It’s no secret that my wife and I are huge fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We have all seven seasons of the show, and once every year or two, we take the discs out and we binge watch the entire thing. It usually takes about a month to watch every episode (except “The Body.” We HATE “The Body”); and we’ve now seen the series, I believe, five times through. I had heard that there were some comics based on the t.v. show that took up where the series ended, but I’d never really bothered to find them. (I’m poor, and often what you get with a comic rendition of something you really love is a garbagy, unentertaining nostalgia fest with nothing going for it.) At the Emerald City Comic Con, however, I spotted this book, written by Buffy creator, Joss Whedon, that claimed to be “Season Eight Volume 1,” and for a measly ten bucks, I grabbed it…
Joss Whedon and George Jeanty – Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The Long Way Home (2007)
Imagine my delight upon discovering that this book is actually pretty great. Whedon manages to keep the tone of the original series, while moving the plot into an exciting new direction. (More action-adventure than small town, supernatural horror.) Many of the characters from the television series are still here (and the art is good enough that we can TELL who is who, which is nice.) The stories are BIGGER than the t.v. show could cover, too, now that Whedon isn’t strapped down by a low production budget or cheap special effects. He can now give free-reign to his imagination and let any Buffy tale that he can dream of have a chance to live!
For those few of you who have never seen the television show or the original film, here’s the skinny: Buffy Summers is “The Chosen One,” a supernaturally strong female warrior, the “Slayer,” who has been called by mysterious powers to fight vampires and demons and other creatures of darkness. (Before receiving the calling, she was a cheerleader.) Helping her in her dealings with evil are Willow, a witch with almost god-like power but a penchant for going a bit evil and trying to destroy the world; Xander, a former carpenter who lost an eye fighting against the forces of darkness with Buffy; Buffy’s sister, Dawn, who is actually a being of pure energy, reshaped by magic monks into the form of a human girl and then mystically implanted into Buffy’s timeline and memory as a little sister; and Giles, a British guy who wears glasses and knows stuff. Together with a handful of other folks, Buffy and her pals save the world, over and over and over again.
The Long Way Home apparently starts a few months (or a year or two???) after the end of the television series, and the plot centers primarily around Buffy and a crew of newly recruited “Chosen Ones” (girls who also have Buffy’s powers and who, thanks to the events of the final season of the show, don’t have to wait for the previous Slayer to die in order for those powers to activate), and Buffy has organized these girl-warriors into something close to a paramilitary operation, with various squads of fighters being sent all over the world to wherever monsters threaten humanity. The story is quickly paced, and the characters act just like they did when they were being played by the actors in the television show, which is cool if you miss those characters and want to see them in new adventures. This book is chock full of supernatural action adventure, with a healthy dose of post-teen romance and Joss Whedon’s trademark snarky dialogue. (And the fact that the main antagonist is an evil organization is called “Twilight” is a humorous dig at a certain, sparkly vampire franchise!)
For the fearful at heart, there is some gore and demonic naughtiness in the book, plus some not very kid friendly language. In addition to this caveat, I would also say that jumping right into this story might be a bit confusing for someone who ISN’T already familiar with the Buffy universe. There are a lot of “in jokes” and call-backs to previous characters and plot-points, which is exactly why a fan like me finds the book so enjoyable, but these elements will probably just seem like white noise or gibberish to someone starting from this point. Although, the action is very quickly paced and there is enough weirdness that the story might be able to keep horror and/or action-fantasy fans entertained even if they don’t know the previous material. There are also a LOT of pop-culture references, so “standard nerds,” (who like Star Wars and comic books and such) will feel right at home. Overall, though, I was impressed and found the book to be fun and entertaining. If it says anything, I’ll be looking for the next few volumes as soon as I have some disposable income again! There ya’ go!
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)