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
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…
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.)