Sunday, September 11, 2011

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 8, Episode 2: No Future For You PLUS! Satisfies

The Good: Decent plot, Character development, Fun dialogue, Some good artwork
The Bad: Most of the artwork is more mediocre than wonderful.
The Basics: Faith is assigned by Giles to end a human life in No Future For You, which puts the erratic Faith on a new path.

With the reboot of Buffy The Vampire Slayer in comic book - now trade paperback anthology - form, writer and executive producer Joss Whedon has a lot of directions he could have taken the series in. In the second of the Season Eight anthologies, No Future For You, Whedon lets writer Brian K. Vaughan run with the main storyline and Whedon provides an interstitial, a one-act "episode" that fills in the gaps between the primary episodes, much the way "The Chain" did at the end of the first season eight anthology The Long Way Home (reviewed here!). No Future For You follows the same format as the previous volume, with a four-act (comic book) episode, followed by a fifth act which is a freestanding episode-lette that fills in the gaps between the current episode and the next one. In this volume, the minisode is "Anywhere But Here."

As for the main storyline, No Future For You, this episode focuses on Giles and Faith. Faith, who had a pretty decent part in the seventh season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (reviewed here!), makes her reappearance as a more rogue Slayer in No Future For You, which offers an intriguing story that works for Faith and for Giles to continue their character arcs away from the new fighting force of Slayers. For those who have not read The Long Way Home, all that one truly needs to know to be able to read No Future For You - outside an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Buffy - and enjoy it is that Buffy and her friends now run a small army of two thousand Slayers following the events at the climax of the seventh season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and that Dawn has been turned into a giant, presumably by having sex with a thricewise while away at college.

As the team in Scotland recovers from the attack from Amy, Faith - who has gone rogue again - comes to the aid of her past lover, Principal Wood. As a blueblood kills new Slayers as part of her training, Faith is brought in to Giles, who recruits her for a mission to stop Genevieve, the blueblood. Faith, who is still wrestling with her past as a killer, is originally offended by the offer Giles is presenting her with, knowing she is being chosen to take another human life. But with a little training, Giles prepares Faith to be a lady and he sends her undercover.

Once there, Faith and Gigi hit it off and it soon becomes apparent to Faith that Gigi is going to be a tougher kill than she and Giles thought. It does not take long, though, for Faith to realize that the real power behind Gigi is her "watcher," Roden. Roden offers the next key in the puzzle that is Twilight and the new adversary makes its first appearance!

In the one-act minisode that completes the graphic novel, Buffy and Willow go on a mission to attempt to recruit a being that exists outside linear time and space. While sharing fantasies with one another, Buffy and Willow find themselves on a journey into darkness on a mission that is almost guaranteed to fail.

The main reason to pick up No Future For You, though, is definitely the Faith and Giles storyline and here Joss Whedon's lieutenant Brian K. Vaughan perfectly harvests the seeds Whedon planted during the years working on the television series. Whedon aptly left Giles adrift when Buffy came of a certain age and his purpose has been absent since the fourth season. While there was an arc where Giles worked to discover himself in a role outside that of Watcher, it was largely only the charisma of actor Anthony Stewart Head that kept Giles even remotely interesting after Buffy survived her third apocalypse.

In No Future For You, Giles is given a new purpose and pairing him with the other rogue character from Buffy The Vampire Slayer works out perfectly. As Xander and Buffy lead the new army of Slayers, Giles feels left out. The Slayer team is using Andrew, not him! Of course he feels lost. So when Faith can do her part to rise to the occasion to save the world, Giles sees an opportunity to groom her and start his own little team that would do some of the unsavory work which might otherwise violate the rules Slayers have.

But here the volume does a good job of not keeping characters stagnant in the characterization of Faith. Faith is not twitchy in a "she could go bad at any moment" way. Instead, the healing she did on Angel seems to have stuck and now she is only tormented by her sense of regret and deeply human issues. She wants to be virtuous and good, but her guilt and the memories of who she was torment her. So, the search for her own redemption begins here and it makes for a good story.

Unfortunately, that is also the weakness of the graphic novel. On television with the acting talents of Eliza Dushku and a good director, there could actually be some dramatic tension over the idea - belabored in this graphic novel - that Faith could go bad again and be recruited by Gigi to kill Buffy. Flat on the page, though, after all of the character work done to establish that Faith's demons are her memories, the idea falls terribly flat and there is a whole act where the reader is left not buying the action on the pages.

As well, some of the artwork is just terrible. For example, when Gigi kills a Slayer and Roden summons gargoyles out of the sky to take care of the body, the artwork is so bad that one wonders how it made it to the printer. Gigi's pose is utterly unrealistic and the fact that neither she nor Roden have facial details (like eyes, noses and mouths) is a great argument to replace penciller Georges Jeanty. The book oscillates between exceptionally detailed panels that are quality art and panels with an Animated Series sensibility to Faith. And once Faith and Gigi end up on the page together, some panels it is only the outfits and dialogue bubbles that make it possible to tell the two apart.

Still, the trade paperback anthology is fun and fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer are pretty much bound to love the book, though more discriminating readers are likely to want more from it. Truth be told, though, it is one of the strongest Buffy The Vampire Slayer comic endeavors and the book is well worth the time of anyone who wants to see where Season Eight could have taken the show. And, as with all things Joss Whedon, we have faith that Whedon is going somewhere with this!

For other media tie-in graphic novels, please visit my reviews of:
Serenity - Those Left Behind
Star Trek - Spock: Reflections
Heroes - Volume 2


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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