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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #34

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #34

Credits

  • Words: Brad Meltzer
  • Art: George Jeanty
  • Inks: Andy Owen
  • Colors: Michelle Madsen
  • Story Title: Them F#©%ing (Plus the True History of the Universe)
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Apr 7, 2010

The best things in life always seem to start with something small. In 1992, a little film by a guy named Joss Whedon, about a high school cheerleader who killed monsters, introduced the world to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and planted the seed that would eventually explode into a vast, far-reaching pop culture phenomenon. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this happened but about halfway through the television series’ run, everybody seemed to be in love with Buffy Summers – even my mom.

Buffy works on so many different levels for a variety of reasons. Not only has Whedon created in his most iconic character, a strong, positive female role model but also someone whose appeal isn’t limited to a specific age group or gender. The franchise would be a valuable addition to our pop culture mythology for that reason alone, but the genius of Whedon’s creation doesn’t end there. With Buffy, Whedon raised the bar for primetime TV, setting the standard for what would come after. Smallville, Supernatural, Dead Like Me, and a host of other shows carried on where Buffy left off, embracing Whedon’s use of metaphor, solid characterization, self-deprecating humor, and sharp, sharp dialogue.

On the surface, Buffy was about a young woman trying to juggle her high school social life with hunting and killing monsters in her spare time, but everybody seemed to get that what they were really watching was an extended metaphor for adolescence. As Buffy and her pals grew up, so too the metaphors matured, as she dealt with more adult themes such as homosexuality, gender perceptions, and intimacy.

In Season Eight, Whedon recruits a band of A-list storytellers to help him continue Buffy’s ever-evolving saga. In this arc, Brad Meltzer of Justice League of America and Identity Crisis fame, steps aboard to shepherd Whedon’s creations through the labyrinthine plot of the Twilight epic. It’s an important issue, summarizing the events of a fairly convoluted storyline reaching back to Buffy’s origin, as her comrades in the infamous Scooby Gang try to piece together the truth behind the Watcher’s Twilight myth.

There is a lot going on here that requires previous exposure to the Buffy-verse in general and Season Eight, in particular. I shudder to think how the casual fan would react to the unfamiliar characters, in-jokes, and a flying, naked Buffy. Having said that, this is obviously a book meant for the legions of Buffy fans out there left hanging when the TV series ended in 2003. Whedon knows his audience very well and his characters even better. He made a strong choice in Meltzer, who manages to tell the “true history of the universe” succinctly, while depicting a very emotional, tender, and ultimately primal event in Buffy’s life as a Slayer.

Meltzer weaves the two story tangents together concisely and without too much double-talk, relying on smooth scene transitions and excellent narration to allow the plot to unfold naturally. Operating from Whedon’s notes, his characterization and dialogue are bang-on, although he does neglect to adequately introduce some of the more unfamiliar faces. Overall, Meltzer’s passion and respect for the source material shine through, as he does his best to perpetuate the humility, humor, and sensitivity of the book’s large cast.

George Jeanty’s art is a great match for Meltzer’s organic writing style and his handle on the now-famous faces of the main characters combines caricature and realism in just the right doses, so that the visuals avoid feeling rigid or confined by too much reference. Thanks to his balanced approach, Season Eight still feels like reading a comic book, rather than one of those cheesy movie tie-ins that feel like you’re reading a magazine. Jeanty is really the unsung hero of this series. It’s his solid, stylish pencils that have given the book the consistency it needs to cope with a revolving cast of writers.

Although this installment of Season Eight’s Twilight arc could never stand alone due to its place in the overall scheme of Whedon’s vision, Meltzer and Jeanty succeed in presenting a visually stunning, exciting turning point in the series and the life of its heroine. Its sole failing is a lack of accessibility to the casual fan with only passing knowledge of the source material. If they’re anything like me though, they’ll welcome the chance to fill in the missing pieces and in the process rediscover what made Buffy the Vampire Slayer so special in the first place.

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