"She is a complete hero," Joss Whedon said to this writer a couple years back. "She simply will not accept that things should be as bad as they are. And so she is someone who is at odds with this world."
Whedon was speaking about his big-screen vision of Wonder Woman, which, due to the writer/director's own uncompromising nature, was nixed last month by the forces that be. But the description works just as well for the feminist icon of his creation, Buffy, Slayer of the Vampyres (the geek faithful will get the title inversion), who now enjoys a successful migration from small screen to Dark Horse comic, with Whedon's wit, passion, whiplash plotting and beloved characters fully intact. Considering the sheer scope and political roughhousing that define Buffy's latest adventure, the transition from pricey TV series to low-cost/risk ink and color seems inevitable, and even necessary.
Titled The Long Way Home but already dubbed "Season Eight" by fans, it's gorgeously, kinetically drawn by Georges Jeanty, whose past work on assorted X-Men, Neil Gaiman's Lady Justice and Wonder Woman make his employment on this project seem preordained.
As redeemed ex-"bad"-slayer Faith might say, here's the sitch on the new Buffy.
Continuing four years after the TV show ended with Buffy saving the world (again) by closing that demon portal in Sunnydale, Calif., this new strip finds our heroine stationed in Scotland.
Helping out are ex-Watcher Giles; stalwart blue-collar pal Xander; Andrew, the sexually ambiguous reformed bad guy of Season Six (redemption plays big in the Whedonverse) and the "slayerettes," now a finely tuned army.
Together, they comprise a formidable global presence in the war against evil, supernatural and otherwise. Not to worry — beloved witch Willow will appear (we're telling you exactly nothing about her grand entrance), although Buffy's sister, Dawn, is out of it for now due to her suffering a mystical ailment that's hilariously making literal fans complain about her being a big baby. As the first superhero born during the Internet age, Buffy continues to blur the line between creator and creation, as Whedon regularly takes input from fan sites. And so does the Dawn riff, along with a loving heads-up to Buffy's geek contingency via a panel showing young telepaths typing their intel into laptops in Buffy's castle HQ.
"Like usual, a possibly demonic force threatens," Whedon says. What the Buffy group doesn't know is that the U.S. military may in fact be in league with the forces of darkness, as many of us have surmised of late, and are planning to … well, we'll return to that in a moment.
First some context to help illuminate why Buffy still resonates, which in turn suggests why she may prove the rare pop icon that transcends medium.
THE LONG WAY HOME
(Dark Horse Comics, 32 pages)
Buffy has always been political. Cases in point: The show's consistent endorsement of nuclear family alternatives, represented by the flexible core group of Buffy friends, aka "The Scoobies"; its reflexive mistrust of anything authoritarian; and its presentation of the long-running lesbian relationship between Willow and her red-state soul mate, Tara.
The Long Way doesn't represent the first time Buffy has run afoul of the military/industrial/black-magic complex. Back in 1999's Season Four, she defeated a black op called "The Initiative" that was hell-bent on creating a human/demon super-soldier. As always, the new Buffy reflects our current reality, where the world-dominance-drunk neoconservatives famously dismissed by George H.W. Bush as "the crazies in the basement" now run everything, disastrously. And the Initiative's small militarist cabal has morphed in The Long Way into a vast military elite that's learned zip from past defeats and views Buffy's group of dedicated humanists as a terrorist cell defined by "a hard-line ideology that does not jibe with American interests."
The Initiative's solution is typically draconian: Kill Buffy, and in doing so decapitate her movement of outsiders and uppity feminists in cool outfits. Actually, the situation is even worse — recall our mention of the military being in bed with dark forces? But giving away particulars would be an unforgivable spoiler.
It's Buffy's ability to create an ongoing and delightful conversation with current fears and hopes in supernatural drag that may allow it to join Batman, Superman and, yes, Wonder Woman as a text with so much cultural energy it almost can't help but manifest in whatever forum's available. Whedon himself once noted that at a certain point, the show's mythology, morality and characters had been so well defined it could almost write itself.
None of this would matter were it not for Whedon's ridiculously lovable characters. Yes, they've grown up, but at their core, have they changed? Not so much. And yay for that.
So Xander still confuses his libido with his mission while doting on Nick Fury minutiae, while Andrew multitasks a slayer demon raid with a time-out for a hilarious discourse on Lando Calrissian's space-pimp wardrobe. And while this incarnation of Buffy, perhaps due to the proximity of Whedon's work on Wonder Woman, shares more than a couple of coincidental character traits with the famous Amazon, she still quips post-vamp-staking, worries about her hair, and agonizes over her Mom's death and her failed relationships.
Buffy just wouldn't be Buffy were it not for these characters' delight in artfully mangling the English language, something that can be especially savored in print. It's with dork delight that we fanatics read and reread Buffy's explanation of the slayer's powers: "One slayer fighting alone is formidable. Two is formidabler. Or … three? Mega-formidable. And after mega, it goes to mondo, then super, hyper, beaucoup d', crazy, stupid … it gets exponentially prefixy." For normal folks, such goofball prattling is probably mildly amusing. But for us, the faithful, it's the smart/loopy language of true geek firstname.lastname@example.org