying to do is completely understandable and thus Whedon creates an empathetic villain and we’re left with questions of morality.
Some of the best writing I’ve seen in media has been when the villain isn’t so clear cut. I love it when I’m asking whether the bad guy is really the bad guy and that’s exactly what Whedon is doing here. After all, The Master, Angel, the Principal, the Initiative, Glory, Willow, and the Hellmouth didn’t really leave room for questioning actions. With Willow, we questioned whether we wanted the villain to be killed, but her actions were no doubt bad. Once again, Whedon ups the ante.
Buffy’s character writing has always been exceptionally good, and it doesn’t get worse here. Hell, you might even say it gets better here now that Whedon has had some time to reflect on the characters he made and the world they live in. It doesn’t hurt that he also wrote these characters in long-form storytelling for seven years. With the introduction of new characters, Whedon’s Whedon-y writing is reigned in a little, but dialogue still bothers me. I’m fine with jokes in the things I consume, but when everyone is telling the same kind of joke, I start to not believe that these are characters and more they are conduits for Joss Whedon to tell his bad jokes and amazing stories.
But that aside, it’s good to come back and visit this world and these characters. With the seventh season, I was left with a lot of questions that were better off left unanswered and a lot of questions that should have been answered (specifically, a lot of questions concerning the slayers). There was that episode at the end of season four that visited the first slayer, but we still didn’t get a lot of the why’s answered. There’s also the fact that Buffy awakened thousands of latent slayers and who knows what the worst ones (like Genevive) are doing. The seventh season didn’t answer that; they had the Hellmouth to deal with anyway. This comic starts to fill in some of the blanks with its first volume, but not all. It’s a great restart to a beloved world and I’m excited to read more. But for now, I’ll just say it shows a lot of promise.
Content Grade: B
Art Grade: B+
Released By: Dark Horse
Release Date: June 5, 2012