Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8, Episode 10: Anywhere But Here
Written by Joss Whedon; Illustrated by Cliff Richards
Ugh. Kennedy’s back. And the manner in which she is drawn conveys all the irritation of her “personality” without the added bonus of sound.
In this episode, Buffy and Willow go flying on what I can only assume is a voyage through a dream state to gain information from some sort of demonic beast with a television attached to its head. It’s a bizarre image, but it works. What doesn’t quite work is the whole “dream logic” thing, which Whedon pulled off with great aplomb in Restless (my personal favourite ever Buffy episode) but doesn’t quite accomplish on the page. It might be that the compressed nature of this single-issue storyline (we only get 25 pages, several of which are given over to Dawn’s ongoing non-storyline), but tonally is seems a lot more muddled than any of the dreams we saw in the original series. It doesn’t help that Christian Bale and Daniel Craig both appear in the dream, something that wouldn’t have been possible on the show - to me, it just seems like self-indulgent pop culture for pop culture’s sake. Not that Buffy ever shied away from pop culture - on the contrary, it positively revelled in it - but here, it feels like poorly written fan fiction. Fan fiction written by the series’ original creator.
At the crux of this issue appears to be a partial explanation of why Willow has been avoiding Buffy, and more to the point keeping Kennedy away from her. Apparently, by resurrecting Buffy back at the beginning of Season 6, Willow feels that she set in motion the events that eventually led to Tara’s demise, in effect choosing Buffy over her girlfriend. Now, she’s concerned that her current piece of ass (that’s all I can dignify Kennedy as, since even in comic book form you can sense the complete lack of chemistry between the two of them) will meet a similar fate (if only), so she’s intentionally keeping her out of Buffy’s reach. Oooo-kay. Not only does this not make the blindest bit of sense, I’m still not getting why it’s taken Willow until now to come to this conclusion. She didn’t seem to have any problem hanging around Buffy throughout Season 7. (They throw in a rather trite explanation that she didn’t realise how she felt until she saw Warren again, but this blatantly makes no sense at all, since she and Kennedy were hidden away long before he showed up again.)
On a side note, this issue was drawn by Cliff Richards, who is apparently something of a veteran of the Buffy comics. His style is similar to Georges Jeanty’s, but with his own individual quirks. He captures Dawn’s likeness much better, and does quite well with Willow as well, but his Buffy is inconsistent.
I don’t know, I’m just not really feeling it. It’s enjoyable enough to read, but once you actually stop to think about what’s going on, it makes less and less sense. I find it hard to believe that Whedon’s heart is in this any more - certainly no more than it was during Seasons 6 and 7 - and none of the character progressions strike me as believable. I’m going to continue to read this series, but more out of mild curiosity than because I actually consider it canonical… which I don’t, even if it’s supposed to be.
At this stage, I personally think that those looking for their Buffy fix would be better served by The Chosen, a fan-written continuation which adheres as closely as possible to the format of the original TV series, and has the added bonus of being free. It’s currently just over half-way through Season 9 (where it has admittedly been stalled for some time, although the writers have given continual reassurances that their plan is to eventually take it all the way to the end of Season 10), and, while re-reading some of it recently, it struck me how much better it works than the official comic continuation. It takes a few episodes to find its feet, but once the writers perfect that Buffy “voice”, it rarely becomes anything less than completely convincing and, 99% of the time, is vastly preferable to anything in Seasons 6 and 7. It even has a few episodes that I think compare to the best of the official series, with the writers taking great pains to right many of the wrongs committed during the final two seasons of the original show. In Season 9, for example, an episode set in an alternate reality gives Anya the closure she was denied in the final episode of the real show. Don’t ask me to explain it, but it works, as a sort of bitter-sweet inversion of The Wish. The writers are also comfortable enough with writing the characters that, when they have someone do something radically unusual (such as Faith and Tara going off to get pissed in the woods in the most recent episode), it still seems natural rather than out of character.
I know a lot of people are some what suspicious of these fan-written continuations, and rightly so, because the vast majority of them are indeed poor, but this one proves to be the exception to the rule and is why, ironically enough, the official continuation of the series feels more like fan fiction than an actual example of fan fiction.