As every year passes, it becomes increasingly unlikely that we’ll ever get a chance to see Sarah Michelle Gellar stand tall once more as Buffy the Vampire Slayer beside her collected Scoobies. It’s just a fact, and it might not be a bad thing, but for those who need to keep getting their Buffy fix, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10, the Joss Whedon executive produced continuation comics from Dark Horse — now entering their third “season” — provides, although consistency has always been an issue.
Aided by Andrew Chambliss, Jane Espenson, Drew Z. Greenberg, Brian K. Vaughan, Brad Meltzer, and others, Joss Whedon has created a world that has taken full advantage of the thin boundaries that the page provides. Were there times when that freedom has pushed the series too far? Moments that felt so distant from the show that this very much felt like a comic book adaptation and not something that was supposedly carrying a thread from one medium to the other? Absolutely. Dawn became a centaur, Buffy flew (and skybanged Angel), Spike in the bug ship, magic fell, there was Scoob disharmony, and we saw the rise of the zompires. Through it all, though, Buffy Season 8 and Buffy Season 9 had good points as well, including the thing that our television screens stubbornly refused to give us more of: Buffy and Angel and Xander and Willow. But mostly, the comics have suffered from their larger scope.
As Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #1 begins, things feel a bit less big. They also feel a bit more status quo-ish, with the return of magic and Buffy (and the Scoobs) protecting Santa Rosita, a small California town that is besieged by zompires — something that is referenced in the early going. “Sometimes it’s good to get back to basics” says Buffy, by way of new series writer Christos Gage, who along with artist Rebekah Isaacs ported over from Angel and Faith to take on the flagship title of Dark Horse Comics’ Whedonverse. “It’s downright nostalgic” continues Buffy via inner monologue after listing off a few of the king-sized troubles that she’s had to face in the last two “seasons”, an expositional streak that is featured prominently in the first half of the book.
Alongside that new-reader service, we also see Buffy fighting alongside a vamp that looks suspiciously like Willow (if Willow had raided Strawberry Shortcake’s closet), though it turns out that it’s Vikki the Vampire, a temporary ally that has a vested interest in helping Buffy and her crew wipe out the zompires. An odious vested interest, that is. Once Vikki predictably turns on Buffy and the Scoobs (with Willow — who is struggling to harness the new and “raw” magic — in tow), all hell breaks loose, but soon Buffy’s army is bolstered by a couple of surprising pop-ins that even up the score a bit, giving this issue it’s only real shot of emotional resonance.
Regarding the interior art, Isaacs’ work represents an upgrade over Georges Jeanty’s, but I’ve long held the belief that Jeanty’s generic characters hampered the Buffy series (at least for me, this is all so very subjective) and I really was smitten with the work that Isaacs did on Angel and Faith, so I’m a bit biased. The bottom line is: you don’t need a scorecard to tell the Scoobies apart with Isaacs in command as she gets just enough right to pass for the actors who played these characters long ago, but not so much that it would be called photo realistic. Isaacs gets the soul down, something that can be seen on page 11 as we see Buffy — mid-mission — hanging onto the back of a van with worry on her face about something totally unrelated. That’s Buffy, it is unmistakeable and it’s exciting to know that Isaacs is going to get to play with these characters this season, though hopefully there will be more depth alongside her art going forward.
At its heart, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #1 is a deft introductory book for the new season that lays out a few key points while letting Gage and Isaacs get their feet wet. It’s a must buy if you’re going into this series anew, or if you’ve been keeping up with the series since the start, but those who have waited six long months for this book may be somewhat disappointed by the slim pickings.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #1 is available where fine comic books are sold and on Dark Horse Digital.