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Comic Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8: Library Edition Volume 1 HC
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer S8 Vol1 HC CoverBuffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8
Library Edition, Volume 1 HC
Script by Joss Whedon, Brian K. Vaughan
Pencils by Georges Jeanty, Paul Lee, Cliff Richards
Inks by Andy Owens
Colors by Dave Stewart, Michelle Madsen
Cover by Jo Chen
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: May 30, 2012
Cover Price: $29.99

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was, and is, one of the most enduring popular cult television shows to ever hit the airwaves. Fan conventions routinely feature the stars of the show, as well as panel discussions. Legions of followers all over the world adore the Buffyverse and when it went off the air, we all thought that was it. But much to the joy of Buffy fans everywhere, creator Joss Whedon teamed up with Dark Horse Comics in 2007 to produce the continuation of the events of the television series.

When the first few issues came out, viewers of the TV show who weren’t also comic book fans and weren’t accustomed to the shift in format weren’t sure if the experience would translate for them from screen to book (usually it’s the other way around, with comic books getting big and sometimes small screen adaptations), but the one thing every fan wanted to know was what would happen next. Due to constraints, television plotlines usually can’t afford to veer off in all sorts of different directions the way comics do, and it takes whole seasons to properly go through one storyline. But with comics, the potential for several plotlines multiplies, and this can sometimes cause the reader to feel lost, but this isn’t the case with Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, Volume 1, a hardcover edition that collects the first two arcs of Season 8 (there are eight volumes in total) along with two stand-alone stories together. This is 304 pages of awesomeness that makes the ultimate gift for any die-hard Buffy fan, particularly if they never got around to reading the single issues.

But Season 8 doesn’t try to come off as the TV show, or giving comic book readers the same exact experience as they would have of watching an episode of Buffy. The single issues tend to feel like a series of ‘to be continued’ episodes, but with the knowledge that you don’t have to wait until the next issue comes out, then buy it to see what happens next, I personally prefer these collected editions to the single issues.

So, what has happened to the Scooby Gang? When last we saw them at the end of season 7 and the series finale, Buffy and the gang destroyed the Hellmouth, thwarted the plans of the First Evil, and although there were major sacrifices along the way, Buffy set in motion perhaps the most important task of her Slayer career by activating all the potential slayers and making them into full-blown Slayers, resulting in 1,800 Slayers worldwide, and 500 who are loyal to Buffy, divided into ten squads. Season 8 continues the reaction — and consequences — to this decision. The Big Bad of Season 8 is Twilight — no, I’m not referring to Stephanie Meyer’s massively popular twee vampire series, but rather the villainous entity’s name is actually Twilight. Buffy and the gang have gotten away from Sunnydale and moved to Scotland. The U.S. government is desperate to kill her, as they view her as the biggest threat to security.

Similarly to the show, Dawn’s story arc revolves around her trying to find her place in the world and how she fits in it — and Buffy’s — now that the world has changed so radically. She grows vastly during the course of Season 8 — both literally and metaphorically. In the first issue, it’s revealed that because she slept with a Thricewise, a type of magical creature, she has become a larger than life giant.

Xander has evolved into a military commander with a wicked cool eyepatch, and helps Buffy command the squads of Slayers that she’s working with. Giles is also on board in an advisor role, while Willow is still coming to grips with her magic, her powers, and how to control the forces within herself.

Because of Whedon’s involvement in acting as a producer for a good chunk of the issues, the comic book feels true to the original TV show in terms of several key aspects including the characterization, personalities, dialogue, storylines, and everything else a Buffy fan would expect from a continuation of Buffy’s saga. The first thing that hit me right off the bat was how true to the original dialogue of the show’s characters the comic is. All the characters have unique idiosyncrasies, speech patterns, etc., and each of them come across as if you’re watching an episode of the show, although the accents of some of the Slayers got a bit annoying.

The artwork is also colorful and vivid, giving a great sense of motion while going from panel to panel. Joe Chen did a spectacular job on the cover image for this edition. Of course, all of the artists portray Buffy differently — mostly with the same basic idea, but The Long Way Home in particular is incredibly faithful to the TV show in terms of character appearances. Another of the strong elements, as with the show, is the humor involved in each issue — no matter what horrible things the team gets through, there are always great one-liners and quips, as well as plenty of the sarcastic comments we’ve all come to love.

Of course, Buffy continues to evolve and question her place in the world. The ripple effect of the events she set in motion when she activated all the Slayers still weighs heavily on her, and is a huge responsibility to bear, particularly as there are now hundreds of girls on her team that still have a long way to go before they can fight anywhere near as well as she does, despite their innate abilities.

Other fan favorites definitely make their way into all the issues, including the ultimate ass-kicker, Faith, who is mostly on the side of good, and in one issue, goes on a mission to England to stop the activities of one nasty Slayer. It’s great to see the comedy elements at play here, with Faith being forced to speak with an unconvincing English accent, and having to clean herself up, dressing formally. But just as there are fan favorites, there are also other characters who fans could probably do without seeing again who come into play to throw a wrench into Buffy’s plans.

Some reviewers have lamented that it feels like there’s too much jammed into each issue, and that some of the collected trade paperbacks could have been single seasons in and of themselves, and some folks thought Whedon should have ended things off at Season 7 and kept it that way. Personally, I found this continuation to be fascinating, and as the main plot arcs come together toward the last few issues, the plot just keeps intensifying until it builds into something that will just have you screaming “What? No WAY!” several times. The Volume 2 hardcover of Season 8 (coming in September 2012) features even more “OMG!” moments as fans who have been following the series know. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this rollercoaster ride.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8: Library Edition, Volume 1 HC

Table of Contents:
The Long Way Home
The Chain
No Future for You
Anywhere But Here
Always Darkest

Bonuses include:
Cover gallery
Sketches
Creator biographies

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