REVIEW: BUFFY SEASON 8 #11
Writer: Joss Whedon
Artist: Georges Jeanty w/ Andy Owens
Dark Horse Comics
‘A Beautiful Sunset’
I actually went out and did research this month for this review. Yup, scholarly, that’s me.
For those of you just joining us, the much-adored Buffy TV franchise is continuing in comics form by original creator Joss Whedon as a show runner and himself with other veteran Buffy TV writers and friends on script duty. Oh, and it’s damn good! Buffy, Xander and Willow are living in a Scottish castle training the Slayers Army (yes, we’re using the A-word now), while facing a new enemy: the human army who are viewing Buffy Inc. as a WMD, and are seemingly in cahoots with a magic apocalypse-type evil who has remained in the shadows – till this issue!
And his name? Twilight.
Here comes the research part of the review. And by research I of course mean copy-pasting from Wikipedia:
Twilight is the time before sunrise, or after sunset, when sunlight scattered in the upper atmosphere illuminates the lower atmosphere, and the surface of the Earth is between light and dark.
And the adjective is crepuscular: neat!
Although the issue is devoted to Twilight’s formal introduction, I can’t say I was blown away or particularly intrigued. The name hints at a connection between night and day, vampire and human. The costume is a combination of tacky dark 90s comic-book villain (trench-coat, body armour, full face mask with a generic design and no eyeholes) with a militaristic black/tan colour-scheme that simply doesn’t work on the comic page. Whedon teases about revealing the man under the mask (in a real page-turner / cop-out that makes fun use of the comic page layout in lieu of actual ad breaks), strongly hinting that it may be someone we’re already familiar with. Let the speculation begin!
The story in the issue plays out in three scenes:
[SPOILERS] Buffy and Xander review the tapes from a new renegade cell of Slayers stealing army ammunitions and discuss running issues while the Slayerettes are having a keg party on Dawn (hmm, Dawn – Twilight… and isn’t the next issue about Werewolves by Night, in the Land of the Rising Sun? ‘Hmmm…’).
Buffy sets out on a fun whack-a-vamp run with Season 8 standout Satsu, as an excuse for some girl-to-girl talk about girl-on-girl issues; it’s nice to see Buffy having moved on from her creeped-out reaction at the time of Willow’s coming out, to her more mature handling of Satsu’s schoolgirl-crush.
While the vamps make for easy pickings and fun action, Twilight decides to crash the party and leave his greeting card by way of Boot-on-Face (Errant though: iIs it simple artistic license that ‘Twilight’ attacks at twilight?). Buffy gets a good whipping on two fronts as the Big Bad manages to not only get her hot and bloody, but also strike a blow to her moral superiority and motivation. Jeanty once again handles the battle choreography with great flair as Whedon continues to revel in the ‘bottomless special effects budget’ that the comics medium provides him with.
[OK YOU CAN LOOK AGAIN NOW, YOU SPOILER-PHOBES!]
Several fans of the TV series have become alienated by the choice to move the official continuity to the comic medium; although the book still does great numbers outselling almost all other comics, it doesn’t even grasp at its utmost potential considering the heights of Buffy’s popularity even so many years after the last season. The show’s fans were used to the three-act structure as it’s applied to TV episodes: with a clear three-act structure, character arcs within each episode as well as through the season. The show’s viewers came in expecting the TV episodes in comic format, while Whedon has been experimenting with adapting the form of the classic Buffy episode recipe to fit the comics format.
The first storylines of four issues were more similar to the amount of content, plot and characterisation found in the average episode, maybe as an easy step-in for the readers new to comics. Shifting gears, the last two issues have been self-contained stories, something you don’t actually see in today’s comics, and a fresh step for Joss himself who is used to decompressed storytelling. The plot structure is still here, and one could see the meat and bones of this story making it into a whole TV episode if it was filled out with different sub-plots. Even without the clearer character arcs and story themes that come with looser economy of space, the story is still tightly knit and entertaining, providing both high action, comic relief, the usual Buffy lines (I still get a little SMG voice in my head when I read the Buffyisms in the word balloons) and meaningful characterisation.
This is the real Season 8; it has its own theme and feeling with Buffy trying to fit in a whole new interesting role and setting in life.