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Buffy : Season 8

"Buffy : Season 8" Comic Book - Popmatters.com Review

Friday 15 April 2011, by Webmaster

When it was announced years ago that Buffy’s adventures would continue in comic format, fan boys and girls were set a-frenzy. The last time we saw Buffy Summers, in the show’s finale, she had defeated The First, a primordial evil, while simultaneously sharing her power with potential Slayers worldwide. Joss Whedon’s original goal of spreading the message of female empowerment through Buffy was then literally (in canon) and metaphorically dispersed to the masses. The show ended with triumph as well as tragedy, seeing Spike incinerated with a mystical bauble provided by Angel—only to return in full force on Angel, and Anya bifurcated protecting the addictively pathetic Andrew. As some characters died, the remaining heroes (Buffy, Giles, Willow, Xander, Dawn, and Faith) and their fans were uncertain as to what would happen next.

Whedon’s answer was to provide a canonical Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight in comic book form. Joss oversaw the entire storyline and ensured that fans would be happy with the writing by employing fan favorites; such as Steven S. DeKnight, Tim Minear, Drew Goddard, and Jane Espenson, as well as celebrated non-Whedonverse writers like Brian K. Vaughan. The totality of the work resulted in an overarching story that not only mirrored the dramatic tone of the original, but allowed for a grand, epic storyline which finally realized Buffy’s global appeal and influence.

Season Eight saw many things come to pass, in a nutshell (spoiler warning!): The Scoobies now oversee over 2,800 Slayers from a Scottish castle. The massive network of Slayers faces a masked foe named Twilight, who leads a global attack on magic. Amy (former rat) and Warren (rescued by Amy and now sporting a perma-skin-suit) are among Twilight’s allies. Giles and Faith—much to the chagrin of Buffy—team up in order to save lost Slayers and carry out Giles’s secret mission. Dawn is a giant (due to a curse by an thricewise demon ex-boyfriend she cheated on). Buffy has a lesbian encounter with a Japanese Slayer named Satsu.

Xander begins an intimate relationship with a Slayer named Renee, who is run through with the mystical scythe by a renegade vamp who has transmogrification powers stolen from Xander’s old pal/nemesis/master Dracula. Dracula and Xander avenge her death. Dawn is a centaur (same curse). Buffy skips into the future, meets Malaka Fray, and kills future Willow, who is now back to her old Dark Willow ways. Willow, in present time, is sleeping with an odd snake lady named Saga Vusuki/Alluwyn in another dimension, unbeknownst to Kennedy. A renegade Slayer named Simone has banded together violent Slayers who think they are above the law. Dawn is a doll (curse over!). Oz has a baby. Andrew is now part of the family. Harmony is a reality TV star whose shenanigans lead the world to support vampires fully. Buffy thinks she may have feelings for Xander, but he is now in love with Dawn. Things are about to get crazy… Buffy gains super powers and finally faces Twilight, who we find is actually…wait for it…Angel! The two are overtaken by the mystical influence of Twilight, which is actually a universe willing itself into existence. They have a lot of sex and give birth to a universe.

Buffy abandons the universe when it becomes apparent that all of her friends (and the rest of the world) will most likely die in the creation of her and Angel’s evolution. Spike shows up in time to inform Buffy et al., in typical Spike truthful-yet-snarky fashion, that Twilight and the end of the world can be destroyed by protecting “The Seed of Wonder,” the original source of all magic. If Twilight’s multi-dimensional forces are able to remove the seed, the world will crumble. Buffy’s negligence makes Twilight (who is both the universe and now a freaky magic Chimera) mad, so it overtakes Angel and leads him to attack Buffy.

Willow visits Saga Vasuki/Alluywn who tells her that the seed can be destroyed, which would save the world, but all magic would be obliterated on earth. Willow chooses not to inform Buffy about this and instead tells her that she must protect the seed at all cost. Spike and Buffy find that The Master is the protector of the seed. Buffy kicks his ass. Then, Spike and Buffy take on Angel. Giles brings the scythe to the underground cave where the fight for the seed takes place. He and Xander discuss the likeliness of stopping Twilight/Angel. Giles, against Xander’s wishes, rushes in to help Buffy. Angel snaps his neck in the exact same way he killed Giles’ lover Jenny Calendar.

Buffy immediately, instinctively destroys the seed, which sends Willow crashing to the ground, magic-free and powerless. Without magic to hold up Warren’s skin, he turns to a pile of ooze. Willow, broken and bruised, cries for Saga Vusuki, as their connection is severed forever, while Xander and Buffy watch the seed dissipate and reel in the loss of Giles.

A few months later, Buffy is in San Francisco, sleeping on Xander and Dawn’s couch. Faith has inherited all of Giles’s belongings, save for the iconic “Vampyr” book, which was the first thing Giles ever showed Buffy, way back in “Welcome to the Hellmouth.” Slayers and witches worldwide hate Buffy. Spike warns Buffy someone is coming for her. Faith is keeping Angel in her London flat, attempting to help him with his redemption. The season ends with Buffy facing a single vampire, just like how it all started.

Season Eight was great for character development. We finally see Dawn become a real woman, figuratively wrestling with the monsters of young womanhood. Faith faces her demons and finally builds a long-term parental/partnership relationship with Giles, who helps her realize her true value as a Slayer and a woman, only to leave her in battle to die saving Buffy. Willow finally conquers the dark magic within, only to be left completely devoid of magic at the season’s conclusion. Andrew courageously risks his own life to stop a renegade Ragna demon, proving to Buffy he is now part of the family for good. Xander finally has a potentially long-term happy relationship with Dawn.

The only characters who are left at square one are Buffy and Angel. Buffy is now the only Slayer (though not technically; all of the other Slayers have maintained their powers, but the line is dead and the remaining Slayers have abandoned the title in direct hatred of her). Angel started again on the path of redemption; after years of doing good he has again been taken over by a higher power and murdered a loyal ally. Giles dies, which is the single greatest loss to the Whedonverse since Wesley Wyndam-Pryce was stabbed to death in Angel. The writers were able to go bigger with the bad, and sadder with the sad this season.

There are many especially moving moments in the season. When Xander’s new love interest Renee is brutally slain in Wolves at the Gate, we see Dracula’s true character. Buffy says, “I can’t leave Xander alone,” Dracula shows his loyalty to Xander, yelling: “He’s Not Alone.” When Xander cuts off the head of the vampire perpetrator, we see a great character moment for him, as well as a moment that clearly establishes Dracula as the greatest secondary character in the whole season.

Later in the season, Bander/Xuffy fans are taken for a whirlwind, as she finally expresses feelings for him. Then, they are taken for another ride as we find that Xander has fallen in love with Dawn. Bask in the sunshiny goodness of that interaction. Xander is no longer following the path he feared in “Hell’s Bells,” when he left Anya at the altar in fear of hurting her in his quest to help Buffy. Now, he sees, cycloptically, a future for himself outside of the good fight.

Giles’s relationship with Faith was another heartfelt subplot that resonated with the fan base. In the duo’s adventures, Faith is able to develop a relationship not completely unlike her relationship with The Mayor, but in a more positive way. Giles is still useful to her, as he seemingly no longer is to Buffy, and Faith is in desperate need of a human connection, and moreover a father figure. We see far too little of their time together, and hopefully some of their interactions will come up in flashbacks next season. At the beginning of the season, in the No Future for You arc, Giles recruits Faith to hunt down a rogue Slayer in exchange for her freedom from all duties Slayer related. When their success is contingent upon them both murdering again, they decide to go out and find Slayers who can still be saved. The interaction between them is somewhat reminiscent of when Green Arrow and Green Lantern hit the streets to find trouble on America’s streets in DC’s GL/GA series. It is nice to see that while Buffy is covering the big picture, that there are still people looking out for the little man.

Giles and Faith share a bond that both need, and up until his death things are left unsaid, with no labels. He goes off to save Buffy, probably not because Faith is expendable when Buffy is in harm, but because he knows that Faith can survive, that he taught the lessons she needs as well. The most heart wrenching aspect of the whole situation is when we find that Faith is harboring Angel, who under Twilight’s thrall murdered Giles, in the late Watcher’s own home. Faith understands more than anyone else that redemption is a perennial battle, and just as Angel once saved her, she will now do the same.

An epic controversy developed when the readers found that Twilight was a masked Angel. It isn’t difficult to understand why loyal fans of five seasons of Angel were upset to see him taken over again by a higher power, tragically throwing all of that redemption away to risk innocent Slayers not for the greater good, but for a universe outside of everything he has ever fought for. It will be interesting to see how Angel develops Buffy Season Nine title, because Angel fans aren’t only fans of Angel himself, they are lovers of the characters created around him.

Overall, Season Eight was a huge triumph. Fans will no doubt be sitting on pins and needles awaiting the next season, which Whedon promises will place much more focus on the core group. One can only hope that Season Nine has all of the great character development that has consistently marked Buffy’s journey one of the most brilliant stories of all time.