Thursday, February 9, 2012
GN Review -- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, v. 1: The Long Way Home / Joss Whedon & Georges Jeanty
When volume one, The Long Way Home, starts, we see things are not necessarily the way they were left in the TV show. In the wake of Sunnydale's destruction and Buffy Summers's victorious battle against the First Evil, the world has changed considerably for her. She's gone from being a single, solitary Slayer to commanding a worldwide army of women Slayers. Her sister Dawn has become inexplicably giant, and their home base has moved to a castle in the Scottish highlands. She and her friends monitor demon and monster activity on a worldwide scale, and respond to threats with the help of squadrons of mystics, seers, and Watchers as they are able.
But things have also gotten more complicated. The world is aware--and scared--of the sudden influx of Slayers, and military forces that can't control them are eager to wipe them off the face of the earth. Old nemeses are eager to take advantage of the situation so they can resolve personal grudges, and the arrival of a new organization named Twilight is using both technological and supernatural means to fight them. And the Scoobies, as Buffy and her gang are lovingly called by fans, have their own problems: Dawn won't talk to Buffy about her condition, Willow arrives in time to save the day but soon gets kidnapped, and Xander is just trying to keep from getting splashed while living among all these strong women.
As I'm sure you either know or can expect, the writing here is exceptional. It's well plotted, paced, and characterized, and the dialog is typical Whedon intellisnark. The characters feel exactly like they were portrayed in the show, and the plot involving the new nemesis, Twilight, sets up a potentially huge foe for them to fight. The myriad of self-referential material will be a delight to devotees, and further serves to advance the plot as characters from the show emerge out of the woodwork, all over the world, old and relatively new, good and evil. In the end, we're set up with the Slayers in an unenviable position, and Buffy, with her typical resolve, essentially acknowledges it with a simple okay.
The most questionable aspect I have about The Long Way Home is its viability as a stand-alone story for readers who may not be familiar with the Buffyverse. I actually read this volume when I was only moderately familiar with the series--I certainly hadn't seen much of it--and I have to say that this could be an issue to someone who isn't an initiate. Looking at it now, I can appreciate things like who Ethan Rayne is, why Buffy showed Amy Madigan her mother at a critical point, and what it meant for Willow to "go dark." But back then, I really had to shove all that to the side to push on with the larger narrative. The solid writing kept me from getting too lost, but I also had a modicum of familiarity with the show at the time. It's obviously a great read for fans of the series, but Buffy newbies may find the constant self-references confusing, when they get them, and could be turned off by it.
The artwork here is pretty stunning, and I have to give Georges Jeanty props for not only faithfully recreating the characters from the TV show in comic book form, but for realistically extending them beyond their scope in the show, now that they're not limited by a television show budget. Willow's brief aerial battle with Amy, for instance, was amazing. Dawn as a giant was both hilarious and visually believable. And the locales are very well done too, from a castle in Scotland to a military base.
Overall, I don't have any problems commending The Long Way Home as a worthwhile read. It positively shines for Buffy fans, and while it can be considerably more confusing for the noobs, it's still very well written and beautifully illustrated. A must-read for Joss Whedon fans, people who like vampires, demons and monsters, and anyone who enjoys witty writing. Highly recommended.