Rating - 4: worth reading multiple times (buy it)
Wow, that was good.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer returns. The show ended after seven seasons, and Joss Whedon is writing a comic with season eight. The last episode redefined the rules of the game, and here is how the Scooby Gang is still fighting the good fight. Few Watchers, many Slayers, and a worldwide effort to fight, with the world fighting back.
This is the first five issues of the series. They are good. The first four are the story arc, with a bit of monster-of-the-week, and issue five is a standalone vignette. It is a very slow season, coming out over months and months, but the compiled edition is like getting the first DVD all at once. Of course, this is still only the first DVD, so we have many issues/episodes to come. That is a good thing, unless we can get them all now.
When I end a series, I usually note the superfluity of the review. Either you have read that far and are going to finish the series, or you have not and you will not read the one book alone. Here I must say: this is really worth reading. This is good. You already had several ending points throughout the show, so you could walk away without this new beginning. Your life would be less for having done so.
Wow, that was a pretty strong statement. It assumes that you like Buffy. You should, because all good people do. If you have not watched the show, you should. It does a lot right, with witty dialogue, good action, strong stories, and some solid acting. Joss Whedon is especially known for his dialogue, so I will repeat that. Many recent shows have been using season-long story arcs, and Buffy did much of the trailblazing there. Each episode is self-contained while contributing to the season's story, and the seasons connect to each other. I will stop pimping the show now, but you should seriously go rent and watch it.
If you have not, you can skip the rest of the review. Season eight alone will not make a lot of sense, although it has its merits. I will re-read it with that view sometime and see if it is all coherent. There are plenty of good reasons not to have watched the show, such as the weakness of the first and last seasons, but the good still outweighs the bad. Last time: watch the show or bail out now. Oh, and there are some references to Angel.
Okay, welcome to season eight. I will avoid spoiling things, since part of the fun is seeing how X fits into the new order of things. Something re-appears from the show, and we all cheer.
Xander gets the award for looking good. Buffy gets lines that recall the early days of the show and remind us that our vampire slayer is named Buffy.
Giles is mostly absent, and I look forward to seeing more of him in future issues. Dawn and Willow mostly seem to be filling slots at this point, but this is not their story yet. Andrew's continued significance is surprising. I don't think I can reach far beyond the Scoobies without risking spoilers, so I will not.
Monster of the week: good. You get more options when you are not bound by television. Of course, how "of the week" anything is is yet to be seen. First mini-arc: very good. We have a mix of new and old, including innovations from both heroes and villains. I like that the villains are fighting smarter, and I like that the heroes are, too. Season arc set-up: good. We have limited indication of where this is going, but it feels like a good successor to a season where the heroes literally fight evil. You cannot dial it up much higher than that, so why not dial it sideways? (Does the dial go sideways? Is that like 11?) The pacing is good, and it makes good use of cliffhangers, set-ups, and the page divide, the way the show might make good use of commercial breaks.
Noting that last one: this is a good use of the comic book format. You see many things that translate badly from book to movie or movie to TV series. Joss Whedon can write for both television and comic books. The different versions of Buffy take advantage of their different media.
Issue five is somewhat disappointing in that it is a stand-alone story. I really want to see where the arc is going. As a single story, it is interesting, a sort of Tale of the Slayerette. The short story is sketchier than I would like, with a bit more material than will fit into one issue of a comic book. It is a good sign that I want to hear more about what is going on.
There is a lot of that going on. Much is implied, rather than said. Maybe more will be said as time goes on, but for now we ride with the characters rather than wait for exposition. Some things are assumed from the show, and the rest you infer or just accept via suspension of disbelief. It is all Buffyverse-consistent, so there is no straining that suspension.
At five issues, this is a quick read, and I strongly recommend it. I plug the dialogue one last time: Joss's writing is what brought so many of us to the show, and Buffy is back in classic form.
Georges Jeanty does good things with the art, particularly as he is hemmed in by famous faces. I don't think of faces as the strong point here: many of them are left sketchy or indistinct. Bodies are doing the work here, with not a lot of subtlety. Not what I am used to lately, but it works. More fine detail work could create better distinction in the crowd of multicultural vampire slayers (but we can tell who might be important because they get names).
Perhaps that is the price to pay for crowds of Slayerettes. Big crowd scenes are hard in drawn art because you must draw them. Those shots you occasionally see of everyone, like in Marvel's Infinity War or DC's Identity Crisis? Those take days for one drawing. Picking out individuals, Xander fares very well in this treatment.
For bonus points, look around the panels for fun things tossed in, like someone reading Fray or Joss Whedon's appearance in the dream sequence. (Also: Fray is pretty good.)
I am concerned for the series in the long-run, because Joss Whedon hands off writing duties after these issues. He hands it off to Brian Vaughn, however, so if you liked Runaways, that is not a bad thing. They kind of traded series.
For more review fun, see Chris Sims: issue 1, 2, 3, 4. Four issues include two "best of the week" and two face-kicks of the week.