I was never a Buffy fanatic—it came on TV about the time I was letting TV go, though I saw some shows here and there, and enjoyed them, and I confess to some personal nostalgia, since an actor friend of mine got to be an evil frat boy for one episode. Still, I’ve been aware that Buffy lives on in comic book form, and original creator Joss Whedon (the new George Lucas) remains the executive producer, which speaks to his love for the character and story, since he’s got twenty zillion other projects he could be working on, for a lot more money.
If you haven’t been reading this series, now is a good time to jump on board, as the first issue of “Season 10”. And I would almost suspect that, since the comic is still organized around ‘seasons,’ that the reader fan base might be made up of the die-hard legions of fans of the tv series. Except, Buffy and friends are still teenagers, and there’s still a lot of teenager relationship stuff (ie what they call ‘drama’) going on. Not at first. First, Buffy is kicking ass on a group of “zompires” and getting sassy with a female teen vampire (favorite line, when Vicki the Vampire gets pissed off at Buffy and says, “Bring it, skank!”). But then somehow the zompires (and even Buffy) drop away and we get a whole lot of expository dialogue from her friends about people’s feelings. Surely this series isn’t meant for adult fans of the old tv show anymore? But surely even teen readers don’t care about relationships this much?
Buffy seems to have twenty minor character friends now, which feels crowded. I like the parts where she’s exchanging sassery with Vicki the Vampire, but there’s none of what I remember about her from the tv show, where she was also booksmart, and had to do research and like, read shit, to solve problems. There’s no problem, period, besides the need to just use violence. That’s not the Buffy I remember.
I’m underwhelmed, but once again feeling that I’m not the target audience. Still, I would think even the target audience deserves a bit more challenging storyline.
The team from Angel & Faith graduates to the main title for this 10th season, and the first issue shows that they deserved the promotion. Gage is a seasoned, journeyman writer, and if he’s not the greatest innovator in comics, he’s shown a real talent for picking up all the extant threads of continuity and building on them in satisfying new ways. Call it the Bill Mantlo effect.
Inheriting the legacy of a Buffy with her nuclear family nearly restored (Willow, Dawn and Xander, with ample assists from Spike and Andrew), magic back in the world, and a serious commitment to dealing with the Zompire legacy of the magic-free Earth, Gage and Isaacs start us off back-to-basics, with Buffy slaying her enemies with stakes and scythes. But the weird twists start to pile up: the intelligent pre-Zompire vamps want to help the Scooby Gang; Willow’s magic, while formidable, is not what it used to be as the new magic is different from the old; and Xander and Dawn are still having problems, just not the same ones as Dawn being forgotten out of existence.
Gage finds a place for Anya (at least her ghost), Billy the Vampire Slayer, and Faith on loan from her series as well. Even more, she brought a friend: Giles! Which I assume is all explained in London-stuff I didn’t read (the letters page spends more time reminding us about Billy, weirdly), but what a wow moment when he shows up in the nick of time here (to help against the old school vampires, who of course were only loyal for so long, and seem to have developed some Dracula-style trickery). Though changed, he’s still somehow the essence of Giles, greatly missed since the Season Eight/Twilight misfire.
Isaacs has both a Jeanty-cartoony quality that befits the tone of Buffy comics, while nailing several of the likenesses, especially Buffy, Faith and Spike. Hard to know if the smaller scale will be retained (probably not, everyone needs to build to those Big Bad moments of drama), but Gage brings both the funny and a copious knowledge of Slayer continuity, so I’m well-pleased for now.