A new team strips the old gang back to basics and presents a fresh nostalgia for season 10.
Dark Horse. Gage, Isaacs, Whedon.
As much as a Buffy The Vampire Slayer Super-Fan I am, and believe me when I say that I am, it pains me to say that the comics haven’t blown me away so far. I collected all of Season 8 and I was fascinated by the direction they took following the conclusion of the TV show way, waaaay, back (man I’m old). Watching the last episode, where Buffy (oh, SPOILERS for a decade-old final episode here guys. Again, old) activates every latent slayer across the globe was both a perfect finale to a show and a brand new beginning for a set of characters. It was genuinely gutting to know you would never know what happened next. Apart from the odd reference in sister show Angel, which still had one more season left in it, Buffy’s tale was seemingly at an end. Enter Dark Horse, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8. Whoop! And it was written by and overseen by Joss Whedon, and declared officially in-canon! Double whoop!
The comics continuation of one of my all-time favourite universes has been going strong for nearly seven years now, with a completed Season 8 and 9, spin off one shots, mini series, and new sister title in Angel and Faith, which is all awesome for the franchise. As I say though, I read all of Season 8, and to say it went in a completely new direction would be putting it mildly. Time travel, giant monsters, Buffy being able to fly (?) and the whole Twilight arc just served to take the characters further down a certain path and I wasn’t really following them. So when I started reading Season 9 I was already a little jaded and sadly dropped off the book. I’ve kept up vaguely with what’s been happening, but not read either Season 9 or Angel and Faith. I have always planned to read them eventually, but this issue, the first issue of Season 10, not only restores my faith in the franchise but makes me want to play catch up.
First things first: while it may seem weird that I’m reviewing an issue or even reading an issue that is the first part of a Season 10 when I either didn’t like or flat out didn’t even read the previous two seasons, I’d read enough about this issue to know that the new creative team of Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs were determined to start afresh and take Buffy back to basics – Slayer vs Vampires in a Californian town – and boy do they achieve their goal. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still quite a few plot threads and developments that will definitely benefit from you having read Season 9, but the beauty of this issue is that it’s not at all essential to do so. This is an issue with a mission, and that mission is simple: bring people up to speed while getting fans back to what they loved and remembered about the show.
The Scooby gang is all back together, the enemies are familiar (with a fresh new twist) and the setting is practically nostalgic. Hell, even the characters comment on how everything feels like the good old days. Buffy has had enough of “crises and apocalypses and old boyfriends turning into mad Gods” and so have we frankly, and Gage knows it. This isn’t about nostalgia though; even the TV show embraced change more than most, so status-quo shifts are all par for the course. Rather this is about getting back to the core of what made Buffy the Vampire Slayer such an enduring and beloved franchise, and they’ve achieved that by creating a first issue that is a stand-alone read; that doesn’t ignore what’s come before but doesn’t lean on it; that smoothly and effectively brings new and lapsed readers up to speed with subtle exposition; and that puts all the old jigsaw pieces back together in such a way that it makes a brand new picture.
It’s kind of like when you meet up with a group of friends that you’ve not seen in years in the newly renovated pub that you all used to hang out in: it’s all new, everything has changed and yet in the best possible way, nothing has.
Likewise Rebekah Isaacs has had a fine line between old and new to tread. Not only has she got to create a look and feel that echoes the TV show, she has to have a style that fits in with an already established comic book series. It’s safe to say she makes it look effortless. The facial work is effective at portraying emotion, not to mention that they all look like both the actors and their Season 8/9 counterparts, a feat I imagine to be near impossible to accomplish. The action is fluid and fight choreography is clear and paced well, and overall I couldn’t be happier with the look.
Christos Gage (along with Isaacs) developed Angel and Faith, so he’s no stranger to the world, and he makes the jump to the Scoobies pretty smoothly. Like any set of characters that are 17 years old this year (jeez), their voices are already well established. Gage seems to pick them all up straight away – again, no easy feat – and doesn’t seem afraid of taking them in new directions.
There are a fair few plot points brewing here, as well as two old-favourite characters returning in surprising ways (one of which especially so for those who, like me, haven’t read recent issues). All of which will surely keep old fans and new readers coming back for more. Gage and Isaacs (et al) have taken the old and made it new again, and it seems that a change is indeed as good as a rest. Buffy remarks that “you can’t go home again”, but I think that sentiment has just been proven wrong.