Retro Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 #1 The Long Way Home Pt 1

BTVS Season 8 #1So we wanted to try something new…or rather something vintage at Graphic Policy.  Comics as a medium have become a growing force in popular culture, enjoyed by people of many ages. Collectors can attest to their admiration for how the medium has changed visually, narrative-wise and so on over the years. In the spirit of this admiration we are very proud to introduce the Retro Review. An occasional curating of some classic or forgotten gems over the years, dusted off favourites, served up on tap and presented for analysis.

One of the landmark pop cultural icons of the 90s was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, originally a kitschy movie which debuted 1992 about a vally-girl heroine turned warrior against the forces of darkness. Buffy the Vampire introduced the  archetype of the subverted damsel in distressed turned chosen one. Though not presented exactly to her creator Joss Whedon’s initial expectations, the concept found its fullest expression and enjoyed its greatest success during its seven season television adaption which ran from to 1997-2003. The series end was book-ended with a seismic shift in the series mythos when Buffy makes the choice to share her power with other women around the world.

Flash forward five years to 2008 and the story has found its continuation albeit in comic form courtesy of Dark Horse comics.  Penned as Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8. We see the titular heroine in her brave new status quo. Both Buffy and her peers now find themselves holding the reigns of what once the Watcher’s Council. Adopting the operations and agenda of the now defunct organization, the Scoobies (as they are affectionately called by the fandom) have moved forward with their own vision. A vision where power is more distributed and things are less well…patriarchal.  Instead of one chosen slayer (or two thanks to the hiccups of seasons 2-7) there are now an estimated 1800 Slayers working with mentors in squads worldwide fighting the good fight.

A few fan favourites return as we get a look into their new operation and status quo. The Nick Fury-esque Xander Harris coordinates with Buffy remotely as she takes a squad of freshly called slayers to investigate a new seemingly demonic mystery. The team has a mixed roster of Watchers (but don’t call them that) mystics and slayers.  The story is subtitled “the Long Way Home” and is narrated by Buffy who shares her longing for her home Sunnydale, simpler times and perhaps hesitation at her station in this new landscape.

Buffy

Speaking of Sunnydale, the US military makes takes an active interest into matters as they happen upon the Sunnydale crater (Sunnydale was destroyed in the series finale). General Voll laments at the sheer destructive power that Buffy has wrought on the world, and tacitly rebrands intelligence of Buffy’s slayer squads as terroristic “cells”.  Sunnydale has always interested me, the theatre for most of the supernatural drama Buffy and her friends have endured, the longstanding nonchalance or perhaps ignorance of its citizens (with regard to its danger and weirdness) has been a striking and mostly unaddressed facet of the TV series (until season 7) since its beginning. Seeing the immensity of the crater, you realize it is truly emblematic of the consequence of its supernatural ignorance.

SD Crater

 

It is nice to see a military / government response to this new world order Buffy has spearheaded. It is an intriguing and organic thematic flourish from Season 4’s introduction of the Initiative. The raised profile of Buffy’s organization is poised to redefine human/ superhuman relations in the Buffyverse and raise the stakes for the time being. I always felt there was not enough of this element on the show and I was happy to see it explored in this series extension.

A long time Scooby villain re-emerges from the crater as with whom General makes a strategic partnership with. This villain is revealed to be the witch Amy Madison the military’s apparent answer to Buffy and company’s seeming threat and beachhead into the world of the supernatural. Those who know this carry may smell a grudge match on the horizon which stirs anticipation for issue 2.

Amy

I have written elsewhere of the risk of cross media integration, and this series is a strong successful example of that.  The tone and humour of the TV series carries over seamlessly into the comic and as strange as it sounds you really feel as though you are reading an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Lastly there is a lot to be said for the art. Georges Jeanty has an incredible knack for capturing the likeness of the characters we know and love. His covers are also vivid, and worthy of being a poster on any superfan’s wall.   The promises of the new medium also built up anticipation for the series at the time. BTVS has been known it’s schnazzy special effects. The venture into the comic platform seemed poised to lift the lid of that. Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 8 was an exciting time indeed.

Final Thoughts

5 years seems to be the magic number for this franchise. We saw a cross media jump from film to TV in the interim of 1992-97. And another from TV to comics from 2003-2008. Perhaps when (or if) this comic series wraps up we’ll see another such leap. Perhaps a Netflix reboot?…please? Joss willing of course.

 

Writer: Joss Whedon, Artist: Georges Jeanty

Story 9: Art: 10 Overall 9.5  Recommendation: Buy (And Cherish)