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Buffy : Season 8

"Buffy : Season 8" Comic Book - Issue 40 - Sequentialtart.com Review

Monday 14 March 2011, by Webmaster

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight left me feeling torn.

Overall, I enjoyed the series, especially the return of Buffy characters, Buffy angst and Buffy wit. (Buffy to a sentimental Riley at a field hospital: "Did they give you the most morphine?" Xander to a sentimental Buffy: "Yooou... have feeings. At me.") Joss Whedon and his crew of former Buffy-writers (including Jane Espenson) and new-to-Buffy writers (including Brad Metzler), artist Georges Jeanty and cover artist Jo Chen brought a high level of consistency to the 40-issue run, which read well as a single, novel-length story.

In an afterword, Whedon admitted that the epic scale of the story overwhelmed "the things you loved best: the peeps. The down-to-earth-recognizable people" — a criticism I agreed with after reading the last 10 issues in one sitting: the events were very interesting, but many characters in the rich cast were underused and underdeveloped.

However, the series comes to a very sensible conclusion, one that makes all the sense in the world — for setting up a follow-up season that Whedon promises will be scaled back in scope and for linking Buffy canon to Whedon’s futuristic vampire slayer comic book series, Fray.

And yet, and yet. I couldn’t help but feel wistful at the end of an era of multiple slayers.

(Major spoilers below.)

Buffy discovers that she has been gaining more and more powers with the death of each of "her girls" (if you think that sounds like Highlander, so did Xander, in #33). She tells Giles (in #38): "All this started when we shared the power. We changed the world."

Introduced on the television show, the potential slayers became a more organized, more networked and more global group in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, the first comic series to officially extend the Buffy story as canon.

Buffy’s girls powered a feminist model of distributed, non-hierarchical power. The strongest stand-alone issue of Season Eight was #5, "The Chain" by Joss Whedon, which focused on a lone slayer who did her work knowing there was a larger, powerful slayer sisterhood out there, even if she never met another girl just like her. Buffy didn’t even appear in the issue, but the network of girls she built, inspired and empowered was enough for this one individual.

However, a Buffy-ified Global Frequency never really materialized in Season Eight. Buffy led her slayer army into epic battles after epic battles, leaving most of the girls undercharacterized. They started to meld into the background. Faring slightly better were the Scooby Gang, although they, too, took a back seat to the larger events — so much so that the surprising death of Giles left little emotional impact.

The source of slayer power turns out to be the Seed of Wonder, which acts as a stopper between realms. Destroying the seed keeps the demons away from earth, but it also cuts off the source of magic to the world. The Scooby Gang engage in a series of debates over whether to destroy the seed, but, under pressure in the midst of battle, Buffy decides that the safety of the world is not worth the trouble the seed enables. Buffy destroys it, but the action that saves the girls literally disempowers them, as well as Willow, who is now cut off from the source of her witchy powers. (In contrast to Giles’s last scene, Willow’s last scene with Buffy was very strong: Willow’s character development was not neglected over the course of the series.)

It was sad to see the feminist fantasy of literally empowered sisterhood go up in smoke, but the conclusion of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight brings Buffy back to the feminist fantasy that she represented in the first place: that a lone, ordinary woman can make a difference in the world. Personally, I’m looking forward to Season Nine, but I have to admit, a part of me can relate to those of Buffy’s girls who feel at least a bit wistful for what they had for all too brief a time.