Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #19

Remakes and adaptations are the modern-day law of the land. Whether it's yet another big bucks Hollywood picture based on a 1970s TV series, a comic book replication of a new film or a video game based on an aging theatric property, the idea of originality seems to be antiquated. And to a certain degree, that's true of Buffy: Season Eight. Yes, we're returning to familiar territory, resuscitating a television show that's been dead and buried for years and cashing in on the title's cult following. But Buffy has a few things that set it apart: for one, this isn't a retelling of the same old stories, it's a direct continuation of the saga that picks up right where our TVs left off back in 2003.

It's also nice to see the same creative minds involved. Sure, those Star Wars novels that were blessed by LucasArts may have been fascinating, but because King George himself wasn't a hands-on collaborator, they never seemed authentic. That's no problem for Buffy: Joss Whedon, the brains behind the entirety of the show's lifespan, is getting his hands dirty as writer of this Dark Horse Comics follow-up. It's both a spiritual and a literal sequel to the renowned series, and one that I'm sure most fans will greet with open arms.

As long as the action keeps moving, Whedon's writing makes for easy, entertaining material. Though he does irregularly indulge himself with a few pages of long, breathy conversation, Whedon seems to acknowledge that this series is at its strongest when it's throwing haymakers and impaling evildoers. And while he's dealing with a huge cast of beloved characters, the writer doesn't pull any punches, either. That makes those fight scenes just a bit more interesting, every near miss a tad more suspenseful.

Karl Moline is the artist of choice this month, benefiting from a deep pre-existing cast and an elaborate, rich atmosphere. With so many character designs already laid out in detail, Moline's only task is to accurately reproduce them and throw in an infrequent twist in wardrobe here or there. The familiar faces wear their scars like a badge of honor, with each distinguishing mark tied to a specific moment earlier in the series. The wear and tear shown by his characters and their surroundings manages to be light on linework but surprisingly descriptive, akin to Chris Bachalo's later efforts, while Moline's thick but graceful linework sometimes reminds me of Frank Cho. The denizens of Buffy's world can often be at once beautiful and haunting, a balance that's much easier said than done, but the artist is able to pull it off. With the exception of one or two uncharacteristic slip-ups, this is a very good-looking issue.

Although I came into this series with little more than a passing knowledge of Buffy and was eighteen issues behind the curve, I never felt left out or confused. Sure, some of the names and faces didn't mean as much to me as I'm sure they would for one of the TV show's dedicated viewers, but I still found something to enjoy within this story. It's well written, nicely illustrated, and manages to stand on its own two feet, with or without the gigantic reputation that precedes it. Big fans will want to buy this up immediately, while more casual observers like myself will still want to borrow it. It's good stuff, and a good example of what can go right with a popular cast of licensed characters. Treated with dignity and respect, they can still bring out strong emotions in their audience.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7.5

No comments: