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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8, Episode 4: The Long Way Home, Part Four

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8

Written by Joss Whedon; Illustrated by Georges Jeanty

So the first “arc” of Buffy’s eighth season reaches its conclusion. Given the dramatically different nature of comics as a medium versus television, it’s difficult to say precisely how these issues would relate to an episode of the TV show, but, allowing for how much longer it takes for action to unfold in dramatic form versus on the page, I’d say that this four-part opening arc feels somewhat akin to a 90-minute two-parter like Bargaining (Season 6). By that I mean that a similar amount of ground has been covered: too much for these four issues to constitute a single episode, but not enough for each issue to operate as an episode in its own right.

In some respects, things have moved a lot faster than they ever did in the TV show. Already we’ve been introduced to three potential villains and a vast number of Slayerettes, seen Buffy sent into a deep sleep and then awakened by the kiss of true love Sleeping Beauty style, had Willow engage in a whiz-bang mid-air duel with Amy, be kidnapped and subjected to an array of horrific tortures (which for some reason leave her completely unscarred - thanks to her new post-Chosen powers, perhaps?), and a whole lot more besides. And yet, at the same time, I’m not all that convinced that a great deal has happened. We’ve had snatches of characterisation (I hesitate to call it character development at this stage), true, but it’s mostly been smoke and mirrors. With the change in medium, I get the impression that Whedon is intent in converting Buffy into more of an action superhero, devoting more time than ever before to the fight scenes. It doesn’t help that these fight scenes don’t always read very well on the page, with the staging at times making the action rather incomprehensible. Then again, I had exactly the same problems trying to follow the action in V for Vendetta, so perhaps it’s a problem with me rather than the artwork itself. Either way, I’m impressed by the way that Jeanty manages to capture the essence of Willow/Hannigan, Xander/Brendon and, some of the time, Buffy/Gellar in his artwork. Dawn, Amy and Andrew (who, mercifully, doesn’t appear in this issue) are a lot shakier, but it’s no mean feat to be able to take the likenesses of real people and translate them into fairly flat drawings while ensuring that they remain recognisable. That said, Jo Chen’s cover art is really on another level. (I wonder if the actors get royalties for the use of their images?)

Unfortunately, letting it all down for me is the fact that Whedon has, for some inexplicable reason, decided to bring back Warren, one of the worst villains in the history of the show - if not the worst. He’s not as annoying as Andrew, true, but his presence leaves a foul taste in the back of my throat, bringing back unpleasant memories of Seasons 6 and 7. At least, as a leering, skinless cadaver, he has become slightly more interesting, at least on a visual level.

Right now, I find myself at something of a crossroads. I can’t deny that I want to find out where this is all headed, but at the same time I have a sneaking suspicion that Whedon is making this up as he goes along (since the comics began production, the series has ballooned from a 22-episode season into a 50-plus issue epic), and, if this is true, I suspect that the end result will be as dramatically unsatisfying as the final two seasons of the TV show. I hope I’m proved wrong, but, at this stage in the game, I think that the fan-written continuation The Chosen has done a better job of capturing the tone of classic Buffy while taking the characters and their storylines in new and satisfying directions. Some will probably hold this opinion to be absolute heresy - after all, it’s Whedon’s baby and the comics are canon while The Chosen is not - but so sue me, Seasons 6 and 7 have severely diminished my opinion of the creator’s storytelling abilities, and Season 8, for far, has not done a great deal to allay this.

Oh yeah, and Ethan Rayne is dead. This being the Buffyverse, though, who wants to bet how long it will be before he gets resurrected as some sort of ghoulish otherworldly being?

5/10.

 
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2007 at 7:56 PM | Comments: 4
Categories: Books | Buffy the Vampire Slayer | Reviews | TV

 
Comments

1.

Nice review, even if you're wrong about the underrated S6 of the show. ;)

- - -

Q: The ending of Angel was maybe the best series finale I have ever seen. That last shot was so great, but you leave yourself in this weird position because if you go back you’re going to have to explain how they got out of there alive.

Whedon: I appreciate that because people were like, ‘Why did you do a cliffhanger?!?!’ It’s not a cliffhanger! It’s a statement!! It does leave things open, there’s a lot to talk about, which is always good. A sense of closure with a sense of openture is the way I do this stuff.

Q: What do you have to say to the people who complain about the final seasons of Buffy, who don’t get season 6?

Whedon: Sorry. We do the best we can. We do what we think is right. Sometimes we sway too far one way, sometimes too far another. Season 6 was incredibly dark and that happens. I know that people said that Sarah complained; there were times where she said, ‘I feel lost.’ That’s what we were going for, and eventually we realized that we had taken Buffy away from people, and they’re not going to accept it. There were some members of the audience who had trouble with it and that I understand and that I respect, but that’s where I thought the story had to go.

Q: It’s funny because season 6 is neck and neck with season 2 as my favorite season.

Whedon: I love season 6. It’s really important. But it was a very stark thing to do. It wasn’t just putting Buffy in a very bad, abusive, weird relationship, it was some sort of an end to magic. For me because childhood is so rich with metaphor, a lot of it had to do with leaving that behind. Instead of a bigger than life villain, we had the nerd troika. Instead of drinking blood and doing spells as sexual metaphor, we had sex. Things became very literal and they lost some of their loveliness. I still think that a lot of the best episodes we ever did were in season 6. I don’t agree with the detractors, but I understand it. And I respect it. Everybody has their opinions. There are people out there who love it very much. But as I’ve learned from my latest arc on the X-Men, you can’t please everybody all the time.

Posted by: Anon, June 19, 2007 9:03 PM

2.

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure what those Whedon quotes are supposed to prove. Yes, he defends Season 6 to the hilt - that’s nothing new. It doesn’t stop the final two seasons of the TV show from being, in my opinion, complete stinkers with very few redeeming qualities. I personally find the old “you didn’t like it because it was too real/mature/whatever” that inevitably gets trotted out to be a little tiresome. Real and mature (neither of which describe Buffy’s sixth season) I have no problem with. What I do have a problem with is shoddy, lazy writing, obvious sensationalism and a complete rejection of the core values established in the first five seasons.

Posted by: Whiggles, June 19, 2007 10:25 PM

3.

Hang on, wasn't Warren's flayed corpse burnt to a cinder soon afterwards? If so, what's it doing back?

We could have had the Mayor, or Glory, or Drusilla. But no, we get psychopathic geek boy.

Posted by: Baron Scarpia, June 20, 2007 9:26 PM

4.

I’m presuming Amy somehow managed to resurrect him with the help of her powerful witchy magics. That’s Buffy for you, I guess. Flaying, evaporation and even removal to another dimension have rarely stood in the way of resurrecting dead characters in the past (now, if an actor refuses to appear, on the other hand…). It’s really got to a stage where death doesn’t really mean anything, so, when Warren turned up, I didn’t even bat an eyelid.

Posted by: Whiggles, June 22, 2007 7:44 PM

Comments on this entry and all entries up to and including June 31st 2009 have been closed. The discussion continues on the new Land of Whimsy blog:

http://www.landofwhimsy.com

 

 
 
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