‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #30:’ Comic Book Review (Surprise... the Scoobies Grew Up)

This week marks the release of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #30 from Dark Horse Comics, as well as the culmination of the tenth season of Buffy and its third season taking place in the comic book medium. The Buffy franchise has clearly thrived in the world of sequential art and word balloons, and the skilled and talented creative team of writer Christos Gage and artist Rebekah Isaacs have fostered that success, bringing the current season to a close with finesse and many “feels.” Now, in the afterglow of latest Buffy season finale, it is time for us fans to reflect on the merits and missteps of Buffy: Season 10 and look forward to where our favorite Slayer is headed.

SPOILERS BELOW

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #30 picks up with our gang reeling from Anya’s disintegration of Xander at the end of last issue. Armed with anger over the death of one of her closest friends, Buffy (with a little demonic assistance of the vengeful variety) turns the tables on D’Hoffryn and ends the lord of vengeance demon’s reign, permanently.

Gage and Isaacs are in prime form for Season 10’s finale, especially Isaacs who excels in depicting Gage’s emotionally charged script and giving the demonic figures of D’Hoffryn and Anyanka their due. Gage’s final chapter in the season is not without its flaws, but he hits the emotional highs and lows so well that he manages to give fans a heartfelt and satisfying ending, despite the story feeling slightly formulaic on occasion. No one can deny that Gage and Isaacs have used their time on Buffy to deliver a tale of the Scoobies each maturing in their own way and embracing responsibility, and this is no more clearly stated than in this issue when Buffy declares to her adversary, “Surprise. We grew up,” before beheading the bad guy and reclaiming the burden of power that D’Hoffryn has stolen from her. While some may argue that Buffy and the Scoobies had already previously entered the “adult world,” the realization of their own civic responsibilities (even in a supernatural sense) shows a maturity that usually only arrives when an individual starts to think beyond themselves and the immediate future. Being involved in one’s community, whether globally or locally, can be an arduous and exhausting task, especially when it comes to decisions on complex and difficult matters that will affect the majority in significant ways. Handing off one’s responsibilities as a citizen, whether due to frustration or laziness, can land everyone in a world of hurt real, really quickly. It’s a fairly sobering message to digest as our own nation stands on the brink of handing a ridiculous amount of power to a fairly narcissistic, vengeful, and untrustworthy individual. Let’s hope we don’t have to follow the long path to realization that Buffy did this season.

So, Buffy’s tenth season is behind us. Given Gage and Isaacs’ indisputable talents (along with the terrific artist Megan Levens who stepped in as series artist from time to time throughout Season 10), the creative team’s first season on Buffy is, as expected from their stellar work on Angel & Faith, a solid addition to the Buffy mythos and one that brought the comic series even closer to the tone and feel of its original television roots. D’Hoffryn was an excellent choice to promote to Big Bad, and this decision brought with it a past and personal stakes to the main villain’s conflict with the Scoobies this season. It was incredibly satisfying for Andrew Wells to finally come to terms with his own sexuality, especially given the unapologetic and thoughtful way it was handled. It was also very satisfying for many fans to see Spike and Buffy make a mature and honest attempt to be together as a couple and to see it done with a focus on addressing and healing the wounds of the past as opposed to sweeping them under the carpet and avoiding the tough, complex questions. And the final scene of the season sets the stage for a very new and interesting future, with Buffy sitting at the head of a newly formed council overseeing the mystical ‘Vampyr’ book and attempting to, as Buffy put it, “figure out a way of doing things that doesn’t mean us killing each other all the time.” Perhaps it’ll take a slayer to finally get demons and humans to stop warring against one another? Only time will tell...

Even with all these positive elements, it does seem that Buffy has reached a point where it’s in danger of falling into a rut of predictability. While Season 10 defied readers' expectations in many ways, it still featured a fairly standard Big Bad, the death of a beloved character or two, the resurrection of a beloved character or two, and a Buffy who cuts off all her friends only to reconnect with them right before the critical moment at the end of the season. I applaud Gage, Isaacs, Levens, and the other members of the creative team for having the talent and ability to make such recognizable plot points feel new, fresh, and dramatically meaty, but as a fan of the Buffy franchise, I do worry about it devolving into a series where literally everyone’s died before, everyone’s come back from the dead at least once, and everyone’s hooked up with everyone else (think the later seasons of Friends but with demons and vampires peppered in).

Luckily, Buffy: Season 11 has already been announced, and Gage and Buffy creator Joss Whedon are well aware of the need mix things up. As Gage told Entertainment Weekly, “True to form, Joss is not content to just rest on his well-earned laurels, so Season 11 will shake things up with a story that’s shorter, bigger, more epic, and presents what may be the greatest challenge Buffy and the Scoobies have ever faced.” I had a chance to speak with Gage at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con (You can watch that interview here.) and he reiterated this focus for the season by comparing it to the British model for television seasons where there are less episodes and a single, focused story arc. He also mentioned that the stakes will be raised, not in a cosmic sense, but in the fact that the story will open with our characters unable to stop a large disaster. The season will play out the ramifications of this inciting incident. For a fan worried about his favorite franchise getting stagnant and stale, the sound of this new direction is beautiful music to my ears.


Miscellaneous Notes:

- It’s always great to see Lilah Morgan again. I hope her new role as a Wolfram & Hart lobbyist will mean further appearances in Season 11.

- Much like Whistler and Nadira in last season’s Angel & Faith series finale, Anya is on the receiving end of Gage and Isaacs' penchant for horribly burning characters (usually fatally). I’d recommend staying away from flames, mystical or otherwise, when it comes to Season 11’s finale.

 - It’s a nice, heart-warming touch to see Anya’s urn emblazoned with the words “She owned her life.” It’s a subtle call back to Buffy’s gravestone, and I’m sure it gave a number of devoted Anya fans a more satisfying resolution for the character.

 - Dhoffryn still can’t remember Andrew’s name. That’s never going to get old.


FINAL VERDICT: A solid ending to a solid season of Buffy. I may have had some minor complaints, but the new creative team raised the bar on the series this season, and I couldn’t be more excited by what’s to come and the changes to the format of next season. Dark Horse’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer series continues to earn its place on my pull list, and it certainly should be on yours, as well!

That’s a wrap for this season, my fellow comic book sniffers, but Season 11 will be here before you know it. I’ll see you soon.

'Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer
@ComicBookSlayer



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