After season seven, fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer were bereft. With the situation being what it was at the end of the series, there were just so many possibilities for the future: with so many new slayers out there, they'd have to be found and trained; or, if there were any who went to the dark side, they'd have to be found and eliminated; there was a sudden need for many more new Watchers to train Slayers, and so on… Now, almost four years later, creator Joss Whedon has begun the new era in the lives of the Scooby Gang with the Dark Horse comic, Buffy the Vampire Slayer…
In The Long Way Home, we find Buffy and a team of new Slayers on a training mission. We learn the truth behind her alleged romance with The Immortal, and discover that things aren't entirely swell between her and her sister, Dawn. Another problem is that the U.S. Military, not being ones to learn the right lessons from the failed Initiative, have decided to explore magic for use as a military weapon – and have declared Buffy, the Scoobies and the new Slayers to be terrorists. In short, life proceeds in the usual mayhem-filled manner for Buffy and her charges.
The first two issues of the new Buffy comic are a little less explosive than I was expecting. Despite his success with a certain group of Merry Marvel Mutants, Whedon's writing seems a bit tentative in the first issue – as though he was still thinking in television terms as he was writing them, and had to make adjustments on the fly. The result is pacing that feels a bit off – movement being sacrificed for character stuff [not really a bad thing…]. By the end of the second chapter of The Long Way Home, the book feels more organic and the story is flowing with the old Whedon magic.
Because comics don't require special effects, Whedon is able to get some very cool situations established. Check out the new Slayer Central control room. In character terms, when I say that Whedon has taken Dawn a giant step forward, in terms of a rift between her and Buffy, I'm not just speaking metaphorically. Then there's the case of a certain rat who is helping the military…
From the exquisite painted covers by Jo Chen, to the interior art by George Jeanty [pencils] and Andy Owens [inks], Dark Horse's Buffy is a thoroughbred. Jeanty's layouts and pencils are smooth without being lifeless and Owens' inks do a terrific job of heightening the book's reality. Dave Stewart does a lovely job with the coloring. He captures the visual tone of the TV series with his palette.
Over the course of the first two issues, Whedon sets the scene and gradually brings the gang back into focus for the longtime fan. The final images of each issue are unexpected, peculiarly delightful [as with most of Whedon's best work] and also evocative introductions to two key characters. I'm not sure you could call them cliffhangers, but there's enough of that kind of drama to pull the reader to the next issue.
All in all, Buffy the Vampire Slayer captures the feel of the series as well as the odd mix of drama, comedy, character and action. It's a book that feels comfortable to fans of the TV series, but is open enough for readers who've never experienced Whedon's characters before. That balance is liable to keep Buffy the Vampire Slayer near the top of the sales charts during its run – especially since Whedon has drafted writers from the show as well as from the ranks of comics' best writers to help him tell his new epic tale.