Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 Motion Comic

  • Release date:     3 October 2011          
  • Format:               2 Disc DVD                                                                             
  • Cert:                    15    

DVD EXTRAS

  • Buffy Season 8 Motion Comic Test Pilot
  • The Buffy Trivia Experience
  • Featurette “Under Buffy’s Spell”
  • Season 8 Comic Book Covers Gallery
  • Create Your Own Buffy Comic

Continuing on from an apparently final season, which was also arguably its weakest, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 Motion Comic is the first nineteen episodes of a series that does exactly what its title suggests, picking up a few years from where the televised series left off and extending the ‘Buffyverse’, shifting the action to various other locations. After having destroyed her hometown of Sunnydale in an effort to save the world, Buffy Summers is now the leader of a whole new tribe of slayers (we are told there are around eighteen hundred of them dotted globally), and runs a worldwide network from a fortress headquarters in Scotland, with the help of Scooby Gang regulars Willow and Xander, the latter of which is now a qualified Watcher. Gone are the days of studying the lore of the vampire from dusty old library books and merely using wooden stakes to vanquish fanged adversaries, replaced by high-tech gadgetry, investigative use of magic and a rigorous approach to combat training, ensuring that the numerous forces of evil that come knocking are met with an army of taught females with a penchant for slaying.

For someone who grew up repeatedly watching the first seven seasons of Buffy, consuming the mass media that surrounded it in the process (I had a healthy collection of trading cards, for example), the prospect of an eighth season, no matter what the format, was enticing to say the least. Bringing to life the stagnant panels of the comics on which it is based, though it is presented in the same arrangement, and giving voices to the speech bubbles, this motion comic reeks of both a desire to revisit a show that was satisfyingly bookended eight years ago and a desperation to flog what is effectively a dead horse. Answering a seemingly widespread call for more material, Joss Whedon has returned to the show that gave him his name and expanded on what has come before, surpassing budgetary constraints and dramatically heightening and exploiting everything fans have come to know and love, producing a messy, thinly plotted and overcast imitation of a once great product.

Aside from the returning protagonists, and supporting characters who are glimpsed at in certain episodes (which only last around ten to twelve minutes each), nothing matches the original show; the voice cast has changed from the memorable patois of stars like Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alyson Hannigan to non-distinctive actors who fail to imitate their previous equivalents and instead merely blend into one. Various other plot points, like Willow’s ability to fly, Buffy’s flirtation with lesbianism and Dawn’s inexplicable transformation into a giant (and, later on, a fawn) are all bafflingly obtuse and garish asides from a narrative that barely registers, with a ‘big bad’, imaginatively named Twilight, who poses nominal threat and a host of unmemorable and sometimes stereotypically conceived new characters who spout Whedon’s typically witty, disposable dialogue played wholly for laughs.

Something the show did well, and which is ultimately rarely emulated here, was balance its supernatural world with the trivialities of the everyday, exemplified in particular with the passing of Joyce, Buffy’s mother, which left her literally kicking ass whilst keeping her house and family afloat, yet season eight’s reality is so exaggerated and over the top, dragging the story into an amplified 21st century. In one of the disc’s few special features, ‘Under Buffy’s Spell’, series scribe Jane Espenson states that the comics have allowed them to tell stories “you couldn’t tell on the show”, but that has merely spurred them on to create a world so outlandish and alien to what has come before.

Reminding one all too easily of the thankfully short-lived Buffy the Animated Series, season eight is yet another botched attempt at prolonging a terminated show, and despite it’s latter-stage merger with the unfamiliar comic series Fray, its cheap, defanged plot, weak characters and laughable jargon, complete with bleeped-out swear words, upsets a show once settled in the collective memories of an ardent fan base content with its dénouement.

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