REVIEW: Buffy Season 8 #8






I have a confession to make: I’m in love with Buffy. No, not Sarah Michelle Gellar (though she certainly is gorgeous), and not the character of Buffy per se. But I am shamelessly devoted to the whole Buffyverse that Joss Whedon has created; the television show seemed to form a vitally important part of my life for its seven seasons of existence (and then one more if you count the final season of Angel). Having said that, anything that Joss seems to do is fantastic; maybe I should have said ‘I’m in love with Joss Whedon’, but I’m not ready to admit that to myself just yet.

Having said all that, I approached Season Eight of Buffy – no longer on television screens, but captured within the pages of Dark Horse comic books – with some trepidation, unsure of whether there would be more great stories that really needed to be told, and wondering whether the magic of TV could be replicated in the medium of comics.

The first arc, written by Mr. Whedon himself, was fun and full of Joss goodness, but seemed to be a little lacking in focus and cohesion. Plenty of great ideas, but perhaps almost too many thrown into the mix at once.

The second arc brings in Brian K. Vaughan on writing duties, assisted on art by Buffy regular Georges Jeanty. Vaughan, like Whedon, is a highly respected writer for both TV and comics, although I must confess to not having read much of his comics work (though I did thoroughly enjoy his first season on RUNAWAYS).

I was immediately pleased by the way in which this arc began – firstly, the focus moved away from the craziness of the ‘Fortress Buffy’ locale, instead re-introducing the character of Faith, previously the ‘other slayer’ before approximately two thousand were empowered at the conclusion of Season 7. I think most Buffy fans would agree that she is a wonderful character, and one of the most dynamic additions to the Buffy cast. Relatedly, this focus on Faith also allows the plot to concentrate on the real strengths of BUFFY– a relatively simple and stripped-down story which appears to be dictated and driven by the characters themselves, rather than pushed along by some grand plot design.

A quick recap from issues 6 & 7: Faith is still fighting the good fight in the glamorous surroundings of Cleveland, when Giles shows up and offers her an escape route – the chance to leave the country and start a new life elsewhere. Of course this comes at a price in the form of one last mission, the kind that Faith excels at: to assassinate a rogue slayer who, if left unchecked, has the potential to – yep, you guessed it – bring about the end of the world. Only this is no simple sniper-from-a-tall-building operation; the target – the delightfully named Genevieve (Gigi) Savidge – is descended from English nobility, and has all manner of mystical defences at her disposal. The only way in is for Faith to pose as a member of the aristocracy, gatecrash Savidge’s birthday party, and close the deal up close and personal.

Unsurprisingly, things don’t go exactly to plan. Forced to ‘out’ herself as a slayer in a battle with two gargoyles, Faith is taken down and captured. However, by virtue of the bond formed between Faith (masquerading as ‘Hope Lyonne’) and Savidge over a cigarette prior to the attack, Savidge fails to realise the threat and in fact takes Faith under her wing, feeling that she has found a kindred spirit in her lonely existence. Issue 7 ends with the reveal that her goal is to become ‘Queen’ by bloody coup – by assassinating a certain Ms. Buffy Summers.

The exposition of Faith as a flawed hero is by far and away the real strength of issue 8. In that sense it perhaps does not add anything new to the Buffy mythos, but it does show a really deep understanding of what makes her such a fascinating character. Vaughan should be praised for nailing all the dialogue about as perfectly as you would expect the characters’ creator to do, but it is in the deeper portrayal of Faith through her thoughts and actions that make this such a wonderful story to read.

As always, her character is brought into most stark relief in her juxtaposition with Buffy, as her resentment and fear comes all too quickly to the surface. The meeting of slayers finally occurs in this very issue, when Ms. Summers is mystically transported to the Savidge estate to face-off against the rogue slayer. What I like so much about their interaction is that one is not clearly in the right and the other in the wrong; As Faith leaps in to protect Buffy, Summers is quick to jump to the wrong conclusion, believing that Faith is in league with Savidge, and a needless fight between the two breaks out. Despite fighting on the same side on numerous occasions, Faith’s insecurities when compared to Buffy always rise to the surface; as Buffy is teleported back by Willow before the fight between slayers is allowed to come to a conclusion, you can almost here the melancholy in Faith’s voice as she whispers: “I wish you’d just go away.”

But Faith is almost equally as interesting when played off against Savidge, who is clearly the person Faith could have become, were it not for the interventions of the Scooby gang just about keeping her on the right side of the line. The fact these two become friends so quickly is a clear indication that they share a common bond of deep inner loneliness, and I think it is fairly clear that this is not just Faith playing the infiltration game; this is a relationship that is destined to come to a head in the concluding issue, as Savidge faces off against Faith, looking to exact revenge for her betrayal in rescuing Buffy.

There is much to admire about Georges Jeanty’s artwork here, and I can see why Joss hand-picked him for the job – his layouts and storytelling are clear, he handles the action sequences pretty well, and the character likenesses are excellent, retaining a sense of artistic individuality, rather than simply generating portraits or rehashing television stills. He even handles a scene of two girls sharing a bath in a way that Joss would approve of! The only let-down is the regular lack of any facial features (besides the occasional eye) on longer distance shots – while this may seem like a minor quibble, it does actually tend to distract from the story when a faceless character appears on the horizon.

I am still not completely convinced by BUFFY SEASON 8 in the way that I want to be – though I think this is more to do with a desire to see these characters back on the silver screen. But while great writers such as Whedon and Vaughan continue to drive these characters with the grace and interest that they have shown so far, then the stories that they interact with will always have a sense of power, drama and excitement which will keep me coming back for more.