I'm a little blown away by how much I'm loving the Buffy comic, and so glad that I gave it a try. I'm now completely up to date (finished episode 16 the other day) and whilst I would obviously prefer to be watching the stories play out in a TV show I think that the comics are an excellent substitute. The tone and dialogue of the show translate better than I could have expected, and the comic medium also has some important advantages- there's no issues with casting and there's no budgetary constraints which frees the story possibilities up considerably.
I like the artwork, especially the brilliant covers. The artists haven't aimed for photorealism but nonetheless they've managed to make the comic book versions of the characters look an awful lot like their live action counterparts. I think that comic-Buffy resembles SMG less than (most of) the other characters look like their respective actors, but then again I think she has a relatively difficult face to draw. The women's bodies are great, I hadn't really thought of it until I read someone's praise on one of the letters pages, but it certainly would have annoyed me if they were drawn as unrealistic giant-breasted caricatures. I like that they made Buffy a little bustier though (back to the old days!), although canonically she hasn't been stuffing herself on pasta in Italy as many people assumed (reviving a storyline more than 5 years later is a cruel way to Joss fanon). The only character whose representations I'd consistently quibble with are Faith's, I just don't think that she's been drawn that well, although by no means awfully. Having said that, some of the Faith-centric cover art is amazing, I especially loved the
It also means that Xander's lost weight, and he looks hot! (I loved that they had him make a reference to getting fat as well.) Him and Renee were incredibly cute together too. Xander is one of those characters who I think ought to get a bit more love, and so I really liked the way that Renee became all geeky when she was crushing on him (although I think that developing an interest in drywalling was taking it a little too far). This exchange was especially cute and I could completely imagine it being uttered on the show:
Renee: You could take me out.I like that Xander gets to be (relatively) cool now. I also always love it when language is played with (something that Buffy has always done well). There's an especially brilliant visual pun at one point, involving Buffy literally getting attacked by the church!
Xander: You want me to assassinate you?
The "Great Muppety Odin, I miss the sex" line made me laugh, and I'm sure that I'll be quoting it far too much in the future. Although I can understand why some people felt that it sounded like more of a Xander (or possibly even Andrew or Anya?) line than something that Buffy would say, I didn't think it was incredibly out of character, especially for someone equally comfortable making references to Molly Ringwald and Samuel Beckett. I suppose it was also conceived as a potential hint towards a Buffy/Xander relationship (especially with Buffy's Xander-centric dreamscene) but if so, boy, was than an excellent piece of misdirection! I have always liked the fact that Buffy is such an incredibly human and relatable (super)hero, yes she has all these epic battles and massive issues to deal with- but she's also dealing with her loneliness, and the simple pain of a lack of human (not only sexual) contact.
I feel a little weird about Warren being back. Of course it's nice to have references to (and appearances from) various old characters and plots from the show to keep the continuity alive, and as I said there's no worries about whether an actor is available or concerns about how to depict a skinless villain convincingly. Willow's season six storyline involving her addiction to magic and eventual spiralling into evil triggered by Tara's death at the hands of Warren (just after their reconciliation) was unpopular with some fans but I liked it (in the sense that it makes me sniffley). Many people (including Amber Benson) took issue with the idea of killing off Tara, and felt that it was perhaps a "punishment" (or at least could be interpreted as one) for their lesbian relationship. I think that an examination of Buffy, and indeed basically any of Whedon's work, shows that he likes his characters as miserable as possible most of the time- they're hardly ever allowed to be happy for long. I don't believe that the Buffy writers intended for Tara's death to be read as a punishment in any way, and yes the character was sacrificed for the sake of the story and that is difficult for people who are big fans of the character, but that doesn't make the writers bad people. The character of Tara was treated just the same as any other character on the show essentially, and I don't see why that ought to be a cause for outcry. (I really liked a letter written along these lines that was published in the 'Slaying the Critics' section, which cheekily referred to Tara as 'whatsherface'.)
Having Warren come back seems to cheapen Willow's journey, and gives her an easy redemption. It doesn't undo all the suffering she underwent and the fact that she attempted to take a human life, but it makes her not really a killer. (Whedon has attempted to backtrack with this issue for a different reason, in season seven The First can take on the appearance of anyone who has died, and appears in the guise of Warren. In response to this being pointed out Whedon has said that Warren was technically dead for a moment before Amy revived him. Even if this story is stuck to, and it's one that has only been invented to fill a plot hole which accompanies several other similar ones involving The First who could/couldn't/could touch people and things, it still makes Willow's murder seem attempted rather than actual. Since within the Buffy universe it's relatively easy for people to come back from the dead if the storyline demands it I would have preferred it if Warren had been killed by Willow as he had seemed to be on the show, and come back in some other nefarious way (with or without Amy's help).
Also I think that the idea of vengeance is an important one. Obviously the way in which Willow attempted to exact justice was wrong, it was still emotionally satisfying for the viewer to see her flay Warren alive; he attempted to shoot Buffy (and indeed almost killed her) and did kill Tara. In Carnivale there was a moment when Dora May's killer was spared being shot by Sampson (due to mere luck), and Sampson (and Jonesy) argue against betraying their code and killing this man outright since according to their traditions he has to be given a chance. One can understand both this viewpoint and that expressed coldly by Dora May's mother, she just wants to watch this man die. When Sampson goes to the bar and chats relatively pleasantly with this man (although mostly just pumping him for information) I didn't feel shock or sympathy for the guy when Sampson pulled out his gun and shot him point blank. Sometimes you just feel like a character deserves to die.
I don't support the death penalty, but within a work of fiction something like that is a satisfying resolution. There's a wonderful moment in a West Wing episode called Take This Sabbath Day in which the President is trying to decide whether or not to commute the sentence of a man who has been sentenced to death in slightly questionable circumstances, where he doesn't really have any grounds on which to commute other than the fact that he doesn't like the death penalty. There's this brilliant exchange between President Bartlet and Charlie which I just love- Bartlet asks him what he'd want to happen if and when the guy who shot Charlie's mother (leaving him to raise his little sister alone) is caught, since she was a police officer , and killing a police officer is a capital crime. Charlie calmly starts by saying "I wouldn't want to see him executed Mr President-", and Bartlet nods, seemingly accepting that this is the "normal" response of someone with their lefty politics to the situation, and then Charlie continues "I'd wanna do it myself". Bartlet just gives him this look and quietly agrees, because hell yes it doesn't matter what your political or philosophical bent is, if someone killed somebody you love, you wouldn't shrink from the opportunity to, for example, flay them alive.
As Toby says, several seasons later in Game On, albeit about a different situation:
"Yes you'd want to see him put to death. You'd want to be cruel and unusual, which is why it's probably a good idea fathers of murder victims don't have legal rights in these situations."
(I do personally think that Take This Sabbath Day isn't the most amazing episode, and it gets rather farcical when Father Cavanaugh points out that Bartlet had a priest, a rabbi and a Quaker sent to him, but I love that little exchange between Charlie and the President. And also any part of the episode with Stockard Channing in.)
I believe that I may have been talking about Buffy at some point before that little digression? Let me try to get back on track...
Although it's a bit silly, I loved that Dawn became a giant. It's assumed that it's because she had sex with her college boyfriend who is a thricewise (Great Muppety Odin, what is that?), but it eventually transpires that he's cursed her for cheating on him with his roommate. I liked the fact that Dawn losing her virginity was this teenage-y, melodramtic big deal, but without the truly melodramtic saga of something like Buffy losing her virginity to Angel. I think a nice balance is struck between the fact that Dawn's just a normal teenage girl and has to deal with typical problems, but that she also has a totally weird existence and these problems don't necessarily manifest in the expected way. She's currently actually a centaur, which I thought was also awesome (although I'm not sure that she would be craving hay, I suppose it depends on where the internal organs are exactly). Poor Dawn probably has an excessive amount of problems, but I couldn't help laughing at Willow's (good-natured) mocking of her small breasts.
I feel a little bit weird about the extent of the still very existent Buffy/Dawn issues. I don't expect them to get on perfectly and have a trouble-free relationship, but I felt that they had been dealt with to some extent in the season six finale and in season seven. I know that Dawn couldn't help but feel abandoned when Buffy was focusing much more on the potential slayers (and I'm sure that would have continued with Buffy's focus on the new slayers), but I think that Dawn did understand the situation, and now that she's off at university I would think that it would be less of an issue. Dawn did have an excellent relationship with Willow (and Tara) in the past, but I think it's a little far for her to tell Buffy that she thinks of Willow as more of a mother to her than Buffy. Buffy certainly wasn't a perfect guardian, but she was dealing with extreme mitigating circumstances (being yanked out of heaven by her well-intentioned friends, for one) and Willow certainly wasn't the best surrogate mother- she endangered Dawn's life due to her addiction to magic, and Buffy had to actually order Willow to stay away from Dawn at one point.
I just didn't think that the issues between Buffy and Dawn would have remained quite so prominent. Neither did I think that the issues that Buffy and Faith have about each other were so entirely unresolved. Buffy is quick to assume that Faith has gone evil again, and Faith is so consumed by jealously towards Buffy that she's driven to violence. I suppose that I partly expect all these problems to be resolved because they kind of felt that they were, the show finished airing five years ago so I'm used to the idea that everything is done and dusted. It's a little weird to climb back in, and see them in action again. I suppose essentially what I'm saying is that these characters and their stories could have been left alone, I'm glad that they weren't and there's definitely still more to be done with them, but it isn't like with Firefly being cancelled, the story isn't half-told. It already did come to a satisfactory conclusion. Also I suppose that I expect them to have moved on with their issues at least five years, whereas for the characters less time may have passed (although I expect not much less since Dawn is a university student, then again Joss is notoriously bad at maths). I can understand Buffy and Faith being suspicious of each other, but I do feel that the comic pushed that a little far, after their easy camaraderie in season seven, but I suppose it is plausible given that they haven't necessarily spent much time together since then, Faith's probably been getting very bitter in Cleveland and they had to put their differences aside and attempt to get on during season seven for the sake of the world.
I'm really glad that there was a Faith-centric mini-arc, she's one of my favourite Buffy characters, even when not portrayed by the luscious Eliza Dushku. The interaction between Faith and Giles was brilliant, I'm eager for more! Giles asking Faith to kill a rogue Slayer, given his knowledge of her troubled history, was incredibly cold. However, I think that it was definitely in character, and I'm glad that he was honest with her about his own dark past, and the fact that he's killed a human (or humans?) before. Faith having to do an English accent was priceless, even though I was only reading it. That's something that I would have loved to have seen (and more importantly heard) on screen, maybe Eliza doing an English accent isn't out of the realm of possibility on Dollhouse? She will be basically playing a new character every week after all! I loved Faith's initial confusion over the phrase 'bum a fag' especially because I spend a lot of time translating my British English into understandable words for Americans and Canadians. (In a surprise move the representatives of North America have declared that their favourite Bringlish slang is in fact 'get proper fucked' not 'bum a fag'. I'm shocked and intrigued.) All of the Anglicisms and references to British pop culture were delightful, I liked the mentions of Amy Winehouse and The Clash! I liked the way that Genevieve felt that she'd developed a friendship with Faith based on a short conversation and the gifting of a cigarette, it's so typical of drunken British girls in reality! I certainly don't buy that Faith would like either The Stone Roses or The Arctic Monkeys (cos, ew), but I can console myself with the fact that she was acting. There were so many adorable little moments within this storyline in fact, I loved Faith's (probably intentional) momentary misunderstanding of 'cunning' and Giles' Yellow Submarine jumper, for example. I also liked the fact that Faith chose 'Hope' as her pseudonym, it seemed like a subtle reference to Faith, Hope & Trick, the episode which introduced her.
Genevieve was a fucking insane and terrifying villain. Her obsession with Buffy was disturbing (and a little reminiscent of Spike's). She definitely seems like the kind of girl who might be obsessed with a Tampax model. Just sayin'. I loved the way that she petulantly screeched about the fact that she let Faith share her tub (as if this was the worst part about Faith's 'betrayal'), and it just sounded dirty (as well as reminded me of Sugar Rush). I'm glad that Buffy was angry at Giles for pulling this crap with Faith without telling her what was going on, although Buffy shutting Giles out does feel like a rehashing of their old issues I think in this case (as opposed to her problems with Dawn and Faith) it completely makes sense. Buffy would find it hard to trust Giles anyway, and using Faith without telling her would definitely make these flare up (especially because of the competitive nature of Buffy and Faith's relationship). Nonetheless I can also understand Giles' wish to not let Buffy know about all of this, he hasn't lost his desire to protect her.
It was during episode 9 (in which the Faith mini-arc reached it's conclusion) and episode 10 that I started screeching "AWESOME!" at the screen. Although I had been enjoying it before it was at this point, for me, that everything really came together. I couldn't stop hitting the 'next' button until the end of episode 16 from then on out, even though I really should have been going to sleep! Episode 10 began brilliantly, it had this awesome Daniel Craig fake out, which turned out to be part of a game of 'anywhere but here', a great reference to season two. It was even better when it turned out that Buffy was playing in an attempt to distract her from flying magically with Willow. I liked that the fantasies continued to crop out throughout the episode too.
As I've said, I did really like Tara as a character and thought that her death was sad. I don't subscribe to the view that that ruined Buffy however. That being said, I am glad that there was at least a little animosity between Buffy and Kennedy, and that Willow felt awkward discussing the Kennedy situation with Buffy. I didn't hate Kennedy and do think that Willow ought to be happy, however I did think that Kennedy could be incredibly annoying at times and was definitely a little young for Willow. I don't think that their relationship ought to be painted as perfect.
There's been some awesome character development for Willow so far already. The way that she breaks down and admits that she feels that she betrayed Tara by 'choosing' Buffy over Tara was incredibly sad. It's one of those illogical things that you can really empathise with- because Willow pushed for the option of bringing Buffy back from the dead (believing Buffy to be in a hell dimension when in actuality she was at peace) inadvertently started a chain of events in which Warren attempted to shoot Buffy but instead ended up killing Tara. Willow didn't consciously choose Buffy over Tara of course, but you can understand her thinking, and it isn't inconceivable to think that she was in part being punished for bringing Buffy back when she shouldn't have.
I loved that Buffy is now an international jewel thief! It was hilarious, but in a way that's actually a little disturbing when you actually think about it (like the ease with which Dagny kills towards the end of Atlas Shrugged). I really liked Willow's little summation that the government has gotten angry at the Slayers for going after their possessions, it was insightful. The image of Communist Buffy isn't a new one, there's a brilliant shot of her equipped with a hammer and sickle leading a worker's revolt in Anne, but it remains a fun one.
Willow trying to explain to Buffy that Slayers aren't above the law is eerily similar to a lecture that Buffy once gave Faith. I like that the comic is dabbling with moral ambiguity, and the (moral) implications of creating a load of preternaturally strong women (the idea of the Slayer support group was brilliant and pricelessly funny). It's nice to see the character development of Buffy, she's had to become a lot harder and stronger- she's retained a lot of her General characteristics, and doesn't seem to have too many qualms about the loss of human life anymore (just like how she said that if she had to do it again, she would sacrifice Dawn to save the world). It's sad, but believable, that she would have lost her idealism. Some of the other Slayers go obviously too far, utilising their power for personal gain- and the fact that they're using guns is a nice call back to Andrew's earlier lecture about Slayers never using guns (and definitely fits with the entirety of the show).
Reading the letters for the competition to be immortalised in the comics were alternately heartwarming and heartbreaking. The winning letter was written by a woman called Robin's husband, he wrote about her battle with schizophrenia and how Buffy had provided something solid and allowed her to grasp onto reality for a long time. Instead of just creating a minor character, the plot of the comic was directly influenced by the idea of schizophrenia and a wonderful, composite character was created. The idea of being in a position to do that kind of blows my mind, to be so touched by somebody's life and be able to do something so wonderful and so unique for them. It was strange for me to read some of those letters, to hear about people who have a so much more tangible connection with the series that I adore than I do.
Some of the other letters have also seemed deeply significant to me, I especially loved one which argued that in Buffy heroism was mostly about choice, as this was part of the thrust of an essay I wrote last year. Theorising isn't restricted to the letters section, Buffy herself makes some excellent points. She argues that saving the world amounts to saving the status quo, and that apocalypses (if that is indeed the correct plural form) are an attempt at change. What she did, to empower hundreds of women by unlocking their Slayer potentiality, was a sort of synthesis, a way for the world to change and move forward. I think that's a brilliant description of the conclusion of the show.
I loved the sneaky little 'jokes' about both Buffy and Xander being gay, although I'm still deeply annoyed by the "gay me up" scene in First Date which I felt was in incredibly poor taste. Buffy's little speech about the fact that Satsu's in love with her was great, and I especially loved, "The fact that knowing that someone you know, someone really cool, feels that way about me, it makes me less...a little bit less lonely". Satsu, Renee and Aiko are all great characters, the Slayers in the comics are all much, much more likable than the potentials in the TV series (and Vi is certainly less annoying now), it's helped that I don't have to hear any appalling attempts at accents. I like that they tend to geek out about Buffy though, she is a legend after all. I thought that the relationship between Satsu and Buffy was really sweet and a little sad, and then suddenly there was sex! And that was too awesome! Buffy has sex with another woman, in cannon. How is it possible that I missed this until now? Although apparently Sarah Michelle Gellar also missed the memo... I enjoyed it even more when I remembered everyone freaking out about the apparent Buffy/Xander turn the comics seemed to be taking. This is also a way better twist than The Immortal storyline! I don't feel that this was a marketing ploy at all, it's just an excellent story.
The relationship between Dracula and Xander however, although it had some excellent subtext, was a bit too ridiculous for me. Apparently it references another Dracula-centric comic also penned by Drew Goddard (by the by I probably could have been convinced to go see Cloverfield if I'd known that he was invovled) so perhaps I'd appreciate it more if I'd actually read that. Season eight is actually making me consider purchasing the Buffy Omnibus, so perhaps I will. The idea that Xander and Dracula were penpals is hilarious, but I also felt that it was a bit too unbelievable. I adored Andrew's recap of the situation however, but then again I adore pretty much anything Andrew does. Primo examples here include taking dramamine before letting Willow fly him, and letting slip that in his fantasies he'd be called 'Miss'.
Possibly Andrew's best line was "My giant-sized teammate is fighting a mechanized version of herself on the streets of Downtown Tokyo...I've been preparing for this moment my whole life!". The Giant-Dawn-as-Godzilla parody was done really well, I found it funny and I've never even seen a Godzilla movie. It was pretty much impossible not to laugh! (As was the earlier moment involving Dawn sleeping in a barn. Swift isn't the only one who can make giants funny.) I loved the deadpan reaction to Giant Dawn battling the Giant Dawn Robot too, "Well, there's something you don't see every day."
The comics also make explicit visual references to Dark Phoenix with Willow, just as the show did.
Aiko's death was sad, and Buffy having to remain calm and demand that someone help her to cut down Aiko's body was reminiscent of the last hanged girl she had to cut down. Buffy's not exactly had an easy life. Way more emotional though was Renee's death. I cannot belive that Joss would do that! (Although I so can of course.) I feel so bad for Xander, he's had to deal with Anya dying already, and now this? Dracula being supportive was nice, but also rather weird. I can accept that Dracula might grant Xander (and perhaps even all the Scoobies amnesty) but I think that whole storyline was a little jarring.
But back to the sexin'. I simply adored Buffy's slightly lame girl crushes on Judi Dench and Eleanor Roosevelt. However, I didn't really like the slight awkwardness between Buffy and Willow (especially Willow demanding details from Satsu, she claims that she's always wanted to know what Buffy was like in bed). It would be one thing if the awkwardness was one sided, perhaps like when Willow first came out to Buffy, but they're both being weird. The worst thing is that Willow doesn't seem to acknowledge that she's being weird, she seems to think that it's normal to be overly bright and assume that Buffy would now want to try it on with Willow. Buffy never made any such assumption about Willow. It's not as if Buffy has simply declared "I think I'm kind of gay" and looked expectantly at Willow, she's had an experience with Satsu, it doesn't have anything much to do with Willow.
Willow is in fact rather disparaging, calling it Buffy's "little experiment". Willow was very annoyed with Tara's similar suggestion, and with good reason. Fair enough at the point that Tara was saying such a thing they were in a much more serious relationship, but still I consider it to be incredibly rude. Even if Buffy was merely 'experimenting' with her sexuality there's no need to be snide about it, there's nothing wrong with an individual enjoying casual sex with whoever they want. I also don't understand why Kennedy would make a similar suggestion, telling Buffy to back off of Willow. I could understand it if she was getting a little worried about it (and there's been plenty of reasonable jealousy in Buffy: Cordelia telling Willow to back off of Xander for example, or Angel and Spike's jealousy directed at each other), but she seems to think that it's normal and acceptable to assume that now that Buffy's expressed an interest in women she's going to jump on anyone within reach. There's no basis for this assumption, unless we're about to find out that Willow's actually been in love with Buffy all this time (but just really good at hiding it) which I really hope isn't about to happen.
I liked the fact that it doesn't seem as if Buffy and Satsu are going to have a long term relationship (and I idly wonder if Spuffy shippers are finding solace in the B/S initials?). I think that Buffy deserves to have a positive experience like that, normally she has sex with someone and the world unravels a little. She didn't even actually get to have that with The Immortal, although one of her decoys probably did. Buffy deserves some fun! (At least she gets to enjoy New York, I liked that.)
Episode 16 began an arc which involves a crossover with Fray, a comic series penned by Whedon which is set in a futuristic world following the adventures of the eponymous Slayer. I haven't read Fray, although thinking about it maybe I ought to now, but I didn't have any problems with understanding the plot thus far. I liked that she speaks in a type of futuristic English, I suppose it's a fairly commonly used device, but it had me happily thinking of both Firefly and Cloud Atlas. I'm intruiged to find out who Buffy was getting all dressed up for... is it too much to hope for some Angel and/or Spike drama?
So. Wow that was incredibly long and rambly, quelle surprise. Since I'm on the topic of Monsieur Whedon I might as well allow this snowball effect to continue a little further. I finally watched the unaired pilot for the Animated Buffy series. It was fun enough in its own way but I can understand why it didn't go into production, it wasn't particularly brilliant (I prefer the comics so much to it), and it seems a little redundant to go back to season one-style storylines, especially in the face of the brilliant comics! All in all I think I would have enjoyed it if it had been made (despite having a different voice actress for Buffy, and the fact that she's randomly gone a bit goth) but I'm not particularly irritated that it wasn't successful, and am glad that the creative energy was instead poured into season eight.
I loved this great article which presents 'an oral history of Dr Horrible', it gives a lot of background information, and the anthropologist in me can't help being delighted with a title like that. Then there was this wonderful Dollhouse interview which has totally inflamed my voicecrushes on Joss (just close your eyes and imagine him as someone who doesn't have a ginger beard) and Eliza. She sings! I didn't know that she could sing. There needs to be singing and English accents in Dollhouse, for the love of all things un/holy (delete as appropriate). On the subject of Dr Horrible and Whedon-related voicecrushes, I adored this little Nathan Fillion interview (the man has a wonderful voice) where he pontificates on Captain Hammer's abilities.
I kind of love the internet. This thing that we now accept as such a big part of our lives is actually mind-boggling. Someone googled Ayn Rand and Aaron Sorkin and found my waffling! The idea of an unknowable audience is both terrifying and fabulous. Mostly terrifiying, with a side of fabulous. Personally YouTube isn't something that I'm overly-obsessed with (although I do link to it a fair bit), but I absolutely loved this Digital Ethnography lecture about YouTube. It's about an hour long, but if you have some time I'd definitely recommend it as it's really fascinating (although some of the most popular videos make me despair for humanity a bit). I'd be really interested in taking a Digital Ethnography-style course, I think that the anthropology of the internet is an incredibly thought-provoking field. My interest would primarily be in areas such as fanfiction, but it's so hard to maintain tight boundaries when looking at such topics and with anthropology it's always hard to demarcate what is and isn't relevant. I really must look into masters courses when I return, preferably finding something which allows me to write long essays on things which I'm already happy to write about.