Credit: Dark Horse

Buffy the Vampire Slayer needs little introduction. One of the most beloved television series of the mid-’90s and early aughts, Joss Whedon’s seminal TV series ran for seven seasons and 144 episodes that now live on Netflix, ready to be discovered by new fans every day. Less well-known (to those who aren’t hardcore Buffy fans) is that the story of Buffy and the Scoobies is still going on to this day, via Whedon-sanctioned comic books published by Dark Horse Comics.

Beginning with Buffy: Season 8, which ran for 43 issues between March of 2007 until January 2011, Joss Whedon teamed up with artists like Georges Jeanty and Karl Moline and led a team of writers from both the TV series and other acclaimed comics to tell the official story of what happens after series finale “Chosen,” which left Buffy and the gang standing over the crater where Sunnydale once stood—after destroying the Hellmouth and awakening Slayers all over the world. Currently, the comics have made it all the way to Season 10.

With all that Buffy just lying there waiting to be discussed, EW comics shaman Joshua Rivera (a huge Buffy fan who is diving into these comics for the first time) and ace intern Jennifer Maas (a huger Buffy fan who has already read them all) are teaming up to recap and discuss Buffy‘s life after TV. In this first discussion, we talk about making the transition from television to comics and the first five issues of Season 8, which include the four-part “The Long Way Home” story arc and the standalone story “The Chain.”

Future columns will feature either Jennifer or Joshua taking on two arcs at a time, before we team up once more for the Season 8 finale. With that bit of housekeeping taken care of, let’s get to it:

JOSHUA: Let’s start at the beginning: How’d you come across Buffy season eight?

JENNY: I came across Buffy season eight at the same time as I was binge-watching Buffy on Netflix in 2011, several years after the show went off the air. I knew I would be out of episodes soon, and my brother, who had forced me to finally get around to watching the show, told me, “You know, they continued it in comics.”

Suddenly, I wasn’t scared to get to the end of season 7.

JOSHUA: Was it your first comic book?

JENNY: Comic book, yes. I read graphic novels in college—Maus I and II and Logicomix, which was an assignment given to me by my philosophy major boyfriend. So, yes. Pretty much first comic.

JOSHUA: Gotcha. I’m curious then—how did the experience of reading a Buffy comic measure up to watching the series? Were you pleased? Did it take some getting used to?

JENNY: You know, it took a little getting used to at first, because l was skeptical of looking at the characters as “cartoons.” But that went away really fast as the art is sophisticated and they look like themselves. They are not cartoons. I see the characters, just as if they were still on TV. But the thing that really put me at ease was the trademark Buffy-speak. The characters were still themselves. They talked like themselves. They did what you would expect them to do. That made it enjoyable from the beginning. I began to appreciate the level of detail in the art more and more—and then looking at them as pictures didn’t bother me.

JOSHUA: Oh yeah—Whedon keeps all of the characters intact in the transition, and while I’m only reading them for the first time, I understand that future writers do a really good job of staying true to their voices as well.

JENNY: Yes, they really do. This first arc was penned by Joss himself, and several more have been since. He’s the “executive producer.” The comics always keep Buffy true to what it was. I think there wouldn’t be a point in continuing it if that weren’t true.

JOSHUA: He also assembles a dream team of former Buffy writers and legendary comic scribes like Brian K. Vaughan, which is really exciting.

What I thought was interesting about this first arc—and we’re talking the first five issues, which covers Season 8’s first storyline, “The Long Way Home,” along with the standalone story “The Chain”—was how it immediately picks up where the show left off, but also proceeds to do stuff you’d never see on the show, mostly because of budget restriction.

JENNY: Yes. That is one of the things I had to realize on my own, oddly enough, as I proceeded with the season. Why are they doing these stories they’d never done before? Wouldn’t that have been cool to do in Season 4? Oh, it’s because drawing that is easier than building that.

JOSHUA: Exactly! So you get stuff like Giant Dawn (yup, that happens), and you’re like “This is weird!” But it also works, because it’s rooted in her relationship with Buffy after all that’s happened—which is a totally Buffy thing to do

JENNY: Yes. A completely Buffy thing to do, and also to have Buffy talk down to Dawn as if she’s still a child when Dawn is this giant (and college-aged, as the book mentions she was attending Berkeley) is so funny, and so Buffy.

JOSHUA: Which is a good segue to actually talking about what happens in this first arc. One thing I really like is how it slowly eases us back into things. It’s really restrained, and doesn’t just throw everyone at us at once.

So, now Buffy and the Scoobies have all started training a giant Slayer army after awakening them all in the season 7 finale, “Chosen,” and the world is fundamentally changed—both because of that, and because, you knowshe sorta blew up her town.

JENNY: Yes, we pick up in what we can estimate is at least a year after Sunnydale exploded.

Buffy and the Scoobies have identified thousands of slayers around the world because of what happened at the end of Season 7. And the world is very much a different place. Our little Scooby gang is a different group—they have a “headquarters” that is an actual top-notch facility and not a school library.

JOSHUA: Yeah! They’re like the X-Men now!

JENNY: Yes, or S.H.I.EL.D., as Xander (with his eyepatch) refers to when he calls himself Nick Fury

JOSHUA: Fun fact: Whedon had actually written X-Men for about two years just before starting season 8.

JENNY: Really? I did not know that.

JOSHUA: Yeah! It’s really good. Astonishing X-Men #1-24

JENNY: I mean it makes sense, he was already making Angel and Buffy comics while both series were on. Never say the man is limited to one medium.

JOSHUA: Indeed! So how do you like the Scoobies as a giant superteam of Slayers that the military is threatened by? Are you into it?

JENNY: You know, it’s something new and different, which is always good. Every season of Buffy was different—I would think this is just the most different. It didn’t have the limits others do.

JOSHUA: Yeah. It’s particularly interesting because I’d always seen Buffy as a superhero show—its structure was very comic-booky, so it’s interesting to see it come full circle and be a full-blown superhero comic.

JENNY: It is. And it is actually less overwhelming than you would think, as Season 7 was all about making the team bigger. Bringing in more and more Slayers, even before they were tapped.

JOSHUA: Okay, so—having read all of Season 8 (unlike myself), what do you like most about it?

JENNY: I think it would be getting the chance to see how much the characters have changed since Season 7—but in ways that make sense for their overall development. Seeing Buffy try and stick with her standard “I need to do this alone, because I’m the Slayer,” motto—but knowing that isn’t the case anymore with her giant team behind her—and having to adapt to that. Seeing Willow become in control of her magic again, after not being afraid to use it in the finale of Season 7. Meeting the new characters they introduce is great too. And I also love this season’s Big Bad.

JOSHUA: Yes, the Big Bad! Without spoiling anything, is it the one we’ve met in this first arc?

JENNY It is not the Initiative-like army team or their general. It is one person who the general did make reference to. And that person is related to the mysterious symbol we saw on his chest here and at other points throughout the arc.

JOSHUA: Got it! I’m so excited to be finally starting this.

JENNY: Yes, it is gonna be a fun ride. Seeing the team back in action is great on its own. But seeing them do things we would never have seen them do in the live action show is even better in some ways.

JOSHUA: Absolutely. Do you have a favorite arc in Season 8?

JENNY: I don’t want to give away anything about the Big Bad by saying my favorite, which is one of the last arcs. So I will say my second favorite is Time of Your Life. It ties in with another Buffyverse comic, Fray, that’s set in the future. We see what the future is like for slayers.

JOSHUA: Can. Not. Wait.

Come back next Friday, where Joshua Rivera will take on the second and third arc of Season 8: “No Future for You,” and “Wolves at the Gate”— issues #6-#15.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
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