Or – “That Was One LOOONG Season…”

And you thought that the break between seasons of Battlestar or the Venture Brothers was long?  Either way, the world-shattering menace of Twilight has finally been laid low, with a bang (Giggity!) rather than a whimper, and soldiers have fallen in the battle against evil.  What does Buffy do when her own actions turn her friends and her army into her enemies?

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SEASON 8 #40 – “Last Gleaming, Part 5”
Script: Joss Whedon
Pencils: Georges Jeanty
Inks: Andy Owens
Colors: Michelle Madsen
Letters: Richard Starkings/Jimmy Bettancourt
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $2.99

Previously, on Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Season 8:  With the revelation that Angelus, aka Angel, aka Buffy’s first boyfriend, was the superhuman creature known as Twilight, Season 8 took an unusual turn.  Having created a new universe to supplant this one through sheer carnal power, Slayer and Vampire teamed up to stop the power of the Seed… or something…  There was some business about magic and some metaphysical claptrap, but the upshot of it all comes with the death of Buffy’s mentor and stand-in father, Rupert Giles, the end of the line of Slayers, and the severing of the ties to magic.  As with many previous battles, Buffy’s victory tastes a lot like the ashes of defeat, and the question of where they go and what they do know is still yet to be answered…

Once More, With Feeling

The issue opens with a timejump, as Buffy ruminates to herself about the problems with changing the world.  We find that she’s got a new career as a barista/waitress, and she’s actually not bad at it.  In a particularly clever bit of storytelling, we find out that she still has her agility and powers when a mysterious girl trips her and she catches a full tray with one foot, a nicely done example of “Show, don’t tell.”  Buffy spends the issue interacting with all her friends, a heartbroken Kennedy, a just-dumped-my-girlfriend-lost-my-identity-something-bad-gonna-happen-because-I’m-at-loose-ends Willow, as well as newly functional couple Xander and Dawn.  As strangely squicky as that relationship probably should seem, seeing the two of them living together, with Xander back in the construction business, is satisfying on multiple levels.  She even crosses paths with Faith again, at Giles funeral service, where both Slayers find out that Rupert had considerable holdings in England and elsewhere, the entirety of which he left to…  Faith.  The panel of Buffy’s reaction is truly spectacular facial expression work by George Jeanty, conveying grief, disbelief, and a bit of jealousy into a weirdly contorted (but still completely recognizable) Buffy face.  Kudos for the art throughout the issue, of which that panel is only one example…

Fire Bad, Tree Pretty

More than anything, this issue serves as closing arguments for Season 8, as we see what’s up with everyone, finding Spike still Captain Kirking his Starship Anterprise (they’re really more beetles, but I had to go for the better joke), and Angel putting in a cameo appearance.  It’s not all sweetness and light, though, as what I can only assume is the major antagonist of Season 9 puts in an appearance (We’ve seen her before, and she’s got a grudge) and takes out The General, and Buffy herself is forced to deal with a gang of former Slayers who hate her for her betrayal of humanity and near-destruction of everything that is.  What might have been emo whininess goes full-on badass, as Buffy repeatedly tells them that she doesn’t want to fight, but quickly puts down THREE girls in seconds when they press the situation.  “You come after me again, you so much as LOOK at my funny?  Then I WILL fight you,” she says, and leaps off into the night, leaving the stunned ex-slayers behind.  The ending is upbeat, even as the subject matter might not be, and it succesfully caps off the experiment that was Season 8.

It’s a strong issue, and a nice ending/beginning for Buffy, bringing her back to her old-school roots by divesting her of a lot of barnacles that the previous 40 issues saddled  her with.  Joss himself turns in a text piece that ends the issue, a piece that correctly points out that this series might have strayed a bit as it went on.  The problem with having no limits and an unlimited special effects budget are that, sometimes, those limitations make for better ideas.  Imagine if Star Trek could have afforded to land the ship every week…  They might never have come up with the idea of the transporter, one of the core ideas of the franchise.  The same is true here, in that making Buffy a Kryptonian-level powerhouse kind of went against the nature of Buffy the character and Buffy the show.  It’s pretty telling that a book that is pretty much all housekeeping and character work is much stronger and memorable to me than the giant battle with Twilight or whatever it is that has been happening for the last few months.  I had thought about this issue and the end of this series as a good jumping-off point for Buffy, but I am encouraged to see the creators moving back towards what makes the character awesome in my mind.  Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #40 is a bittersweet ending with a hopeful note, leading the character into her new status quo ably, and setting up the seeds for next “season’s” events, and earning a well-crafted 4 out of 5 stars overall.  I’d say that, for all the good issues of this book (and there have been quite a few) it’s well past time to move on to what comes next…

Rating: ★★★★☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Are you coming back for Season 9?  (I wasn’t sure until I read this issue, and now I’m provisionally onboard.)

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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9 Comments

  1. Christian
    January 20, 2011 at 5:38 pm — Reply

    I wasn’t coming back for s9, maknly becuause of all the issues in s8 that lack of budget restraint caused but reading the text piece makes me feel more inclined to give it a go, simply because it’s going to be more Buffy the Vampire Slayer

    Never expected Faith to get a confirmed surname!!

  2. hectorbustnuts
    January 20, 2011 at 5:38 pm — Reply

    I too wasn’t sure I’d be picking up Season 9, but they won me back with this issue.

    A really good wrap-up to a really up-and-down season. Great start, some high highs (Vaughan & Goddard)…some really low lows (Meltzer…and even Espenson was disappointing, which was a shame given her knowledge of the characters having worked on the TV show)

    With Joss’ write-up at the back of the book, I think (read “hope”) they learned from their mistakes with season and are bringing it back to their root in Season 9.

    And if the rumours that GAIL SIMONE has been asked to pen an arc (and hoping she says “yes”), well, that’s just fine by me!

  3. Scott
    January 20, 2011 at 8:43 pm — Reply

    So, there are still vampires and other nasties, but all magic is gone, so any storyline involving curses, wizards, witches, sorcerers, etc., is a no go. That’ll impose some interesting restrictions.

    As I wrote that, it just occurred to me, if all magic has been ended what about the magic that gave Angel his soul? That gypsy curse keeping his soul in him was basically not all that different from the magic keeping Warren together without his skin, and since Warren went shpluck, shouldn’t Angel being doing likewise, metaphysically?

    • darthghid
      January 20, 2011 at 10:21 pm — Reply

      I think the reason Angel is still ensouled is because it was a one-time spell that doesn’t need constant replenishing. My understanding of Warren’s situation was that he was relying on constant sustained protection from Amy’s magic. So once Amy had no more magic, she couldn’t sustain his protection. Whereas Angel’s curse doesn’t need sustaining as it was a one-off. However, should Angel ever revert back to Angelus, that’s pretty much it for him as long as magic is no longer available, since there would be no way to re-ensoul him(again).

  4. RabbitwithFangs
    January 21, 2011 at 5:45 am — Reply

    I think Angel status at this point is ‘unknown’…or catatonic. And was there a tip of the hat to ‘Sex & the City’ (of all things) by revealing Faith’s surname? Lehane, interestingly enough, sounds a bit like French for ‘the hate’. Giles…I’m gutted. I wasn’t sure about sticking around for Season 9, but who am I kidding?

  5. Blackthunder01
    January 21, 2011 at 7:36 am — Reply

    I just got the Season 8 Volume 7 and since I only read this title in trade, I’m happy to hear that it ends so well. I don’t mind being spoiled about it. I’ll most definately return for Season 9. Buffy’s my girl. But more importantly, I’m glad they’re getting back to a more “street level” Buffy. I think that’s where she works best.

    I’m curious about a few things though. If there is no more Slayer line, I wonder how The Fray still factors into things. Maybe this is the beginging of the “down time” for Slayers that we heard of in that book. But seeing as how magic is still very much alive, it’s definately going to make a come back at some point next season. This makes me wonder who the mysterious villianess is that Matthew eludes to. We know it’s a female so I’m instantly thinking how interesting it would be if Glory came back and the team had to take her down without magic. Other than that, all I can think of is Amy (who would have a grudge with the General possibly), Anya (granted vengence for having died for the team; a gift from Dahofrin), Drusilla (because you can never get enough of her) or Harmony (HA HA HA HA HA!!!).

    • hectorbustnuts
      January 21, 2011 at 3:52 pm — Reply

      In the opening pages of Fray, they specifically state that there’s been “none called for two hundred years”, “the Watchers have found her as well…they mean to approach her. To begin the cycle anew.”

      So, it seems to gel. I haven’t re-read “Fray” but wasn’t there a “Battle of Starbucks” where the last Slayer dies?

      Will be interesting to see how Joss brings it all into alignment.

  6. January 21, 2011 at 6:18 pm — Reply

    I believe Joss created the surname a couple years ago for the Buffy RPG…

  7. Crash
    January 24, 2011 at 7:34 pm — Reply

    I’m wondering how these comics tie into the Angel comics or if they are even going to bother to do that at all?

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