As an absolutely enormous fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show (I own every season on DVD and have watched and re-watched them each at least a dozen times), it’s actually quite amazing that it took me this long to bite onto the Buffy comics. As someone who, only a short while ago, didn’t have much interest in collecting comics (that’s changed quite a bit!!!) I think I had this idea in my head that the comics wouldn’t be nearly as good as the show because, I expected, the people making it would be unrelated to the show in any way. Goodness knows why I made such an assumption, but I was eventually quite happy to find out that I couldn’t have been more wrong. For one thing, people who worked on the show did work on the comics, including Joss Whedon himself. And for another thing, the talent that was chosen to create these comics was phenomenal, even without prior knowledge of the show, which I’ll get into in a little bit.
There are a few options for BtVS comics, but I chose to go with the “official” continuation of the show, which is “Season 8”. Rather than attempt to track down individual issues (this run is not new…they’re currently pumping out “Season 11”!) I decided to opt for the “Library Editions”, which are large, hardcover compilations of large chunks of the season in question. Season 8 is compiled into four of these library editions, with volume 1 (which I’m reviewing today) bringing together issues 1 to 8, as well as a short entitled “Always Darkest”.
My first thoughts on the library editions were that they are enormous, physically measuring 8.3 x 1.3 x 12.8 inches, which takes up quite a chunk of room on a bookshelf! But with that said, the size ultimately impresses because it means that the comic pages themselves have been printed in a larger size, allowing the reader to enjoy more of the details of each drawing, as well as more easily read the smaller bits of text. This might seem like superfluous information to some, but as an art-lover who also happens to be getting older (ha ha) and gets headaches from reading small text for too long, I thought it worth mentioning.
Second thoughts are that the overall compilation of the book is gorgeous. It’s hardcover – which I’m not usually a fan of, but it works well for this style of book – with gorgeous artwork from the comics on both the physical hardcover and the protective sleeve cover. Inside the comics are compiled by story line, with individual issues separated by pages of artwork from various cover prints. Finally, at the back of the book we have a section of cover images, sketches, and other bits of artwork from the development of the comic, with notes from the artist about the process. All together it seemed like an excellent bang for your buck.
“But,” you’re probably thinking, “What about the important stuff? The story? The art? The pacing?”
Well, I’m pleased to be able to report that it was everything I could have hoped for.
The story begins some time after the destruction of Sunnydale. The gang has gathered more than a thousand new slayers and split into groups in order to train and fight the forces of darkness. Buffy and Xander manage a crew in Scotland, where they’ve somehow acquired an honest-to-goodness castle on the moors. Willow has been MIA for a while at the beginning of the story, and Giles wanders around, searching for more slayers who don’t realize what’s happening to them, as well as effectively commanding the Watcher’s Council. There’s a new Big Bad brewing, the USA military has decided to wage war on the Slayers, and, among other things, Dawn has accidentally become a giant. We also get to see Faith as she’s sent on a particularly nasty mission, and learn a few things about Willow’s time away that are more than a little emotionally jarring.
The story thus far does an amazing job of continuing where Season 7 of the TV show left off. It’s extremely well-written by Joss Whedon himself – as well as writer Brian K. Vaughan – and drips of the signature style of the show. I’ll admit that at first some of the dialogue was difficult to wrap my head around…fans of the show will know that there was always a certain mixture of intelligent articulation and teenage slang/nonsense in the way the characters spoke, and tone and inflection were an important part of the portrayal of those speech patterns. Because of this it takes a bit of getting used to in order to go from hearing the dialogue to reading it. This is a rather small complaint, however; fans of the show will soon enough get used to hearing those tones and inflections in their head as though the original actors are reading the words aloud to them, and that signature style goes a long way in making the comic truly feel like a continuation of the show.
The artwork, as well, is astounding. It must be difficult to translate real people into a comic medium, but Georges Jeanty does an magnificent job, despite apparently having never seen the show prior to being assigned to the project. Each of the show regulars are immediately recognizable, with personality and emotions coming through in the drawings so well that you’d almost feel you were actually looking at cartoon-ized stills from the show itself. One aspect of the comic that actually has a leg-up on the show is that creatures are able to be produced as real creatures rather than guys in suits and makeup, or poorly CG’ed creations. The demons in the comic go from lizard-like to absolutely fantastical, and you’re never taken out of the fantasy for a moment because there are no strings, no costume edges, and no failed computer-generated shading. That’s not to say that the TV show did a poor job with it’s monsters and devils, but it was a television show with a budget that ran in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, with all the limitations that that entails. Artwork, however, has significantly fewer limitations, and that can definitely be seen in the pages of Season 8. Characters are drawn in impressive poses that real-life actors could never hope to achieve, enormous dinosaur-like monsters exist in the same world as tiny fairies, and we’re able to truly believe that giant-ized Dawnie is really there right next to normal-sized everyone else, rather than being enlarged on a green screen. The overall presentation is simply beautiful and everything flows well together in a way that allows the reader to sink into this Post-Sunnydale world.
A random thought before I conclude: the “Always Darkest” short that was included in this library edition had me in stitches. I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone who might decide to read it for themselves, but it involves a dream that Buffy has that is equal parts fan-service and pure hilarity, in my opinion, and fans of the show will definitely get a kick out of it.
In conclusion, I am thoroughly impressed with practically every inch of this book. It has allowed me to continue the story of a show that has long been complete, with characters that will always be very dear to my heart, and it has done so in a gorgeous format that I will happily return to gaze upon time and time again. On top of all that, it has done a fantastic job of making me long for the next library edition so that I can further the story and see what happens next.
I am absolutely in love with this series so far, and will definitely be picking up more of it in the future. I emphatically urge anyone who is a fan of Buffy and can enjoy a good comic to check it out. You won’t regret it!
Want to check out Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Library Edition Volume 1 for yourself? Grab it right here!
Already read it? Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment section below!