30 June 2008

If the Apocalypse Comes, Beep Me

It took me a long time to warm to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was shown at odd times and on obscure channels on New Zealand television. My wife cottoned on to it a couple of seasons before I did, and kept trying to persuade me to watch it with her — but I resisted. What a stupid title, and wasn’t it some kind of teen romance thing?

Finally, she persuaded me to watch an episode right through; but that didn’t help much, because that episode was Into The Woods (5.10), the one in which Buffy breaks up with her boyfriend Riley. Into the Woods is about as thoroughly “teen romance” as Buffy ever got. Sure, there was a baffling scene where the distraught heroine gets into a fight with emaciated people who kept evaporating in puffs of dust, but I couldn’t really see the point of all that.

Kay persisted, though, and I was sufficiently interested to sit through and enjoy Once More, With Feeling (6.7), the musical episode, even though I generally can’t abide musicals. Before much longer, I was demanding back episodes and plotting to acquire the DVDs.

After seven seasons of brilliant writing, excellent acting, comedy, drama, horror, romance — of scenes that managed to be gut-wrenching, hilarious, scary and thought-provoking all at once — the series came up against the biggest Big Bad of all, the network. Buffy Summers had already died twice (though the first time hardly counted); the third time was the charm, because even the Chosen One had no power against the Hollywood suits. The spin-off series, Angel, ran for one more season.

Then, it seemed, the rest would be silence, despite the fan and academic activity that sprang up to fill the gap (and even some poetry).

But, not so much. Buffy Season 8 has been incarnated in comic form. The “season” is canon – that is to say, official — Buffy. It is supervised, and partly written, by the TV series’ creator, Joss Whedon. It picks up on the climactic events of Season 7, which liberated Buffy from the heavy burden of being The One Girl to save the world, and shows how Buffy and her friends adapt to the new dispensation and some ugly new threats.

The individual comics, in sets of five, are being collected into trade paperbacks. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, Volume 1: The Long Way Home was a mixed bag: it was great to enter the lives of the familiar characters again and find out how they were feeling about life (not uniformly happy, which will come as no surprise to those familiar with Joss Whedon’s work), but the storyline was so compressed, and so much new material was introduced, that it was hard even for a Buffy fan to follow what was going on. And then there was the contrast between Jo Chen’s wonderful cover art, with its beautiful and true-to-life (or at least true-to-the-actors) depiction of the characters, and Georges Jeanty’s interior art, which made Buffy looked like Sarah Michelle Gellar one minute, and Anna Kournikova the next.

Coming soon: a review of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, Volume 2: No Future for You.


Helen Rickerby said...

Ah, a fellow Buffy fan. Hmm, now that makes me wonder if I am a fan. I enjoyed it a lot when we watched all seven seasons the other year, and thought it was imaginative and innovative. But I don't have any desire to read season eight. Maybe I'm over it? Or maybe I can be convinced. Who knows?

Tim Jones said...

Although I enjoyed Season 8 Volume 1, it didn't convince me that Buffy would work as comics. But Volume 2 did: review coming soon (as we say in the busy world of online marketing!)

Lee said...

Episode 2 is much better than Episode 1. I found this a bit strange since Joss has the writing credit on Episode 1. Maybe he’s just trying to continue his envisioned role as initiator in comicland, leaving the day-to-day work to other writers.

Tim Jones said...

I agree, Lee - and am going to post my review of Volume 2 later today. Of the five issues in Volume 2, I though the one written by Joss Whedon was the weakest - although he's a professed comics fan, it still seems to me as though he's trying to cram an entire TV episode into each issue he writes, and not succeeding.