REVIEW: Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Season 8 #39

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Or – “In Joss Whedon’s World, Season Finale = Body Count.”

It’s time for the battle with the Big Bad, as characters live, characters die, and some worlds are changed forever.  Beloved fan-faves are about to take the dirt-nap, folks, and I imagine that the fan backlash has already begun…

Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Season 8 #39
Writer: Joss Whedon/Scott Allie
Artist: Georges Jeanty
Inker: Andy Owens
Colorist: Michelle Madsen
Cover Artist: Jo Chen
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

 
Previously, on Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Season 8:  It’s been a long, hard road for Buffy Summers and her army of slayerettes, as the menace known as Twilight has brought an actual army against them, and caused some serious damage in so doing.  When Twilight was revealed to be Angel, Buffy’s former flame, people were confused.  When Spike arrived in command of a strange craft manned by humanoid bugs, things got weirder.  The key to defeating Twilight came in the form of The Seed, a mystical artifact of some sort that was buried in the catacombs of Sunnydale, California, causing Buffy and her friends to return home.  Of course, the ruins of the city are still haunted in their own way, forcing the splintered remains of the Scoobies to team up with the first creature to attack them:  The Master.  On the other side of the world, something has happened to Angel, and he too is headed for Sunnydale and a final date with big nastiness and destiny and like that…

As we open our festivities, Faith is leading a dwindling batallion of Slayers against an army of demons, Willow is communing with the fundamental power of the universe, and Buffy and Spike have suddenly realized that something is very wrong with the vampire formerly known as Angelus.  (At least, I think he’s still a vampire…  Perhaps he’s just a superhuman now.)  Spike is quickly taken out of action by an inconvenient sunset, while Buff and Angel battle it out in the sky.  I’m bothered by the fact that the comic book powers have so quickly been folded into a world that was (at least on the surface of it) realistic in nature.  Before I can deal with that, though, a nice plot twist arrives in the form of Rupert Giles and another army, this consisting of…  demons?  Turns out that the plan to consume our reality with external demonic blah blah blah isn’t any less terrifying for them, and it’s cool to see Giles using his legendary mind to turn things around.  Willow channels the power of The Seed into massive sorcerous energy, and things start to look up for our heroes…

Yes, of course it’s a false hope.  First, Xander panics, then Faith’s slayers are taking down by an electrical demon from beyond.  The possessed Angel berates Buffy for her callous abandonment of the world that they created together, and is roughly five seconds from beating her to death, while Buffy hesitates to strike with full power against her first love.  Once again, it’s Giles to the rescue as he arrives with the red Scythe (which isn’t, by any definition of the word that I can find, a scythe) and he and Xander argue over how best to get it into her hands.  What happens next is heartbreaking, and truly signals the end of the Scooby gang as we know it.  If you thought that the end of Season 7 was hard, this’ll be worse, I expect.  Buffy’s rage at a senseless sacrifice causes her to strike at the Seed of magic with her not-a-scythe magic weapon, causing horrifying consequences for everyone (especially Warren, though he kind of deserved it.)  Things end badly, to say the least, and our hero ends up bleeding and unconscious on a cold stone floor.

I think my biggest complaint about recent Buffy issues has been a relative lack of clarity.  By comparison to the earliest issues of the series, the most recent have been unnecessarily full of sturm und drang, and the Brad Meltzer arc full of Meltzer’s usual inability to actually DO anything once the plot pieces are assembled.  Angel’s possession wasn’t clear to me until someone spelled it out on panel here, and the key scenes of this issue are a bit obscure as well.  I had to re-read several times to understand the fate of Warren, the reason why Willow was crying, and the exact nature of what happened to Faith and her slayers.  The ending is pretty startling, but I keep thinking back to what happened right before Sunnydale was destroyed, and how wonderful it was to see the four characters from the beginning of the series discussing their plans for the next morning.  That, of course, is gone now, and I’m not entirely sure that I want to continue reading for Season 9, especially if the plot-threads left dangling are tied to the placed that they seem to be.  All in all, I enjoyed this issue, but it would have carried a bit more weight in another franchise, especially one that had such a well-recieved “finale” episode.  Still, it’s a good read, and a nice way to finally put an end to Twilight.  Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Season 8 #39 earns 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  I’m looking forward to next issue’s coda, and that will really be the deciding factor in whether I’m back for the next season/series…

Rating: ★★★½☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  If they really reboot Buffy in a movie, what can they do that doesn’t tread on the Buffy television show, Angel, Stephanie, or any of the other teenage vampire stories extant?