During my travels yesterday I managed to catch up on “season 8″ of the Buffy comics, which I had read until issue 22 or so and then lost interest. It went on for another 18ish issues, with one-shots and specials peppered throughout.
I like the idea of Joss Whedon continuing his creations in comics form and calling it canonical (Season 9 is underway). He managed to get some good writers to work on the book, including several who worked on the TV series and more recent rising stars like Brian K. Vaughn. What I didn’t like was the early decision that since the show was now a comic, they should start depicting bigger monsters, more exotic locales, and bizarre situations that would have cost too much to film. It was cute at first, but like a lot of Joss’ work, wore thin upon repetition.
Lest you think I am not fan enough to judge the comic, I should assure you that I have watched all 7 seasons of the show – in fact, I think I have watched every season of all of Joss’ shows, some more than once. I consider Buffy Season 3 to be one of the best runs of television I have ever seen. Unfortunately it took a sharp dive after that, recovering only somewhat in seasons 6 and 7 but never quite regaining what it had been. And to be fair, how many shows set in high school do recover after graduation day?
Season 8 is no exception to the trend. It is good to hear the voices of the characters again, and the artists keep things on model quite well, especially Georges Jeanty and cover artist Jo Chen. Not surprisingly, this is a book directed very much at fans, and while it is good not to have to explain absolutely everything for new readers, it did lead to some unfortunate fan-service moments. As a person who did enjoy the show (and some of the previous comics, especially Fray), I enjoyed some of the major developments and callbacks, like seeing what became of Oz. Other developments, especially some at the end of the season, pretty much sucked.
Season 8 is, like season 6, very much about magic (with a k), and while Joss & co. mercifully did not reopen the “magic is a drug” metaphor very much, they did echo a lot of what was done in the fourth season of Angel- which is not something I would ever want to revisit. Much like all of Buffy after season 3, this is not a season that was solid from beginning to end; it was overlong with some individual bright episodes, including:
#5, “The Chain” – Joss tells the story of one of Buffy’s decoys. You can probably guess how it ends.
#6-9, “No Future for You” – Brian K. Vaughn sends Faith and Giles after a rogue slayer in the UK.
#16-19, “Time of your Life” – a Buffy/Fray crossover by Joss.
#20, “After These Messages We’ll Be Right Back” – Jeph Loeb, a popular comics writer who also developed a never-aired Buffy animated series back in the day, writes a story where Buffy dreams that she is in that series, suddenly back in high school, with her mom still alive, Angel still in Sunnydale and Willow not aware that she’s gay. It’s one of the most fun Buffy stories I have ever read or seen.
#27, “Retreat part 2″ – Jane Espenson shows us Oz with his new family in Tibet.
So, Season 8 has its ups and downs just like seasons 4 through 7, but I’m glad I caught up and will check out Season 9 sometime soon. I’d rather see more of this comic than that movie reboot that is in development.