Season eight of Buffy the Vampire Slayer wrapped up this week as we got a glimpse of what is to coming in season nine and dealt with the repercussions of last few pages of last issue. While I won’t spoil anything for those who haven’t gotten to the store to read it yet, I will discuss the season in general so fear not you are safe to read on. I found the ending to be a bit sad and not anywhere near as uplifting as the end of the TV series that I will discuss later. I will talk about one minor plot point that I feel a need to comment on because I feel it was fixing a problem from the final TV season. So with that in mind you should judge for your self whether to continue reading this review.
The world has changed since last issue in major and dramatic ways that this issue serves as an epilogue. Buffy was forced to take drastic actions last issue that I won’t talk about for those of you waiting for the trade paperbacks but there is a lot of fallout to be dealt with in this issue. This seems to be a very back to basics approach that Joss talks about in back of the letter’s column where he admits that he was a little too excited with having an unlimited budget to do what he couldn’t do on the TV series. He feels that the story became too epic at the expense of what he feels drives the series the characters. While this might be true to certain extent, I wouldn’t trade some of the wonderful moments this season has provided for anything despite a little bit of a downer ending. The image of Willow flying with Buffy on her back early in the run was perhaps one of my favorite moments that seemed most like I was watching the show again. I feel this issue is where Josh found the characters voice again and I became sure the comic was on the right track. The sight of “Super Buffy” lifting a locomotive above her head later in the run was a beautiful nod to the comic book world of Superman that felt right. Xander’s nonstop questioning in that issue of how she had gained her newfound powers like “Did you get bit by a radioactive spider?” was perhaps one of the best Xander Buffy moments of all time. Dawnzilla was simply brillaint.
A large percentage of the fan base has been unhappy with this season and certain moments and been very vocal about their displeasure but I am not one of them. There have been various controversial events during the story and not all of the fans have taken to them. They have claimed that this is not “Buffy” which is funny seeing as how her creator has been at the helm overseeing or writing the season. The largest of which is the decision to have Buffy sleep with another slayer or woman. This was handled very well in my opinion and created one of the best sequences of the run with every member of the cast coming in her bedroom accidentally after the deed and being shocked that it had a wonderful farce like quality to it. I was very disappointed in some the fan base’s homophobic reaction to this one night stand. That is exactly what it was, a fling and not earth shaking or life altering as Willow’s finding true love with Tara. Some of the hate spewed was unbelievable by members of the fan base in the letter’s column who are apparently okay with the sidekick being gay but not the possibility our heroine. They are okay with a werewolf dating a human girl. They are okay with a man dating an ex demon. Completely happy to have Buffy sleep with the vampire of their choice but can’t handle seeing her with another woman. They refuse to accept that a person might have a moment of sexual identity confusion and act on it and only later realize that it was not right for them. Many left the series behind because of this one act and I really feel it is their loss and they didn’t learn much from the series. I think only the X-men books have a higher lesson in tolerance.
Some were also unhappy with Xander Dawn pairing which to me made complete sense and had been foreshadowed in the TV show since Dawn’s introduction much like Willow being gay. Then there is the Spike vs. Angel argument. This is a huge hot button to many fans and no matter what happens one portion of the fan base is going to be unhappy. Many argued with editors via the letters column how one or the other was being mistreated. The Xander faction wasn’t happy either with Buffy’s realization that he might be the one and his subsequent reject of her due to his feeling that this was an over reaction to seeing Dawn and him together. I happen to agree with him and I don’t feel any of those mentioned above are right for her either but that’s purely my view. I will mention here the one thing that is spoiler like from this issue so you might want to skip ahead to the next paragraph. The Willow Kennedy relationship comes to an end in this issue and I for one am happy. I never took to this pairing in the final season. It felt rushed and contrived. Kennedy never felt like a good match for Willow and in fact to me felt like someone that would never even give Willow a second look. While I love Willow dearly and was surprised when the girl I desired turned out to be gay, it was mitigated by the pairing with Tara. It was wonderful and seemed completely natural that the two shy nerdy girls would come together. I took Tara’s death particularly hard as did a lot of the fan base and when Kennedy showed up it seemed much too soon. I pretty much took an instant dislike to the character. While the fall out from last issue played a part in Willow and Kennedy coming to an end, the real reason made complete sense. Willow tells Buffy that there is someone else and when Buffy mistakenly thinks it is her, Willow corrects her with “It’s not you dumb ass.” and refers to that it is someone she will never see again that being Tara. Willow bows out of the issue early here and we are not quite sure where her friendship stands with Buffy right now due to last issues’ fallout. It is being tested for sure as Willow blames her for what has happened.
The series concludes with many of the cast bowing out for the moment and only Xander and Dawn still standing firmly but still a bit distant with Buffy. The main thrust of this back to basics approach for next season is that “there can be only one slayer” and that is Buffy. Equally surprising is Faith’s departure ceding the title of “The Slayer” to Buffy. This might show some growth and maturity from the character but I think Faith should have showed a little more fight in her but that is a minor detail. A small spoiler alert but one I think you could guess since there is a season nine coming. The end of the issue comes with Buffy alone and continuing her fight against evil by herself. It made me sad to see her by herself and didn’t match up to the TV show finale that had the group standing over the crater that was Sunnydale with cast asking “What do we do now, Buffy?” and the close up on her smiling face which silently said “We Live!” A small moment of happiness with friends is all anyone could ask for. I feel that was what was missing and would have like to see this addressed at this season’s end. The back to basic approach is fine and perhaps needed but I always believed that that Buffy was cursed with an impossible fight she cannot win but was blessed like no other Slayer before to have two friends by her side like Willow and Xander to ease her burden. The show is really about the strength of three people’s friendship set against the occult backdrop. The friendship has been tested and strained but it is never broken. While it is true she is the slayer and must face her battles alone in the end, she is strengthened by Willow and Xander’s love and that is why she will survive.