Red Right Hand: REVIEW: BUFFY SEASON EIGHT PREMIERE
*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.

 

REVIEW: BUFFY SEASON EIGHT PREMIERE

Yes, sir. Season Eight is underway and it's not on the CW.

To bring the uninformed up-to-date, Dark Horse comics is publishing a direct continuation of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which ran for seven seasons. This series is, essentially, season eight. And it's not written by some studio-approved license-hack. It's written by Joss Whedon and a handpicked staff which will include former Buffyverse writer Jane Espenson and new guy (current Lost staffer and writer of the kick-ass Ex Machina) Brian K. Vaughan on future arcs, overseen showrunner-style by the man himself.

The first arc is titled The Long Way Home and there's something you need to know. It's not a TV show. You can tell by the staples. Expecting it to be structured or executed in that way is folly. Folly, I tell you.

One of the primary differences is the voice over, or as it's a funnybook, the captions. While the Whedon has used V.O. here and there in his various series on the tube, but the use here is different. There's more of it. A lot more it. In comics you have the opportunity to spend a chunk of time in a character's brain. More that you usually get with TV, because the V.O.s would start getting intrusive or annoying. Besides, good V.O.s are hard to find. In this first issue, there's a lot of Buffy, but also some Xander. In both cases, it's very clear Joss hasn't lost either of these voices.

The biggest advantage of the comic form is, of course, the total lack of budgetary concern. This is immediate and obvious. Let's just say two-page spread of a helicopter and Buffy in the air...separately.

In matters of story (I will steer clear of plot point spoilage, but not general premise spoilage), this "eight" season makes a big jump in the status quo of the "series." This jump is even more pronounced than the one that Angel underwent from season four to five. Buffy has a massive force of Slayerettes at her disposal. Xander is now a not-quite-watcher. His role is more in line with Nick Fury (not the first time Fury and Xander have been linked and not the last). He oversees the military-like operation of the Slayers from a control center in a Scottish castle.

What I want to know and I hope will be answered in the near future is how Buffy and crew went from having work-a-day jobs like retail, construction, and DoubleMeat purveyance to being able to fund a high-tech operation that spans the globe and is based in a Scottish castle?

Even without the TV structure, as we move on past our main characters and get to setting up our threats for The Long Way Home, it still has something of an episode's act one feel as we shift from scene to scene.

Even the scenes without one our people in them are classic Whedon. There's always that one guy that talks, y'know, that way. Same here.

Then, there's Dawn. An excellent use of the freedom from TV special effects and it looks promising for her character to get a little...growth beyond the "It's Tuesday, Dawn must be in trouble" typing she frequently found herself in. Nonetheless, Dawn's in trouble. This trouble, though, is cool and different and reveals a new wrinkle to Dawn's relationship with her sister and how it was altered by Buffy being dead for a while.

The issue comes to a close with a beautiful reveal, showing that one of the threats Buffy and her...task force are going to face in this opening arc is a familiar one. As I made my way to the last page I was trying to out guess the pronoun game Joss was playing as some characters spoke of this threat. There were some other references that may have been there to make me expect someone very different, then I turned the page and it was...someone that made me very happy. Click that link at your own damn peril.

I've occasionally read some Buffy comics in the past. I'm not referring to the Tales of the Slayers or the Tales of the Vampires stories, which are all quite good and benefit from having been written by TV staff, but are a side dish in the Buffyverse, as they don't feature Buffy herself. I mean actual issues of the previous Buffy ongoing series and some mini-series here and there. For the most part, they felt a little underwhelming. Maybe the voices weren't quite on, maybe the stories were a little too plot-driven. There was also the whole non-canon thing, that these stories didn't really fit anywhere. Not here. This is the real thing. It builds on and refers back to continuity (with a little thing in the direction of "The Girl In Question."

Also, interior artist Georges Jeanty seems to have a pretty good grasp on the likenesses of these very familiar characters. That goes a long way. Some previous artists let their style (or the hot style they might have been apeing) run roughshod over these already well-established and loved characters. Jo Chen, the cover artist has Sarah Michelle Gellar down and kicks off the series with the striking image you see above.

I had high expectations for this. I was primed for a let-down and I was not.
©2017 Michael Patrick Sullivan