Shiny Shelf


Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #1

By Mark Clapham on 17 March 2007

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

As long time readers of this site will no doubt remember, ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ was one of Shiny Shelf’s favourite TV shows. It’s been a few years since the series’ seventh and final season wrapped, but now it’s back with an eighth – albeit as a comic rather than a TV show.

As sequels in other media go, this is about as official as it gets, overseen and, for the first arc, scripted by series creator Joss Whedon. Without getting into tiresome ‘canon’ debates, this has the stamp of a formal continuation of the TV series.

Since ‘Buffy’ ended, and ‘Angel’ followed a year later, Whedon has spent a couple of years getting ‘Serenity’, the film sequel to his axed TV show ‘Firefly’, off the ground, followed by a stint trying to develop ‘Wonder Woman’ as a movie for him to write and direct. He’s also written 18 or so issues of ‘Astonishing X-Men’ for Marvel, and a few other bits of comic book stuff. Now off ‘Wonder Woman’, Whedon returns to ‘Buffy’ as someone who, in terms of publically visible output if not actual writing hours, predominantly writes for comics rather than the screen.

The result is a great first issue that retains the feel of the TV series, but opened up to the wider, more spectacular canvas that an action comic book can work on. The story rejoins Buffy Summers and friends a year or so after the series ended and, with Sunnydale totalled and budgets no longer an issue, operating across Europe rather than in an easily filmable California town. The Slayers are now a worldwide military operation based in a castle, complete with helicopters and advanced weaponry, and their enemies are towering monsters rather than extras in make-up. There’s also a great gag where one of the series characters has been transformed in a way difficult to achieve on TV.

This is a great first issue, and ‘Buffy’ fans with any sympathy for the comics medium at all will love it – familiar characters written by their creator, the beginnings of an intriguing new storyline, good action and a few nice jokes. If more ‘Buffy’ you did want, then here it is, in fine form. Artist George Jeanty even squares the circle of licensed comics, getting the likenesses right while avoiding being a series of stiff photo-references.

Still, there’s a lingering feeling that this is not necessarily what Whedon should be doing with his time. One of the most noted TV writers of his generation, since ‘Buffy’ ended he’s failed to turn an unsuccessful TV series into a successful movie franchise (albeit to generally good reviews – as with ‘Firefly’, most people who saw ‘Serenity’ really liked it, there just weren’t many people who actually saw it), and not quite managed to get a big screen version of ‘Wonder Woman’, another female action hero, off the ground. In comics, his run on ‘Astonishing’ has involved working with characters and stories that strongly inspired ‘Buffy’, now he’s back writing more of ‘Buffy’ itself, but to a dedicated comics audience rather than a large TV audience.

Doesn’t feel like a writing career charging forward into new territory, does it? Hopefully, this is just a blip rather than full-on creative regression. This issue shows that Whedon can still come up with the storytelling goods, and hopefully he has something else, something new, up his sleeves. More than anything, it would be great to see him step away from his own cliches – the angsty teen heroine, comic book archetypes – and go into new territory. A small film about something more low key, perhaps; Whedon’s equivalent of Lynch’s ‘The Straight Story’. Maybe even a new TV show, one with no connection to his previous franchises. Something that shows him flexing his creative muscles, rather than dabbling in safe, old territory.

While it would be good to see Whedon reaching out to new audiences and cutting loose with his considerable talents, for fans of his old stuff this new ‘Buffy’ comic is a real treat.


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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named markclapham.com.




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