Monday, September 26, 2011

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight Hits A Dud With Time Of Your Life!

The Good: One or two plot points, Generally decent artwork
The Bad: Plot is pretty lame, VERY much dependent upon Whedon's other work, No character development.
The Basics: In the latest Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight volume I've picked up, Buffy is teleported to the future to meet with Fray in a disappointing outing.

In my inarguable status as an Alpha Geek, I have opened myself up to many things. I can recall when I was not into the "Buffy" franchise and I swore up and down that I would never watch the Harry Potter movies before I got involved with a wife who was a fan. Given that, it surprises me how much I have grown to care about some of the franchises and just what I have avoided from them as well. In the case of the Whedonverse, for example, I've not gotten into all of Joss Whedon's pet projects outside the main Buffy, Angel and Spike books. So I have a peripheral knowledge of his work Fray, but until today had no impetus to read it. What does this have to do with Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight Volume 4 Time Of Your Life? Unfortunately, far too much.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, when Buffy The Vampire Slayer (reviewed here!), ended its tenure on television, executive producer and creator still felt there were stories to tell or money to be made in the franchise. As a result, he began to keep the series alive as a series of comic books. The intent is that every few comic books would actually come together as an episode for what should be considered canon for Buffy The Vampire Slayer as if it were a complete and viable eighth season of the show. Every few months, the comic books are anthologized as trade paperback collections intended to be individual episodes. There are four acts for each of these episodes and each trade paperback anthology then has a bonus vignette which usually contains one or two nuggets that progresses the overall story of season eight, which has been rising with the villain, Twilight. The fourth "episode" is Time Of Your Life and the additional story in the book is "After These Messages...We'll Be Right Back." Unfortunately, while Time Of Your Life might have some merit, the bonus story has no redeeming qualities and is a huge waste of time and money for fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

All is quiet on the moor in Scotland where the Slayer army has relocated when Dawn cries out and mission planning between Buffy, Xander and Willow for their next mission (a trip to New York City) is cut short. Dawn, it seems, has now transformed into a centaur. As Xander is left to deal with her, Willow and Buffy head for New York where Willow is reunited with an amorous Kennedy and Buffy is abruptly teleported away. As Warren, Amy, and Twilight bomb the Scotland facility, Xander and Dawn are forced to flee, only to find themselves swarmed by magical creatures in the nearby woods. In New York City, Willow attempts to locate Buffy.

Buffy, for her part, finds herself in the distant future in the world without Slayers, encountering Fray, the new Slayer of the age. Armed with their scythes, Buffy and Fray work with Fray's Watcher to thwart the demons overrunning New York. But at their center is an even older evil, one which Buffy has been specifically pulled forward in time to thwart. With her life and Fray's reality on the line, Buffy makes a critical decision that can change everything!

In "After These Messages...We'll Be Right Back," Buffy recalls all of the demon-slaying she has done in recent times before collapsing for a nap. In her dream, she imagines a Buffy The Vampire Slayer Animated episode where she reflects on how nothing has truly changed since high school, though many of the people in her life have. This is the Archie Comics equivalent of Buffy both in style and content. It is light, utterly pointless and boring. While fans of Archie Comics might appreciate the glimpse inside Buffy The Vampire Slayer, I found the reverse was not true. In fact, the whole vignette is insulting to viewers who paid attention for years and are now shelling out good money on the graphic novels. And even though the artwork is supposed to be blockish and animated, the concept does not work nearly as well as some of Whedon's other ideas (like doing a musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer).

As for the main text, the episode is so self-referential as to be painful to read. Having not read Fray, I found the dialect of the future difficult to wade through for any sense of meaning and the whole adventure reads like an extended advertisement for Fray or promotion for a second Fray graphic novel. The character of Fray is unlikable and Buffy's interactions with her are juvenile (more season one or two Buffy as opposed to eight). As well, the story in Time Of Your Life guts the potential for real emotional moments with one of the primary characters. Whenever leaping forward to the future within a franchise, if a recognizable character is there, it takes the menace away from that character's participation in current storylines and Time Of Your Life does that with one of the essential characters from Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

As well, the Twilight section of the story is squeezed in, making it feel more like filler than anything else. This is hardly an essential volume for advancing the main thrust of the "season," save that Xander and Dawn appear to lose the castle . . . though even that is recovered.

What this volume does have working for it - for the main story - is generally better artwork than in the prior installments. The artwork is good enough that when Twilight's new ally is revealed, I instantly recognized him. I groaned, but he was recognizable. Similarly, in the future storyline, a shirt sleeve gives perceptive readers the clue as to who the big bad is there before that character is revealed. Still, much of the artwork in the "Fray" timeline section of the book is problematically simple. Page 36, for example, has four sloppy panels where Buffy looks nothing like Sarah Michelle Gellar and Fray looks like an animatic rendering of the character. Melaka Fray's sister is presented on page 74 looking remarkably like Buffy, which is problematic because she and Buffy are the only ones on the page. One shouldn't need the color of the outfit to be all that differentiates characters in a comic book.

Ultimately, this is an underwhelming story and the book made for a very poor gift even for my partner, who was so surprised that this was even out. She was gracious in accepting it, but when she completed reading it, just as I did when I finished reading it, she observed the old adage, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

For the other volumes in Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight, please check out my reviews of:
The Long Way Home
No Future For You
Wolves At The Gate


For other graphic novel reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

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

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