“Oh, hello there, gentle viewers. You caught me catching up on an old favorite. It’s wonderful to get lost in a story, isn’t it? Adventure and heroics and discovery – don’t they just take you away? Come with me now, if you will, gentle viewers. Join me on a new voyage of the mind. A little tale I like to call: Buffy, Slayer of the Vampyrs.” – Andrew Wells
For those who are unaware, it is no secret that I am a major Buffy the Vampire Slayer addict and proud of it. The fact that both Buffy, and its spinoff Angel, have continued in comic book form is nothing less than my fanboy dream come true. That said, I could have never predicted that these new “seasons” would not only be considered official canon but would include the blessing and involvement of Buffy‘s creator, Joss Whedon!
If you enjoyed either the Buffy or Angel TV series in the past but haven’t made the jump to Dark Horse’s amazing comic series, then you are truly missing out on some of the greatest moments in these beloved characters’ histories. (Hell, Angel & Faith: Season 9 may be the best season of Angel yet!) That said, never fear, my lapsed Scoobies, for here is your chance to jump back on the Slayer train and join the Buffyverse fandom as we begin the journey of Buffy: Season 10!
Below is a recap of the story so far for both Buffy and Angel. You have your choice of simply reading the “quick & (mostly) spoiler-free” recap, so that you can jump right in with just a few details, or you can go on to the more detailed, season-to-season breakdown. If you’re looking to dive in even further, let me remind you that all TV seasons of Buffy and Angel are currently available on Netflix for your convenient viewing, and most of the comic book seasons are available directly from Dark Horse Comics’ website (the exception being Angel: After the Fall, which was published by IDW), as hard or digital copies.
Finally, here’s how you can get started on Season 10:
– Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #1 was released in March, but there’s still time to catch up. (You’ve only missed one issue!) Ask for the issue at your local comic book shop or purchase it directly from the Dark Horse website. Buffy: Season 10 #2 will be released on April 23rd, 2014, so mark your calendars!
– Angel & Faith: Season 10 #1 will be released tomorrow, April 2nd, 2014, so be sure to nab a copy at your local comic retailer. If you have any issues, the Dark Horse website is their once again to help you out in a pinch.
Did I mention that Dark Horse offers free previews online of most issues? Fans still on the fence will definitely want to check those out. Now, on to the recap!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer –The Quick & (Mostly) Spoiler-Free Version
Buffy Summers is a young woman in her mid-twenties who also happens to be a Slayer, one of many young girls “chosen” to fight vampires and the forces of darkness in order to keep mankind safe. Despite her supernatural strength and physical abilities, Buffy, like many of us, is not able to avoid the pain of heartbreak and loss, the overwhelming feeling of “normal,” everyday life, or her student loans. While Buffy just spent the past season in a magic-less version of her world, things have returned to normal (at least in some respects), and Buffy, along with her friends, is busy ridding the world of the blood-sucking menace again (even if the undead have acquired some flashy, new powers). Also, she puns while she kicks ass.
A More Detailed Breakdown
– Season 1: The first season is really about establishing Buffy, her friends, and the tone of the series. After destroying her reputation (and the gym) at her last high school, Buffy Summers moves to Sunnydale, California, with the hope that she has left vampires and slaying behind. Unfortunately, Sunnydale sits on a Hellmouth, a portal to the demon dimensions that also acts like a beacon for the supernatural. Luckily, Buffy, her watcher Giles, and her two best buds Xander and Willow are there to back up the slayer and help take out her first “Big Bad:” The Master, an ancient vampire who has grown beyond the “curse” of human features!
– Season 2: My personal favorite season of the series deals with epic and tragic romance between Buffy and Angel, a vampire cursed by gypsies with a restored human soul that causes him to feel remorse for ever act of evil he’s ever committed. Unfortunately, the slayer and vampire didn’t read the fine print and when they “boink” for the first time, they break the curse and cause Angel’s soul to leave his body, unleashing the evil Angelus upon Sunnydale. Angelus leaves a trail of bodies behind him until Buffy is able to push aside her feelings for her form lover and sends him to Hell… literally. Unfortunately, this happens moments after his human soul has been restored by Willow and her first dabbling into magic.
– Season 3: Buffy and the gang take on their final year of high school and The Mayor of Sunnydale (who apparently founded the town in an effort to become a massive, snake-like demon). Angel returns from Hell and decides he should leave town due to his complicated, post-Angelus relationship with Buffy and her friends. Willow becomes more adept at magic. Giles is fired from his position as Watcher and Buffy cuts her ties to the Watcher’s Council, which oversees her and Giles’ actions in the States. This season also introduces Faith, a younger, “lose cannon” of a slayer who pushes Buffy to take further and further risks while slaying. Eventually, Faith takes a human life and decides to switch teams, joining The Mayor. In the end, Buffy takes on Faith and puts her in a coma, before blowing up The Mayor (in demon form) and her high school on graduation day. Sounds like the perfect last day of school, right?
– Season 4: The U.S. military gets involved in the world of demons and magic with “The Initiative,” an underground military facility that studies, experiments on and attempts to control the demonic presence in Sunnydale. Once they run into the Slayer (as she stumbles through her first year of college), things quickly get aggressive when Buffy discovers The Initiative is “frankenstein-ing” demons together to make demon/cyborg soldiers, including one specifically powerful science project known as Adam. They also “chip” the vampire Spike, rendering him unable to harm human beings and forcing him to become the reluctant ally for Buffy and her friends. With the help of her new boyfriend Riley (and Initiative soldier) and her friends, Buffy takes down Adam and the Government covers up all traces of their monster science project.
– Season 5: What do you fight when you’ve killed everything else on the Hellmouth? How about a God? Glorificus (or Glory for short) can throw our slayer around like a rag doll, so Buffy and her gang fight a desperate battle to hide the fact that the “key” Glory seeks has been sent to Buffy in the form of her “new sister,” Dawn. The key was an energy source that could open dimensions, but in order to hide it from Glory and acquire the slayer’s help, the monks protecting it manipulated reality and turned the energy into Buffy’s teenage sister. Even with the help of Willow’s growing magical powers and unlikely allies like the vampire, Spike (who now finds himself hopelessly in love with Buffy despite his own wishes), Buffy is forced to sacrifice herself in the end to save her friends, her sister, and the world.
– Season 6: Not content to accept the death of their friend, the gang, led by Willow, uses dark magic to resurrect the slayer. Unfortunately, it is eventually revealed that Buffy was actually in Heaven before her friends pulled her back to the mortal world. Struggling to find a reason to keep living, Buffy suffers her darkest season, falling into bed with Spike in order just to feel, struggling to pay a growing stack of bills, working a dead end fast food job, and not noticing Willow’s growing addiction to powerful magics until it is too late. When Willow’s girlfriend Tara dies in her arms from a gunshot, it sends the powerful young woman into a dark, downward spiral. Going head-to-head with Buffy and a magically-endowed Giles, Dark Willow proves too much to handle for everyone but her oldest friend, Xander. Despite her darkness, Xander taps into their age old friendship in order to bring Willow back from the edge. Respect the yellow crayon, my friends.
– Season 7: The First Evil returns after its brief appearance in Season 3 and attempts to wreck havoc by destroying the potential slayers around the world and, eventually, the entire slayer line itself. All things come full circle for the final season of the TV series, including Willow’s return from the darkness, Spike finally earning the mantel of hero, the utter and complete destruction of Sunnydale, and Buffy’s choice to share her slayer powers with all the potential slayers in the world (with some help from Willow, of course)!
Comic Book Seasons
– Season 8: Now commanding an army of slayers in a post-Watcher Council world, Buffy and her friends take on the mysterious villain, Twilight (not the sparkly vampire book, as villainous as it may be). The super powerful and masked Big Bad has aligned himself with the US military, which now considers Buffy’s army a dangerous terrorist cell. To make matters worse, the existence of vampires becomes public knowledge to the world, causing public opinion to turn on the “murderous slayers” hunting down these undead citizens. Eventually it is revealed that Twilight is actually Angel, blessed with superhero-like powers and charged by The Powers That Be to follow destiny’s call and create a new, better universe with Buffy (yeah, it’s more complicated and mind-bending than I can explain here in short form). Many old faces return (Dracula, Oz, Ethan Rayne), many new faces are introduced, and, as is to be expected, Buffy rejects the universe’s plans for her. Angel follows suit, but, despite his good intentions, the forces of destiny possess their vampire champion against his will in order to force the birth of the new, more evolved universe. In the end, both Rupert Giles and every last bit of magic on Earth are sacrificed in order to defeat Twilight, leaving Buffy’s world twisted and broken.
– Season 9: The death of Giles and the absence of magic weigh heavily on Buffy and her friends, fracturing many longstanding relationships, including the slayer’s friendship with Willow. While the witch goes off on a solo journey to seek a way to restore magic to her world, Buffy is forced to deal with Simone, a bitter and violently insane rogue slayer left over from Buffy’s disbanded army, and Severin, a man with the ability to “absorb the supernatural” from his victims simply by touch. Eventually, the Scooby gang reunites, Willow is able to jump start magic in our world, and Buffy puts an end to Simone and Severin during an epic battle in The Deeper Well (from Angel: Season 5).
Angel: The Series – The Quick & (Mostly) Spoiler-Free Version
Angel is the story of 28-year-old Irish lad who was turned into a vampire during the 1700s and quickly became a bloodsucker with a reputation for being the most evil, vicious, and dangerous vamp out there. After killing a gypsy princess, her clan curses Angelus by restoring his soul so that he can suffer the guilt and suffering connected to all those he has slain. Wandering for decades without purpose, Angel eventually finds his path by helping a young slayer named Buffy as she fights the forces of darkness. After the end of a tragic romance with Buffy, Angel left Sunnydale, temporarily setting up a detective agency in Los Angeles to “help the helpless” and seek redemption for his dark past. After several years of working cases in Los Angeles, a year running a demonic law firm, and a short trip to Hell (with the rest of Los Angeles), Angel was contacted by The Powers That Be and convinced that he and Buffy had been “gifted” with the task of creating a new, improved universe together… if they were willing to let the current one die. After several bad decisions (and then some fairly admirable ones in Angel & Faith: Season 9) the vampire with a soul currently finds himself alone in London, still continuing his mission and trying to help the helpless in a supernatural-heavy area of the city called “Magic Town.”
A More Detailed Breakdown
– Season 1: Angel, nursing his broken heart, finds a place in the city of angels with the help of a messenger from The Powers That Be named Doyle. Doyle receives visions from The Powers of people that need Angel’s help and with the assistance of Sunnydale transplant, Cordelia Chase, the vampire with a soul is able to start making a difference in the city around him. Angel accomplishes a lot in his first year, pulling Faith out of her own dark fall from grace, making enemies with the demonic law firm, Wolfram & Hart, losing his first solider in the good fight (poor Doyle), and finding a few new allies like former watcher, Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, and street-smart vamp fighter, Charles Gunn. The first season also sets Angel’s long-running rivalry with Wolfram & Hart lawyer Lindsey McDonald (Look, Ma! One hand!) and the Shanshu prophecy which predicts a vampire with a soul being rewarded one day by becoming human after her averts the end of the world.
– Season 2: This season focuses on the hijinks created when Wolfram & Hart resurrects Angel’s sire, Darla, and sets her loose on him in an effort to turn him dark. Darla pairs up with the unstable Drusilla to drive her former lover mad and while the girls push Angel, frankly, right off the edge, he manages to find his path once more and come out of the darkness. One helpful ally introduced in this season is Lorne, the green, demon lounge singer who can read the auras (and sometimes futures) of others when he hears them sing (courtesy of his karaoke bar). Angel, among others, ends up coming to Lorne for advice. Yes, Angel sings karaoke . . . badly.
– Season 3: This is a season about fatherhood and the consequences of Angel’s past catching up with him. When a night of misguided passion between Angel and Darla results in an impossible pregnancy, the vampires become pursued by a old enemy, named Holtz. Driven by the murder of his wife and child at the hands of Angelus and Darla, Holtz seeks revenge, waiting till Angel’s miracle child is born and then kidnapping his enemy’s son before escaping into a Hell dimension where no one can follow. Angel is crippled by this action, but becomes even more tortured when weeks later his son returns, now a teenager and calling an elderly Holtz “father.” Holtz’s final act is one of vengeance. Killing himself in a way that implicates Angel, Holtz forever poisons Angel’s son, Connor, with a burning hate for his vampiric dad. Connor ends the season by restraining Angel into an armored coffin and dropping him into the middle of the ocean, where no one will find the imprisoned vampire.
– Season 4: This season focuses on the quest of a higher power to enter our world and offer world peace for a price… the lack of free will and the occasional devouring of human beings. Getting there is a complex and enthralling plot (featuring Wesley rescuing Angel from his coffin, a return from Angelus, a prison break for vampire slayer Faith, some serious Oedipal moments between Angel, Cordelia and Connor, and an epic and powerful adversary known simply as The Beast), but eventually it is revealed that Cordelia is pregnant with a higher power known as Jasmine. Jasmine is born in the form or a warm and welcoming full grown woman who robs people of their free will when they look upon her, creating a form of “world peace.” Also, she eats people. Angel and those of his crew who haven’t been put under Jasmine’s control fight back and eventually defeat her. In a surprising twist, Wolfram & Hart offers Angel and his team control of the L.A. branch of the law firm as a reward for ending world peace. Despite their concerns, the team agrees to offer with Angel secretly making a side deal with the law firm to erase Connor from his friend’s memories and give his son a new life, with a loving, human family.
– Season 5: While at Wolfram & Hart, Angel and his team face the constant balancing act of working inside “the beast” without becoming part of it. With such a huge amount of resources at their disposal, the team is able to do a lot of good, but it’s only a short amount of team before corruption seeps in and the team begins to pay the price. In the end, Angel and his remaining “soldiers” take on a plan to “burn down” Wolfram & Hart from the inside by severing the Senior Partner’s connections to our world, if only temporarily. The team succeeds, although many (including Wesley, Fred, and Cordelia) perish and the final scene sees our battered heroes continuing to fight against all odds, as they are attacked by Wolfram & Harts’ army of dragons, demons, and monsters.
Comic Book Seasons
– Angel: After the Fall: Picking up right after Wolfram & Hart’s attempt to squash Angel and his team, it is revealed how pissed the evil law firm truly is. Instead of simply killing Angel and his companions, Wolfram & Hart has transported all of Los Angeles to a hell dimension. While a magical “mirage” protects the true knowledge of L.A.’s fate from the rest of the world, Angel and the population of the city are trapped in a environment where he’s human, L.A. has become divided between various demonic feudal lords, Wesley is a ghost who is still fulfilling his contract with Wolfram & Hart, Spike and Illyria hangout at the Playboy mansion and Gunn is a very evil and very confused vampire. With the help of his dragon (named Cordelia… awww…), Angel eventually manages to force Wolfram & Hart to restore Los Angeles to its former status. The only thing is that everyone in Los Angeles remembers what has happened and one misguided movie maker decides to put Angel’s heroic deeds on the silver screen with Nicholas Cage in the lead role!
– Angel & Faith: Season 9: After the horrible events that led to the death of Rupert Giles at the hands of Angel in Buffy: Season 8, the shattered vampire pairs up with Faith, who has a certain understanding of Angel’s dark place and a obligation to pay back her friend for the time he helped pull her back from the brink. Focusing on Angel’s controversial secret quest to resurrect Rupert Giles in a world that no longer contains magic and his desire to “undo” the damage by Twilight, this season may be the best season of Angel released so far (including the TV seasons) and the most clear example of why fans should be reading the continuation of these characters in the comic book form. An impassioned Angel and a reluctant Faith eventually are able to acquire the necessary elements to attempt the resurrection spell, but due to some complications, Rupert is brought back in the body of his child self. His main quest complete, Angel is also forced to deal with further repercussions of his time as Twilight when his former mentor Whistler attempts to fulfill Twilight’s plan of replacing our universe with its new, more evolved form. With the help of Faith, kid Giles and a few others, Angel defeats Whistler’s plan. Shortly afterwards, Faith and Giles decide to return to the States and seek out Buffy while Angel stays in London, continuing his mission of redemption alone.
That’s all for now, my Scoobies! Be sure to catch my reviews of Buffy, Angel & Faith, and the other Whedonverse comics on both www.fanboycomics.net and www.whedonopolis.com.
Also, if you’re a really Buffy addict like myself, be sure to check out FBC’s Buffy-focused podcast, The Scoobies and the Newbie. During this podcast, Buffy fanatics Barbra Dillon and myself (the Scoobies) introduce Buffy-virgin Sam Rhodes (the Newbie) to Joss Whedon’s tale of vampire-slaying, demons, magic, and a universe composed entirely of shrimp. We record an episode at the close of each season and discuss each season, in detail, with a number of special guests!
’Till the end of the world,
Bryant the Comic Book Slayer
If you’re craving more goodies from the Whedon comic-verse to feed you addiction, then don’t miss my “Comic Patrol” posts every Friday at www.whedonopolis.com! “Comic Patrol” is a regular, weekly feature pointing out articles, previews, and tidbits relating to the Whedon comic-verse, and it’s hosted by your friendly, neighborhood Comic Book Slayer! I’ll see you there, comic book sniffers!