Buffy Season Eight: Last Gleaming, Part 5

[This is the final issue of Buffy Season Eight.]

Faith: "You're the only slayer. You always were."

Synopsis:

San Francisco. Buffy is waitressing at the "Pick Me Up," a coffee/book place. A customer trips her, but she manages to maintain the tray of hot stuff upright and serve the customers anyway -- with her foot. The customer is a former slayer who hates Buffy.

Kennedy's place. Buffy and Kennedy are talking as Kennedy packs. Kennedy is furious and crying. She says Buffy literally f%$#ed everything up. Buffy says Willow needs Kennedy now more than ever since Willow no longer has powers, but Kennedy says no, that Willow dumped her.

Golden Gate Park, sunset. Buffy and Willow sit on the grass and talk. The slayers that had their powers before still have them, but no new slayers will be called. Willow, who has no magic any more, broke up with Kennedy because she believes Kennedy really liked being with a superhero. Willow says that there is someone else. Someone she'll never see again.

Buffy is dreaming. She's reliving the moments after Giles' death and the destruction of the Seed. Angel is saying, "Buffy, what happened? Did we... did we win?" (A little flashback to the end of season two. Angel doesn't remember what he did.) Dawn pokes Buffy and wakes her up. Buffy is on the couch of the apartment she shares with Xander and Dawn.

Xander goes off to his carpentry job, and Buffy and Dawn talk. There are still plenty of vampires and vamp wannabes in the world. Without her army, Buffy is no longer a leader; Dawn says she's just back to being bossy.

A military place. The General is talking on a cell phone to his significant other, whoever that might be. He's been pensioned out, the slayers have dispersed, he thinks everything has worked out for the best. Elevator door opens and rogue slayer Simone Doffler steps out and shoots the General in the head.

Cemetery in the rain. Coffin lowered into the earth. Lawyer's office, where Buffy and Faith learn that Giles left everything to Faith Lehane. All Giles left Buffy was an old book with the word "Vampyr" on the cover. (And we're back to the pilot again.)

Giles' flat. Faith tells Buffy she is the only slayer and always was. That Giles must have thought Faith needed help, and Buffy didn't. Faith says she is the only one who can stand looking at Angel, who is sitting alone in a room of Giles' flat in the dark, still covered with blood and with a blank look on his face. Faith is willing to take care of Angel because she's all about forgiveness.

Later, back at Xander and Dawn's apartment in San Francisco. Spike is outside on the fire escape knocking on the window. Buffy can't invite him in, it's not her house, but she reaches out the open window, caresses his hair, and calls him Blondie Bear. She comes out onto the fire escape, and they talk.

Spike is keeping his ear to the ground. He says someone is coming for her. He doesn't know who yet. They talk about the recent mess and he says Buffy did what she always did -- she saved the world. It's just that people noticed this time.

Spike takes off on his bug dirigible (it was parked on the roof). Buffy goes to bed on the couch alone. She hears Dawn and Xander loudly making it in the bedroom and longs for her own place. Except that it's not -- it's Dawn on the other side of the door faking it, while Xander is in the shower.

Buffy goes out patrolling and is attacked by three angry former slayers. They're angry because she betrayed them. She cut off the line of slayers, who don't call themselves slayers any more, destroyed the Wiccan community, tainted the earth, let all of her friends down. The three ex-slayers (should I know who they are? Comics are hard) attack Buffy. She takes all three of them down.

She leaves them and in the last few panels, she goes on patrolling, fighting, taking out vampires, because that's what she does.

Review:

This was the first issue that felt like Buffy in a long time. It was rather good, in a reset-y sort of way. The story wasn't outlandish, the characters felt like Buffy characters, and I laughed out loud more than once. Buffy, Willow, Xander and Dawn retained their closeness, to some extent. Buffy and Faith are friends again. And hey, Willow finally dumped Kennedy.

Joss Whedon's somewhat apologetic letter at the end did clear stuff up. He admits he got too into creating something epic and went too far afield from the characters we love, and that he hopes to do better and get back to the basics with season nine. It also seems that he was trying to reconcile the end of season seven with the Fray comics. That probably makes sense for a story that will stay in the comic book universe, but since I don't care at all about Fray, it doesn't mean anything to me.

As I wrapped up the final nine reviews these past few weeks, I've thought a lot about why season eight hasn't worked for me. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my absolute favorite show, ever, and I desperately wanted more of it. This comic series, spearheaded by the series creator that I so deeply admire, should have -- okay, maybe not blown me away, but it should have at least kept me interested, made feel that I was indeed getting more of what I loved so much. It could have been the ultimate in creativity for Joss Whedon and his band of writers, with no limits to his imagination, no actors to sign, no network to satisfy. Instead, it has been a long-strung-out personal disappointment. Did I expect too much? Are other Buffy fans out there satisfied with what we got? Are you?

There were several things that were obviously set-up for season nine. Angel's condition, of course. Spike said someone was coming for Buffy. (Simone?) The death of the General, the angry ex-slayers. I'm surprised but pleased that they even left us with the possibility that Buffy will get involved with Spike again.

So I hope season nine goes well, truly I do. But it will do it without me. I'm not going to buy it, and I'm not going to read it. And as God is my witness, I will never review a comic again.

Bits and pieces:

-- Faith finally has a last name: Lehane. Ooh, I got it! After Dennis Lehane, the best-selling author from Massachusetts, right?

-- Spike's sphere ship is a dirigible. We still don't know where he got it, although I'm sure it was explained somewhere.

-- Isn't Giles' flat in England? How did they get Angel to England? How could a broke waitress pay for a plane ticket to England when all Giles left her was a book?

-- My favorite volume was the early Faith and Giles one, "No Future for You." My favorite standalone was "The Chain." Interesting how early both of these were.

-- I did love the cover art for some of the issues, particularly the ones by Jo Chen.

Quotes:

Buffy: "Come on, I'm rooting for Kennedy here! That deserves special consideration. And possibly a plaque."
Willow: "You... you're never not you, are you?"

Dawn: "Nightmare?"
Buffy: "What else?"
Dawn: "Is this the one where Angel and Spike get it awwn?"

Dawn: "Everybody knows I was the Scrappy-Doo of that gang."

Buffy: "At least Harmony's show got canceled."
Dawn: "She's doing Dancing with the Stars."
Buffy: "Balls."

Spike: "If you'd invite me in, I wouldn't have to crawl about, would I?"
Buffy: "Not my house, Blondie Bear."
Spike: "I've begged you not to call me that. Reminds me of that moron who -- among other things -- has completely ruined Dancing with the Stars this season."

Buffy: "You getting this, breathless? I'm Buffy, the vampire slayer, and you're a bunch of whiny thugs."

Two out of four broken scythes for "Last Gleaming." And that's it for me. Over and out,

Billie
---
Billie Doux reviewed all of Buffy and Angel, so she knows the plural of apocalypse.

36 comments:

Josie Kafka said...

Dear readers,

I think we should all offer Billie an internet standing ovation for completing Season Eight.

Brava!

Mark Greig said...

I'll second that. Brava, Billie!

Iago said...

Brava Billie, have some chocolate to get over the ordeal.

I think the problem with the S8 comics is that they tried to go too big, create too big a spectacle and go for the biggest shocks, losing what made Buffy special.

Where was its real-world relevance and moral voice? That's why I loved Buffy in the first place but other than the cheap and hackneyed 'Slayers as terrorists' and 'Stupid celeb-culture' tropes there was nothing that felt relateable in the comics.

Chosen was the culmination of Joss' moral voice: that by sharing your power, protecting and loving your friends, you can keep the darkness at bay and that has been undone by the comics.

Apart from a couple of highlights, like the Giles-Faith relationship I'm gonna pretend the comics didn't exist and are non-canon.

Unknown said...

Huge Buffy fan, had a bad feeling about the comics when they came out but your reviews confirmed it--but I had NO IDEA they were THIS BAD! D: That is awful. It's so disappointing.

I'm a hardcore Spike/Buffy shipper and frankly think Angel's best match is Faith. Both have been on the "bad side" and comprehend what that's like keeping it in check. I honestly think they'd be more of an equal partnership than Angel/Buffy ever was.

The Dark Shape said...

The problem with Buffy/Spike is that Spike is always neutered and made less interesting around her. Compare him on Buffy: Season 7 to Angel: Season 5. He's just a much more interesting character when he's playing the "you're all idiots" card.

I'm satisfied with Season 8. It's clear the story got completely away from Joss. Too big. But when it focused on character (The Chain, No Future For You, Turbulence, Last Gleaming Part V), it was every bit as good as the TV show was. That's why I'm sticking around for S9 -- because Joss promises it'll be smaller, more character-based, and I loved those issues completely.

You should read Fray, Billie. It's a one-shot graphic novel, and it's *really* good. And it would demonstrate the hole Joss wrote himself into, because that was released pre-S7.

Billie Doux said...

Thanks, Josie, Mark and Iago. I'm sacrificing some chocolate as I type. I'll admit I did some dancing around the room when I was done, too.

Adrianne, I think you have a good point. I can see Angel with Faith. They both have had so much darkness to overcome and they're much closer to being equals. Plus, Buffy/Spike, yes.

The Dark Shape, I was hoping the Buffy fans who were into the comic format would be satisfied with season eight. I know some are, and I'm glad you are. I was coming to it from another place, though. Thanks for the recommendation, and I know Fray is supposed to be very good, but if this experience has taught me anything, it's that comic books are just not for me.

OHara said...

Even though I haven't read the comics, I totally agree with you, Billie. I sort of hate the fact that they exist at all. It just seemed so odd that Joss was unable to leave the story completed. It seems like the writers of the comic are tromping all over the Buffyverse, rearranging the furniture and repainting the walls. I mean, Giles is dead? The Master is still alive? I simply want to imagine the gang at the end of "Chosen," which, in my opinion, is the true end of the Buffy saga.

Anyway, kudos to Billie for reading the whole thing!

The Dark Shape said...

The funny thing is that I'm actually not a huge comic book fan. I only started reading because of Buffy and Angel. As arcs go, I'd say Fray is better than any of those in Buffy S8. It reads quite a lot like a movie.

Valerie said...

Netflix allowed me to watch Buffy and Angel for the first time and as a teen myself I really enjoyed them. I learned from this site that there was a comic book series, I got really excited. I'm not a comic book fan so I just read your reviews (bravo for sticking with it) I read the summaries with a confused look on my face the entire time. Is this really Buffy? was years of character development just thrown out the window? Spike has a space ship? Giles is dead? Do I care? The only thing I enjoyed from this series is learning that Spike watches Dancing with the stars. Xander and Dawn. NO. again. No

Nick said...

I'm an longtime comic book reader, and I didn't have that big a problem with Season 8 as many others have. True, there were some parts where I went "buh... what?", but there were equally or more where I went "awesome".

I wonder if being used to the medium had any affect on my liking Season 8.

Dimitri A.C. Ly said...

Congratulations, Billie, on completing season 8! I'm sorry your first and only foray into comic book reviewing (and reading?) was such an unpleasant one. You indeed deserve a lifetime supply of chocolate for getting to the end and keeping your grace.

Nick, I suspect your enjoying season 8 has more to do with your personal tastes and good nature as a reader. I haven't read the issues myself, but a lot of my friends who are comic book fans, not necessarily Buffy fans, disliked them and confirmed some of my apprehensions.

It's too bad because here you have a talented creator with a devoted fan-base bringing new people to a medium and industry that really needs a fresh audience (American comics are dying as an industry), but because the medium wasn't properly mastered, a lot of these potential new readers have been completely turned off from the medium, thinking that's the best comics have to offer.

Take, for example, the confusion as to who the three Slayerette thugs are at the end of this issue. Billie naturally assumes that's a problem with comics as a medium (and why shouldn't she?), but, in fact, comics have long solved this problem by:

A) Giving the characters a signature look (think Harry Osborn's goofy hair) or costume, so you can recognise them right away; or

B) Failing that, putting a little narrative caption telling you who the character is. Those can be witty or minimalist so as not to distract the reader.

By not taking the time to *learn* the medium, Joss Whedon is lessening the impact of his own stories and, unfortunately, giving a bad rep to a medium and format that can achieve a lot more than he's letting on. It's a wasted opportunity.

I hope Whedon will get a chance to properly familiarise himself with comic book writing before season 9. I'd love to see comics from him that are as exciting as his television work.

The Dark Shape said...

Wait, what? Whedon's been writing comic books for years. He's hardly a newbie.

Dimitri A.C. Ly said...

Hi, The Dark Shape,

Yes, but what I'm saying is that in all those years he's made no effort to understand the medium. He thinks it's television (or film) on the page. In actuality, on a purely technical level, comics are more like literature with pictures.

I don't want to fill this page with my negative thoughts about his work on "Astonishing X-Men", for example, which was largely saved by an outstanding penciler and colorist, but let's just say I don't care for any of his comic book work, which is why I didn't read Buffy season 8. I realise when re-reading my comment that I left that unclear. Sorry about that.

The Dark Shape said...

Fair enough. Upon re-reading, I thought that may have been your intent and I simply misinterpreted.

I still speak highly of Fray. Hi, thread, have I mentioned I liked Fray?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your reviews of this Billie. They have been well-written and cool. Too bad you don't like comics, but I guess it's not for everyone. I'm pretending Giles is alive and that Dawn and Xander never hooked up. I can live with Willow finally dumping Kennedy though.
Anna

Tom L said...

Brava, Billie!

I really didn't think the comics would be such a disappointment. I'm not a comic reader, so I can't really tell what's a quality comic book story, but as far a Buffy season goes, "season 8" sucked.

If the comics are canon, then Buffy having sex with the Big Bad and a universe being created because of that is definitely jumping the shark territory. And that's sad. I don't mind the medium, but I mind the story. And I've been trying to erase the comics from my mind, but so far it's been difficult to forget that Giles died, Angel was evil etc etc etc, and all of that under Joss Whedon's watch.

I'm not eager to read season 9.

---

On a side happy note, I'm rewatching season 6 and found this awesome fan made trailer on youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2hnc7RQPXE

There are trailers for all seasons (minus Buffy 7 and Angel 4 & 5, which, I presume, are in the making). And they're all terrific.

Fiona Lutz said...

I admire you for getting this far Billie. I lost interest around Safe, but I've been enjoying your summaries. I suspect they're more entertaining that the comics themselves.

Dr. Alice said...

Thanks for your reviews, Billie.

Like you, I found this whole enterprise completely disappointing. These were not the characters I know and love. I wasn't even upset at Giles's death, because it didn't feel like the same 'verse.

Joss' letter made me feel a little better in that he at least acknowledged what was wrong with the series. Unfortunately for him, it wasn't enough to make me want to pick up Season 9.

Guess I'll go back to watching reruns and pretend this whole comic thing never happened.

Thanks again for your time and effort. :)

Will said...

Faith's been Lehane since 05.

Just sayin'

Anonymous said...

Hi, Billie. Hope you don't mind the very late comment and I suppose you might not be paying attention anymore, but I just wanted to say I liked your reviews.

Regarding the Buffy comics as a whole, I was completely and utterly disappointed. The characterizations made no sense whatsoever to the point where I was left wondering if this was some kind of bizarro world where Buffy and the gang act opposite of their TV selves. I'm willing to let outlandish things go, but what made Buffy great was the characters and that's what was missing from these books.

Regarding the last issue, I liked it by itself, but at the same time it might have put me off Joss completely. His apology letter, and all the self-checks in the story just gave me the impression of a writer who just wrote whatever he wanted, knew it was ruining the characters and verse, but just didn't care. Now he wants to apologize for it when there is a new season coming around.

I enjoyed reading your reviews far more than the comics and just wanted to say good work.

-mikeygs

Billie Doux said...

mikeygs, I read every comment posted on our site, and for some reason, there have been a whole lot of nice comments today in particular. Thank you so much for yours. I'm still feeling much the same as when I wrote this review. Maybe it's a good thing Joss Whedon is preoccupied with the Avengers right now. :)

HellBlazerRaiser said...

BUFFY S8 had such an immense amount of potential, but it seemed to get out of the creators' control and moved in directions that made no sense.

I'm hoping S9 is kept more under control.

"And as God is my witness, I will never review a comic again."

Have you ever heard of the FABLES comics series?

Just going by the series you review here and the films you like, I think it might be a series you'd enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Excellent review and very good points Billie. But I think we should all recognize the comic for what it is and remember the series for what it was. I always try to imagine the comics as the show, hearing the voices echoed in new words imagining my favorite characters sprung back to life and hearing Aly's cherubic voice and Sarah's sarcastic snare and it helps and it is hard to imagine what Mutant Enemy would have made Michelle Trachtenberg (whom I never liked on Buffy but have grown to adore elsewhere) look like as a Centaur or a giant but it was an exciting season overall and we were definitely taken on an adventure television could never (and should never - Spikes ship?) afford us humble viewers. I do like to reflect when reading the books and point out where Whedon still reigns in rhetoric which he apparently defects creatively when given infinite abilities. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Let's not blame our leader for his trespasses, ye they are few. Hail Joss.

Anonymous said...

And I miss Ripper.

markml said...

Definitely agree with your criticisms of the comics and then some.

I just rewatched most of the entire TV series, which I'm happy to say is one of the few shows that gets better every time you rewatch it.

I've been slowly reading the comics out of nostalgia for the show, but it's a rather painful soul-sucking experience. Where as the show brought the undead to life, the comic makes everyone seem dead. The dialogue is no where near as witty, and the art direction is confusing. As a comic, it's not that appealing, and I can certainly buy the argument Joss doesn't understand the medium. But I also think that the comic medium itself is a poor choice to bring Buffy alive.

Re-watching the show, it becomes obvious that it was the character arcs that made it so worth watching, where as the epic battles and even the mythology itself were never as important.

Season 7 was my least favorite, because it kind of forgot that purpose. And then the S8 comic seems like it's everything I didn't like about S7 but 10x worse.

MrJ said...

I rather liked the comics. Save two last albums of course, Twilight's identity and the very confusing final battle.

Most of the characters acted in contradiction to themselves (especially Angel, but others including Buffy as well).

I was surprised I liked the Fray part the most (particularly when I expected to hate it), I was very moved by how Buffy got back into her own time. But it made sense.

Poor Buffy, she always ends up fighting (and killing) the ones she loves most. I would've expected more emotional fallout from that, but otherwise it was perfect.

Also enjoyed the Faith/Giles pairing up to, but not including, Slayer Haven. Very good.

It was sad to see last two big stories being such an utter gobbledygook as I kinda enjoyed the journey up to that point.

intp said...

Great reviews. I felt much the same about the last two story arcs (Twilight and Last Gleaming)-- just a confused mess. I can actually tolerate quite a bit of ridiculousness in comics, so long as it remains basically "true" to the spirit of the characters and the nature of the milieu-- but this didn't even come close. Most unfortunate, in that I did like the first four story arcs quite a bit, and I am a big fan of the show.

I am probably going to read Season 9 just to see if it partly explains (even if in an ad hoc way) some of the nonsense at the end of Season 8, but I can readily see why you were turned off.

intp said...

Sorry this experience turned you off from comics, Billie. I'm a long time comic reader, and it really depends on the writers and editors-- a well done story can be great, but usually only if it is thought through properly. Here, it looks like Joss started out with only a partial plan, then kind of winged it at the end and/or partly left it to others, and the results were just bad.

I kind of hope you change your mind and review Season 9 at some point, as I'd love to hear your reactions.

Billie Doux said...

Thanks for your comments, intp. It's fairly unlikely that I'll be picking up season 9, after my disappointment with season 8. Comics just aren't my medium. I did it only because of my love for Buffy.

intp said...

Just wanted to report that I finally got caught up with Buffy Season 9 and "Angel & Faith", so far, and both have been fairly enjoyable, much moreso than Buffy Season 8 was to me toward the end. There actually is a bit of an attempt to explain away some of the nonsense toward the end of Season 8, such that I regret buying those volumes less than I did. For those disappointed (as I was) with how Season 8 ended, I do think Season 9 is an improvement. I also actually like "Angel & Faith" better and am kind of hoping that the resurrection of Giles succeeds. The fifth and last Tpb of each series hasn't been released yet so I don't know how they end, but I'll definitely be picking those up. Just hoping they don't blow it again...

Billie Doux said...

Thanks for letting me know, intp. I'm glad that Joss et al. learned from their mistakes with season eight.

intp said...

So I finally finished reading Season 9 of Buffy, and am almost done with Angel & Faith (I couldn't help myself so I 'spoiled' the ending to the latter, so I already know what happens).

The good news is that these two books almost completely fix the atrocious mess left behind by Season 8, while also changing everything in strange ways, that will presumably be worked out in the subsequent seasons.

So, for those of you who were sorry they read Season 8 (and I was resoundingly one of them, sadly, after the "Twilight" and "Last Gleaming" arcs), there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Buffyverse gets largely restored. I'm psyched. I suspect Joss got enough negative feedback from Season 8 that he came up with a reasonably clever, and relatively non-ridiculous, way of fixing things.

intp said...

I just wanted to add, I'd love to hear Billie's take on Season 9, if she ever chooses to read it. I actually think it's worth it, because it helps me justify all that time I thought I wasted reading the end of Season 8!

intp said...

Just read the last Tpb for Angel & Faith. I already kind of knew the end result, but it still played out in a very interesting fashion. That series was great, better than Buffy Season 9 (which I also liked, but had more ups and downs-- kind of a lull in the middle IMO but ended with a bang). I don't want to give too much away but let's just say Joss kind of corrected the biggest ****up from Buffy Season 8- and, stunningly enough, did so in a way that made some degree of sense within the mythos. Kudos also to Cristos Gage for stellar writing.

Unknown said...

Sorry, folks. I tend to be enthusiastic about comics. I was also hoping Billie might change her mind and read on past Season 8, to get her impressions. But I can readily understand if she doesn't.

Also, Season 8 had left a really bad taste in my mouth, but Season 9 and Angel & Faith exceeded my expectations in fixing things.

Unknown said...

Thanks for reviewing these Billie. I can see it wasn't fun.

I'm into comic books so in was able to look past a few of the things you didn't like, plus I wanted to enjoy it.
The letter and the last issue make me want to give season 9 a go however. That last one felt like BtVS again and I desperately want more of that.
I've heard S9 is much better, so I might give it a go, especially with that letter.
Thanks for soldering through. It was good to see I wasn't the only one who had issues with this run.