I’ve been rewatching old TV. More specifically, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s a semi-regular ritual for me. There’s something extremely satisfying about revisiting old characters and storylines. Sometimes you discover new things and even when you don’t it can still be a comforting experience. So, today I thought I’d take a look at the book that started to fill the gap left by Buffy, and particularly the opening storyline, “Buffy Season Eight: The Long Way Home.”
Written by Joss Whedon
Pencils by Georges Jeanty
Colors by Dave Stewart
Since the destruction of the Hellmouth, the Slayers-newly legion-have gotten organized and are kicking some serious undead butt. But not everything’s fun and firearms, as an old enemy reappears and Dawn experiences some serious growing pains. Meanwhile, one of the “Buffy” decoy Slayers is going through major pain of her own. Buffy creator Joss Whedon brings Buffy back to Dark Horse in this direct follow-up to Season 7 of the smash-hit TV series.
In general, I think “Season Eight” is overrated. Which is not to say that it’s bad, but the combination of reverence for Joss Whedon’s writing and a desire to have something that continued Buffy’s story tends to let reviewers overlook some of the more obvious defects. In contrast, “The Long Way Home” is almost perfect. It is a phenomenally paced transition, both from screen to page, but also of old versions of characters to their new selves.
In an era where we mostly think of comic books making the jump from page to screen, it’s sometimes odd (and a little frustrating) to think about the number of shows that were forced to transition in the other direction. Which is not to say that Buffy wasn’t successful, but it doesn’t take a lot of effort to find any number of quotes pointing to the kinds of freedoms associated with not having a television show’s budget limitations. Whedon himself talked about how liberating it would be to create characters like Angel’s Skip, without having to worry about the cost of prosthetics or CGI additions.
That creative freedom is obvious from the very first pages of “Season Eight.” But at the same time, “The Long Way Home” manages to keep the same tone as the show. The issues are defined more by the character than the setting or the special effects. The art and the action are eye-catching, but the dialogue feels like it has center stage. Whedon’s often-praised banter translates very well to the world of comics, but it’s his sense of pacing that really shines here.
Unlike TV shows, where action sequences might take up a large chunk of an episode’s runtime, the fights in “Season Eight” clip along much more succinctly. Panels are taken to show off particularly awesome moments, like Amy and Willow’s aerial battle in issue #3, but they don’t get in the way of the storyline or the pacing of the read. While Whedon was far from a comic novice, this is still a pretty impressive feat of writing.
Another element that “The Long Way Home” does well is realizing the familiar voices of the familiar characters. While Whedon’s writing is obviously critical in this, Veteran Penciller Georges Jeanty is hugely reasonable for this successful transition. His versions of the Buffy cast stride a difficult barrier between photorealism and comic book art. There are clear exaggerations in his facial lines; larger eyes or noses for example, but the result is something that evokes the character and the actor, without crossing into the uncanny valley territory that some photorealistic styles approach. The figures and faces, while not necessarily accurate, resolve as the iconic characters in the same way that we recognize caricatures under the layers of distortion. Jeanty’s lines come nowhere near the point of caricature, but the principles are the same. The same techniques can be seen, with varying degrees of success, as characters make the jump from live action to comics and back again with increasing frequency.
When combined with the excellent action panels and the tight storytelling, the resulting arc is superb. It’s nostalgic without retreading the same materials. It does an adequate job of reintroducing the characters for new readers, while setting the stage for the major arcs of “Season Eight.” And it retains the charm of the series, even managing to recapture some of the adventurous innocence of the earlier seasons.Continued below
In many ways, Whedon’s work on the Buffyverse paved the way for our modern era of superhero multimedia. Not only was he critical in the success of the large MCU, but his crossover projects repeatedly demonstrated that there is an audience for comic book adaptations, in either direction. More importantly, “The Long Way Home” opened the door for people to keep telling stories in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While not all of those stories were amazing, the setting and the messages remain a welcome addition to the comic zeitgeist.