Saturday, October 15, 2011

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 Motion Comic (issues 1 -19) – review

Director: Jeff Shuter

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

I’ve agonised over reviewing this. After Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended as a series, Joss Whedon looked to produce an eighth season in comic book format. Some of the resultant comics have then been turned into a motion comic.

This is, very simply, one specific reason for agonising over the review. This is the first time I have reviewed a motion comic. When reviewing an animation you do look at the quality of the animation but the art taken from a graphic and then given motion is very different aesthetically. If this had been an animation – specifically created as such – I am unsure as to whether I would have been appreciative of the style, but can one compare a motion comic to an animation in such a way?

Buffy flies into action
My next issue came with regards the voice acting. Whilst I do appreciate that certain of the Buffy (series) stars would not have come back to do voice acting, as far as I am aware not a single character was voiced by an original series star and it felt a little wrong. Many of the core character idiosyncrasies developed through the actors playing the characters over a prolonged period, and these have been lost (or perhaps the imitation was lacking), yet this is not a re-boot but a continuation.

Willow in action
All the above were issues I tried to dismiss. As for the comics, it is not explicit as to when this is set except that it after the end of season 7 and the destruction of Sunnydale. Events have happened such as Dawn (Julie O'Connor) doing to college, for at least a while, had a relationship and been turned into a giant. We do not get a mention of the apocalyptic battle that had begun over LA at the end of Angel – presumably an event the slayer army would have been involved in – but again, Buffy has been involved in so many apocalyptic events!

Xander and Willow
Buffy (Kelly Albanese) is training the newly created slayers (more accurately a number of them) in the slayer HQ in Scotland, with Xander (Daniel Taylor). Willow (Natalie Lander) makes appearance through certain parts of the comic and there are a series of enemies through the mini arcs that make up up-to-4 part runs of issues (each coming in at just over 10 minutes).

fighting Twilight
The overarching big bad is Twilight, a character wearing a comic-book super-villain type costume who pulls the strings of many of the minor villains. We do not find out who Twilight is in this and that is because the DVD only covers the first 19 comics in the season 8 run. I understand that Twilight is revealed in later parts but for someone just watching this DVD set it falls flat (though you would always wiki the answer!)

Dracula returns
A welcome return came in the form of Dracula (Ethan Sawyer) in a mini-arc where a coven of Japanese vampires have stolen his ability to shapeshift and are using it to run rings around the slayers and Dracula – at the request of Xander – helps the slayers. It transpires that the master servant relationship imposed on Xander by Dracula in the excellent series episode has now developed into an odd-couple friendship.

vampire attacking
However I felt that the characterisation within the comic generally was flimsy at best. Buffy’s bi-curious moment seemed like an all too obvious way in which the series would go. The Faith (Whitney Thompson) and Giles (J. Anthony McCarthy) aspects were better than most but still felt like characters treading the water and not swimming to the depths (especially in respect of the Faith/Buffy relationship). Characters were killed, but they were almost akin to red jumpers in Star Trek – as soon as you realised you didn’t know the character you knew they were expendable – no matter how close they got to a main character.

fighting a vampire
Had I simply read the comics (up to the issue this goes to) I think I would have been disappointed. The motion comic issues, which I mentioned that I was trying to ignore, didn’t help but there was a positive novelty to the motion comic medium as well. The only minor arc that really engaged me fully was the Dracula one, though I felt more partial buy-in to other stories in the volumes. The comic book medium could allow a soaring epic that explored the characters, opened up a mirror to the dark heart of humanity and allow things to be done that live action would struggle to pull off (especially when tied to TV networks and their budgets). Whilst it certainly introduced concepts and visuals that would have a TV executive weeping into his briefcase, I didn't think it tapped into those character and philosophical depths. Still, it might do in further volumes - whether a motion comic of those will appear remains to be seen - and, above all, it is a little bit more Buffy. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

No comments: