Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight 1 by Joss Whedon: B

From the back cover:
Worldwide cult phenomenon Buffy the Vampire Slayer returns with Season Eight—only in comics! Series creator Joss Whedon once again takes up writing duties for this official sequel to the show, running the comics as he ran seven seasons of Buffy on TV. This opening story introduces a mysterious threat known as “Twilight” and plunges Buffy and the gang into their biggest adventure—without the limitations of a small-screen budget.

I’ve been reading these as they’ve been released each month, but enjoyed them more on this reread. Not only did the arc (entitled “The Long Way Home”) benefit from being read in one sitting, but I also found it easier to hear the dialogue in the actors’ voices this time, making it easier to feel that this really is happening to the characters, despite them being all two-dimensional and stuff.

The dialogue is pretty great, and the few scenes where the Scooby Gang is together (sans Giles) are my favorites of the arc—I just wish there were more of them. For a season opener, this is a lot of action and random familiar faces from the past (one of whom is a retcon so objectionable that I’m just going to pretend it didn’t happen), and small doses of character interaction. Hopefully that will shift in time. Right now, the series has moved onto a Faith arc and there’s been no real follow-up to these events yet.

The last chapter is a stand-alone story called “The Chain,” and tells the story of a girl tapped to be a decoy Buffy. It’s sad and probably the best single issue of the bunch collected here.

I find myself frequently annoyed by the inconsistency of the art in American comics and sadly, this series is no exception. While Xander and Willow look alright most of the time, Buffy either looks weird or, if she looks like herself at all, too young. In the original issues, Willow’s eyes were blue, but they’ve been corrected for this collection. The covers by Jo Chen are absolutely gorgeous, though.

Digesting the continuing adventures of Buffy in this format takes some getting used to. It definitely seemed more real to me on this reread than it did initially, so I’d advise anyone taking the plunge to give themselves a little time to adjust; it’ll grow on you.

Fray by Joss Whedon et al.: A-

From the back cover:
Hundreds of years in the future, Manhattan has become a deadly slum, run by mutant crime lords and disinterested cops. Stuck in the middle is a young girl who thought she had no future until she learns she has a great destiny. In a world so poisoned that it doesn’t notice the monsters on its streets, how can a street kid like Fray unite a fallen city against a demonic plot to consume mankind?

This trade paperback combines all eight chapters in the story of Melaka Fray, futuristic slayer chick (Joss writes in a prologue how excited he was that the futuristic setting allowed him to use flying cars). The story is good, with its share of surprises, and the dialogue is clever, silly, and everything one expects from Joss Whedon. Fray talks rather like Faith, and is a thief, so that gives you a bit of an inkling of her personality. Her motivation seems to be “my life is hard and I want to kick some butt.” I really liked the character of Urkonn, the “sarcastic goat-thing” demon who informs Fray she’s a slayer.

What I didn’t particularly care for are some of the panels of art. Fray’s facial proportions and hair length seemed to change constantly, and I didn’t feel like I’d really gotten a handle on what she is actually supposed to look like. The best pic is the title page to chapter five. Of course, I had to like her blue/pink/green hair. She also had a spiffy weapon that looks much like the one Buffy acquires in season 7 of the TV series. Speaking of which, I think this story was written prior to season 7, as Urkonn says there’s been “always one” slayer, so that’s a bit conflicty.