Wednesday, March 04, 2015

What We Talk About When We Talk About Buffy

When I talk about Buffy, I always need to start by talking about how I don't want to talk about why I want to talk about Buffy.  Which is to say, I have this on-again, off-again obsession that is probably actually pretty unhealthy, and really is more like on-again, in-hibernation.  Ahem.

Anyway, let's not get into how I'm way too attached to this universe, and let's talk a little about the beginning of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10

One thing I will say, each season of the comics has been very different.  Eight was okay right up until it went off the rails with the worst ending ever.  Nine was a little confusing, to be honest, but I liked pretty much everything it was doing--the tension around magic being gone, Giles being gone, Willow's distraction, Buffy's lack of focus.  The personal stuff felt very true to the Buffy I know, and I felt like it brought just the right amount of over-the-top-ness--unlike eight, they took advantage of the comics medium to make things big and impressive without causing our favorite characters to get lost in this strange, unfamiliar world.  It stayed focused on the people, even when they were saving the world.

Let's talk about art, though. I wish I could remember where I saw a blog post lately about whether you'd quit a comic over art; I will say that once I'm in, I'm in, but I won't even set foot inside if the art isn't to my liking.  In the same way that I won't read a book that's one long paragraph, even if it's beautiful and moving--form matters, and if I'm uncomfortable trying to consume the story, I'm not going to be able to enjoy it. 

The art in eight and nine was in a style I liked a lot, and most of the characters were recognizable--except for Buffy.  She looked more like Sarah Michelle Gellar from season one of the TV show; she did not have the look of the mature SMG, which meant she didn't look like Buffy.  It's like she was some alternate version of how young Buffy might have grown up.  It was getting annoying. 

This time out, they've switched things up, and the team that used to do Angel & Faith is now doing BtVS.  I don't like the art style as well--it's a bit more cartoony--but I do like that Buffy looks a bit more like I expect her to.  I feel like I'm able to match the character I imagine to the one I'm seeing.  So that's something.

Anyway, all this is to bring us back to volume 1 of this new season and my many feelings.  I'm conflicted.  I loved it and found it incredibly satisfying, but for those same reasons, it felt a little inauthentic.  It was funny--really funny, with lots of inside jokes and fast-talking quips, to the point where maybe it was a little too funny, a little too upbeat and casual.  I don't mind upbeat--it's the beginning of the season, I'm sure things will get miserable soon--but it could be seen as pandering.  I don't know--I LOVE the in-jokes, but catering to my fangirl is not a healthy way to conduct business.

That's really what's going on all over the place.  Buffy and Willow have a lovely girl-bonding moment, talking about guys and being together as a team again.  Buffy complains about her love life to Spike, who brushes her off, which is some great setup material.  Hell, Buffy and Spike are hanging out, partners in patrolling again.  Everyone's a family, close, talking, sharing things, happy. This is wonderful!  It's what you want!  It's what the fanfiction has been writing for years. 

Except it's not what the story is.  Think about it--from the beginning, if you look at Buffy as being about friendship, about bonding, even though that's true, most of it takes place in the spaces between the closeness.  For every movie night, there's a secret being withheld.  For every girl talk convo, one person's heart is breaking a little.  This is a story about being set apart from the people you love most, and how we're all kind of alone, even when we're on a team; in the best of moments, it's about how we can all work as a team, even though we're all really alone.

But there's no loneliness here.  There's casual intimacy, friendship, easy bonding.  It's like the Scooby gang as the cast of Friends, sitting in each other's laps instead of reaching across the divides between each other.

Here's the thing, though; I'm not complaining.  I cannot tell you how satisfying it was to see Dawn and Xander uncomfortable but trying to talk about it, Buffy and Willow not only being close but talking about how close they are, Spike swing Buffy off the back of that truck, and the big battlefield reunion.  The new characters--Billy, Anaheed--still promise to be around, but we've got the band back together.  Do you know just how much I wanted to get the band back together? 

So I am grateful, and hungry for more. I have what I want, and I'm going to glut myself on it.  But I can't help thinking that it's not quite what I expected, and wondering where it's going next.  I suppose, if Joss Whedon is still involved, even if only at the top level, I don't have to worry about things staying too happy for too long.  Probably they're setting me up for someone important to get killed.

Probably I could live with that

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