I sometimes wonder if Joss Whedon thought, in this heart of hearts, that we would still be talking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer 11 years after its television debut. The 1992 film obviously brought the character into being, but if that were the only incarnation of Ms. Summer we had ever met, we would have another mediocre cult movie to watch when the mood struck us and nothing else.
Discovering Buffy and her Scooby pals mid-way through its second season, I was hooked. Who were these people? Who was writing this great dialogue? Who was responsible for this witty, subversive comedy/action/thriller/drama that never got the full accolades it deserved? When the show ended in 2003, I was sad but satisfied. The ending felt complete. I felt that I could put those characters to bed and blissfully revisit them on DVD whenever I wished.
Imagine my jaw-dropping excitement and double fist-pumping when I found out that Season Eight of the show was coming to Dark Horse Comics! With Joss Whedon! And it would be in continuity! I leapt over hordes of fans the first day issue one went on sale and quickly sat in my car outside the comic shop and read it. I was intrigued right away. Dawn’s a giant? Hmmm…An organized slayer network around the world? I’m down! Political parallels with the U.S. government thinking Buffy runs a terrorist cell? Sure! Interesting and intriguing.
Seeing both Amy and Warren (and Ethan Rayne, always a delight) was great, but a small amount of worry began to creep into me as I finished the first story arc. I began to wonder if this comic was going to take a “kitchen sink” approach to plots, characters, and locations. I know the medium of comics means a MUCH cheaper budget than TV. Buffy rarely left the setting of Sunnydale while being broadcast. Heck, even the Facts of Life girls got to go to Australia, and that was in the 80’s! So far we’ve seen stories in the base of Scotland, Japan, and even the sink-hole that is Sunnydale. This is totally understandable; why wouldn’t you take your characters off to battle mecha-Dawns in Japan if it all costs less than flying the cast over there if this were TV?
By this point though, I was beginning to question where the series was going. Around issue 16, I began to scratch my head a bit. Something just didn’t “feel” right anymore. I guess my slayer fan sense was tingling like crazy, because I began noticing little things that weren’t making me feel like I was visiting characters from a show I had loved.
The dialogue was the first to go. With the fabulous writing of Faith and Giles in issues 6-9, the lack of great dialogue began to become all the more evident, especially with the rotating cast of writers that was to come after another Whedon arc. Brian K. Vaughn ‘gets’ it. As a huge fan of the show, I felt that he understood what fans were looking for. Yes, these were the characters I knew, but little did I know their thoughts and actions would warp into cartoons of what I remembered.
Dracula’s appearance in the “Wolves at the Gate” storyline, anyone?
Eventually it all got to be a bit too much for me. Buffy’s lesbian fling, Dawn’s latest mythical transformation, the artwork (have some of the artists been watching the show through a glass of water), and the soon to be resurgence of Harmony (!) have all led me to just lose interest. That really pains me, and it felt like betrayal to cancel my subscription to Buffy at the comic shop, but it had turned into something I didn’t really recognize anymore. It feels trite to say that, and I can see a Meg Ryan type saying something similar to some quirky guy in a rom-com, and quickly huffing away, but that’s the best way I can explain it. There’s just a disjointedness and a bit too much overreaching with this series. I don’t feel the tight storytelling anymore, I don’t believe what the characters are saying, and I don’t buy the massive supporting cast and the fact that each single sub-plot and storyline really “means something.”
Maybe someday soon I’ll give Buffy a second try. I gave it 18 issues, but my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. Perhaps I’ll pine away for awhile, then gather an afghan, sit on the couch with just a lamp and carefully begin reading trades with hope in my heart. Until then though, I think I’ll wait. I’d like to remember the series for the way that it was, not the way it is.
Photo: Dark Horse Comics