Thursday, July 05, 2007

Review - Buffy Season 8 #4

By Joss Whedon, Georges Jeanty & Andy Owens
Colors by Dave Stewart, Letters by Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Jimmy
Published by Dark Horse Comics, June 2007. $2.99

I watched BUFFY on TV intermittently -- I was more of a FIREFLY guy when it came to Joss Whedon -- but it was without question one of the best written TV shows of its time, and Joss wrote the heck out of the X-Men recently, so I was pretty interested in what BUFFY SEASON 8 had to offer*.

The first four issues of BUFFY feel like a two-hour season opener. Some time has passed and we’re caught up on what our friends have been up -- Buffy’s still slaying, Xander has one eye, Dawn’s a giant -- and though not all of the “where are they now” questions are answered, there’s enough to set the new status quo. Like I said, I wasn’t the biggest BUFFY fan from the start, so there are certain things I’m not quite up to speed on -- the skinless dude introduced at the end of issue 3 felt like it was an important reveal, but I had no idea who it was -- but all the same, it feels more like a fully realized world you’re stepping into rather than something so continuity-laden you’ll be lost if you don’t have the DVD box sets to reference. Joss knows how to write comics, and he knows how to write BUFFY -- the characters come to life and the dialogue is fun, efficient, but tailored for the form.

The art, by Georges Jeanty and Andy Owens, captures the expressions of the actors who used to play these characters in a way that’s fun and familiar, but not overbearing. It’s amazing how a few lines on paper can capture Alyson Hannigan’s smirk just so.

The sort-of-downside is that this opening arc is working like a long episode of a TV show, whether you know it as a comics reader or not. There’s a moment in issue 4 when you think something terrible has happened to one of the characters -- we see their hand reaching up from off-panel, we turn the page -- and they’re fine! It’s a bit of a let down, because everything we’ve seen or half-seen up to that point has led us to believe some serious biz-ness has gone down with one of our near-and-dears, and given that this is comics and not TV, there’s a danger in the air that anything’s possible. If Xander only has one eye, and Dawnie’s a giant, who’s to say Buffy can’t lose an arm, or be turned into a dude, or Willow or Giles or Anyone Else No Matter How Important can’t be killed? When the Very Bad Thing turns out to not happen -- well, one gets the feeling there’s more to meets the eye, and that we’ll find out to what extent in later episodes. Er, issues. And that will no doubt pay off in the long run, but as a story unto itself, it feels a little like a bait and switch.

I bet the BUFFY SEASON 8 trade paperbacks are going to blow up. They’re really good comics, and the folks making them (so far) really know what they’re doing.

Tell me more: Joss Whedon, Dark Horse Comics.

*That said, with the news that VERONICA MARS SEASON 4 is coming to DC/Wildstorm immediately post-cancellation, I think an ill-thought trend is forming -- being that if it’s not good enough for TV, comics will still take it! Joss knows how to write for comics, he’s written for comics before, and he ended BUFFY on his own terms years before “Season 8” came to be -- so that’s fair game. But when a series is cancelled, no matter how well-loved the series may be -- I think it sets a bad precedent to immediately shift it over to comics, as if it’s a second-best medium. It’s a different medium, not the lunch table you can slink over to when the cool kids don’t want to talk to you anymore.


Juan Navarro said...

Dude these reviews are great. I've got get off my ass and get some up, which I will soon enough, maybe make a batch and just patch through bit by bit.

Matthew Jent said...

That's what I did -- just picked up what I'd already read that week and wrote about 'em.

I find I'm enjoying things more when i write about them. I knew I was digging CAPTAIN AMERICA, but I didn't realize how MUCH until I sat down to write a few hundred words about them.

These reviews have me going to the comics shop once a week for the first time in ... ages.