"The thing about changing the world… Once you do it, the world’s all different.” With these very appropriate words, begins season eight of Buffy, in its latest reincarnation as a graphic novel. Well, I strongly concur and might even supplement that the thing about changing my favorite TV show into a comic book… Once it’s drawn, it’s all eerily different; and also a bit shocking. Resilient a reader as I am, I quickly overcame this minor trauma and started to enjoy the new comic-flavored adventures of the Scoobies (i.e. Buffy & sidekicks); though, I kept longing for those evasive, fleetingly tangible shards of the old Buffyverse essence.
The world has definitely changed for Buffy and friends, following the apocalyptic ending of season seven on TV. Hometown Sunnydale is now a huge crater in the ground. Buffy is no longer alone nor is she the only slayer in the whole world – she commands an army of slayers now, hundreds of girls trained in the art of slaying.
The core members of the old Scooby gang are all still here, each doing their part in fighting evil. Xander manages the slayer squads from a remote command central placed in an old castle in Scotland. Willow is even a more powerful witch than ever. Giles trains the hundreds of newbie slayers, and Dawn is a giant. Distressful as it may be to have been cursed into a giant by an angry ex-boyfriend, it comes in handy when squashing enemies in battle.
Sworn enemies to make their re-appearance in this volume are evil-crazed witch Amy and her supernatural boyfriend fiend, who are obsessed with killing Buffy. We are also introduced to a new military organization, much like the ‘Initiative’ from season four. This new army-like institute is somehow affiliated to a secret cult, whose members are marked by a strange sign – a star rising on the horizon – carved on their chests; these guys – military and cult – they are not at all on Buffy’s good side.
The last chapter, which would be the last issue of the five collected in this volume, focuses on Buffy’s anonymous double. Buffy actually has two doubles pretending to be her, as part of the slayage effort. This anonymous double-slayer-girl, fights an army of demons somewhere under the ground, practically alone, with great valor. We also get a peek into her memories, see how she became 'chosen', back when she was in high school, somewhere in the world where they wear high school uniform. Despite her young age, borrowed identity, and grave circumstances, she will find her true self before the end.
The plot by Joss Whedon shifts frantically between many viewpoints, much like a TV episode. We go from action scenes to first person narrated scenes to mystical dreams and memories — it gets somewhat difficult to follow. Nevertheless, it is indeed the nonstop action, twists and turns that make the story interesting and imaginative. As per Whedon’s style, there are plenty of invented words, strange phrases, and myth references like "thricewise" and "Great muppety Odin."
I found the art by Georges Jeanty and inker Andy Owens to be very pleasing in general, save for some small rants I will shortly detail; their style — very comics-like with accented inking. They have done a very good job in capturing the essence and even the facial expressions of some of the characters, like Buffy and Giles. Other characters were less successfully adapted; Dawn and Xander for example, shifted a lot from their familiar appearances, and most of their intrinsic and much appreciated attributes were lost. Not all frames were as polished; some were too sketchy to my taste, and some frames were simply over crowded. The covers’ art by Jo Chen is realistically drawn, and absolutely amazing.
While still lamenting the long-gone TV series, I could definitely accommodate a new home for myself amidst this graphic novel’s pages. It's highly recommended for fans; non fans might find it difficult to relate without knowledge of the series' past legacy.