Book: Buffy, the Vampire Slayer – Season 9

"Buffy, the Vampire Slayer Season 9"

Has it been two years? I can’t believe it’s taking us this long to start and end seasons nowadays. Sure, the budget restrictions are gone now, but I fear that Buffy has lost something along with it: urgency.

I know Buffy has a niche market. I am very thankful to Dark Horse for even picking Buffy up as a continuing title. But after the blockbuster Season 8 that was just… too much, you’d have thought that Season 9 would have learned its lesson.

Well, it did. In the end. But, it took us two years to get there.

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer is not really about Buffy as it is about the relationships she has with her friends. And her family. When the team behind the Buffy comics started Season 9, they made a promise to bring Buffy back to its roots. And it did start out that way. Until it got out of control–again.

Suddenly Buffybot was back, and so was Spike’s bug ship, then zompires happened, we met Severin, Illyria came back–and although all of this were restrained and much more manageable than back in Season 8… it lacked the one thing that TV show had: its cast of lovable characters.

Willow was off having her own adventure. Xander and Dawn were mostly footnotes throughout the season before taking center stage near the end. And Spike was… Well, Spike was there and then wasn’t there and then was there again. And I felt Dark Horse broke its promise. Buffy didn’t go back to its roots. It just scaled down the problems of Season 8.

Of course, it wasn’t until we reached the last arc before I realized this. Xander going all-rogue felt out of character, not because I couldn’t imagine him doing what he did–it was because I felt unprepared for what he had done. We never really saw him much, so when he turned tables? It was a shock–and not the good kind.

Willow’s quest to restart magic ties in nicely to the end of the season–but because I was never able to find a copy of the miniseries here in the Philippines–I never really understood the importance of Willow’s journey. And without her side journey, the new seed felt like a deus ex machina.

Of the core team, it’s Buffy who stuck to what we were expecting. And stayed there. She didn’t grow, she didn’t evolve, she was just static. And I felt that, more than the spell that made her Stepford Wife, this was because we took out the people who would make her grow: her friends. Buffy became a lone wolf. A quippy lone wolf, but alone nonetheless.

Now that the season is over and we have a few months of rest before we begin Season 10, I hope Joss Whedon and whoever’s writing next would go back to what made Buffy really work: the relationships. I wouldn’t mind fall outs, I wouldn’t mind solo adventures–so long as they’re warranted. So long as we see it develop before our eyes. So long as they don’t come left of field.

Six years after the show has ended, I’m still a big fan of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. And although I believe that Seasons 8 and 9 are the weakest yet (and consider the fact that Season 1 was abysmal with its effects), I continue to hold on to the hope that the Buffy I love still exists. Somewhere.

Please don’t turn me off, Dark Horse.

Book: Spike, A Dark Place

"Spike: A Dark Place"

Spike hightails it for the dark side of the moon after parting ways with his on-again, off-again love interest, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Once a terrifying vampire, Spike has grown soft. It’s nothing that a vacation on a bug-filled spaceship headed for the moon can’t fix. That and some heavy drinking. But his plans for self-loathing are interrupted when he’s confronted by dangerous demons looking for a first-class ticket to… Sunnydale! Villains from Spike’s shady past appear, and a sultry succubus tempts Spike to move on from his aching heart.

I wanted to like it. I really did. After all, I did pay 900 pesos for it. But I just couldn’t. Is it because I’m not really a Spike fan? But I like the character. Maybe in smaller doses, but I like the character. He provides much needed lightness on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Especially during the latter parts of both series.

That said, I didn’t miss him much for most of Season 8. And since his reappearance, he really hasn’t done much to merit a strong reaction for or against him.

Which is probably why I’m not completely sold with the idea of Spike going off on an adventure of his own. Not that he did. He just stumbled upon it. Treated it lightly. Fought against demons. Got bamboozled by a woman. And then it’s back to status quo.

No, Spike: A Dark Place just doesn’t have actual character traction. Well, it does–for Sebastian, one of the bugs Spike picked up from the IDW Angel series. But for our main character? The character we’re supposed to root for? Nothing. Zip.

Oh, you can say he made a realization. An epiphany, if you will. But if we’re going to be completely honest, TV!Spike would’ve made said epiphany in three scenes. Heck, he had a full realization through just one song in the musical episode. So having him go through an adventure just to have him understand that he shouldn’t stay away from someone he cares for just because he doesn’t think he’s good for her? Yeah–no. It doesn’t make for good comics.

And the worst part of this all is, the series already starts with Spike already coming to this conclusion. With a fake beach. And then the misadventure happens.

I… I have no more words, to say frankly. Except, well, I shouldn’t have bought this title. I should have just stuck with the monthly issues of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer Season 9.

Book: Angel & Faith, Live Through This

"Live Through This"

Throughout history Angel has had a lot to make up for, but it’s his most recent mistake that may forever alter the course of this fan-favorite antihero–the murder of one of Buffy’s most trusted allies. In his ongoing search for redemption, Angel firmly believes he’s found a way to make amends–by reviving the dead! Cue Faith–rebel Slayer charged with helping angel recover in the aftermath of his biggest misdeed. Out of fierce loyalty she supports his ridiculous scheme, if only to prevent him from going too far to attain his goal. Past, present, and potential future threats emerge as this unlikely duo struggles against real and personal demons while hitting the dark streets of London.

I finally found a copy of this! Now, if only I could find the rest of it–

Yes, I liked it. I’ve always been fond of Faith as a character on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, and Angel always has this effect on Faith that makes her want to be better–I’m happy that the two characters get to share this title together.

Back when Buffy and Angel were in the television, I was more of a Buffy fan as Angel went down its darker route. Buffy was always about living life, and facing problems. Angel dwelt too much in what was done, and repentance, and atonement. And I can’t say I didn’t like it. It fit the show’s noir sensibilities. I just preferred Buffy‘s relatively lighter tone.

When Faith was introduced on Buffy, she stuck out like a sore thumb because the latter’s world did not fit her. I liked the character. I liked how we’re seeing a different kind of Slayer, one who had to make choices different from Buffy’s. One who didn’t have the support system of friends– But in Buffy’s world, she was turned into a villain. Not because of who she is, but because of who she was.

And I didn’t get this until Faith came to Angel.

Faith, as a character, really doesn’t fit on Buffy’s world because she wasn’t moving forward. She was stuck in the past, unraveling her character and the choices she made. That made her a perfect fit for Angel. And this was apparent in the few episodes of the spin-off the featured her.

Angel and Faith clicked, and not romantically. That was key. They knew who they were, and who they were trying to become. They understood each other. And they respect each other so much that they aren’t afraid to call each other out on mistakes.

And that companionship–that respect–is what makes Angel & Faith, the comic series, way better than Angel: After the Fall, even though I’ve only read the first five issues as of yet.

No offense to the people behind the latter title. Angel: After the Fall was smart. It just didn’t feel like Angel. I’m not a comics person. I picked up Angel: After the Fall because I was interested to see the characters I loved on television live on. The characters I got in the title were not those characters.

But when the story universe of Buffy and Angel merged once more, resulting in Angel & Faith–I was intrigued. And it took me forever to find a copy of the title. But based on the first five issues alone–

I’m sticking with this title.

Soon as I find the next volumes.

Book: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Freefall Part Three

"Buffy, the Vampire Slayer"With the destruction of the seed, the fight against Twilight was brought to an end, and magic’s connection to our earth was severed. No more Slayers will be chosen. No more Slayerarmy. No more gang: Buffy’s a waitress in San Francisco; Dawn and Xander are attempting normal domesticity; Willow is struggling with the loss of her powers. It’s a new(ish) world, but there are still demons and vampires to slay–even as their popularity with the masses continues to grow–and Bufffy is on point to do what she has always done.

She is the Slayer.

Buffy just keeps bringing on the twist. After the second issue’s showstopper, where it was revealed to us (the readers) that there’s a new kind of Slayer in town, the third issue twists the twist anew. I think we have just met Season 9’s big bad–if he does turn out to be the big bad. He could just be the mid-bad. Or a small bad.

Nevertheless, the new season of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer is certainly hitting the right buttons for me. I’ve already said in my previous blog post how it’s more reminiscient of the television series than the season eight. And I would like to reiterate this. Buffy fans will no longer need to justify themselves when buying this title. Because everything they (and by that, I mean ‘we’) loved in the series is back. My gripe, if it can be called as such, is how slow stories tend to run–because we have to wait a month in between issues. And since an issue normally just takes up one episode body (a one-hour drama has four to five bodies in an episode), an episode of the comic series takes up four months to finish.

But that’s a small price to pay for quality story-telling, right?

Thing is, because the events of one comic book is too short for a full-fledged blog post, I’m going to have to end it here. Because if I get into details of what I liked about the issue–I might end up spoiling it.

Book: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Freefall Part 2

"Freefall" written by Andrew ChamblissWith the destruction of the seed, the fight against Twilight was brought to an end, and magic’s connection to our earth was severed. No more Slayers will be chosen. No more Slayer army. No more gang: Buffy’s a waitress in San francisco; Dawn and Xander are attempting normal domesticity; Willow is struggling with the loss of her powers. It’s a new(ish) world, but there are still demons and vampires to slay–even as tehir popularity with the masses continues to grow–and Buffy is on point to do what she has always done…

She is the Slayer.

Dead people are turning up at San Francisco and Buffy Summers is the number one suspect. And it sure doesn’t help when our heroine escapes detainment after the police catches her dusting a vampire.

I’ve been thinking if I should do a monthly thing with Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. I’ve done two previous reaction posts, if I remember correctly. I was wondering if I should make it a monthly thing with the start of Season 9, but I worried that the series’s run would be too much like Season 8–which wasn’t very self-sustained/independent. But with the release of Season 9’s second issue, I think I can put my fear to rest.

The first issue showed us the current status quo of the gang. We know where the core members are, and where Riley, Andrew and Spike stand with the group. It was pretty much self-contained, breaking only at the end with two plot openings–one of which immediately gets answered in the first few pages of the second issue. The other plot thread is left to dangle though, as we are introduced to what (I think) would push the story forward for the next few issues.

Someone is killing vampires–and leaving an actual body trail. Buffy is surprised. And so am I, actually. Vampires go poof. And we actually see one do so after Buffy slays it. But more and more vampires are reverting to their human form–dropping the “un” in their undead status. And the issue takes us on a short journey of Buffy’s wonder and confusion at this new development–two feelings that we, the readers, are wont to feel too–leading to the eventual reveal of how the vampires are being de-vamped.

It’s a great twist. It harkens back to the old days of Buffy, back in the WB era. And just like then, the issue ends. Sure, back in the day, this would only take us to a short commercial break. Nowadays though, we sit and wait a whole month to find out what happens in the next gap.

One thing’s the same though: we’re definitely going to want to find out what happens next.