I have never been a member of a cult. I was never a Trek-kie or a Star Wars knob. I have never really attached myself to any cultural (or sub-cultural) trend in earnest, unless you count an unholy devotion to the forces of heavy metal between 1988 and 1995. One might assume then that I would manage to successfully side step the whole issue of fanboy-ism and progress in a mature and responsible fashion to adulthood, without getting sidetracked into conventions and the whole sick sad world that this entails.
But I hadn’t bet on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Slavish devotion followed. Total emotional dependence on the scoobies led to a crushing sense of defeat when both Buffy and Angel were cancelled within a year of each other. The sense of loss when I watched the final episode of Buffy was tangible and space was cleared for Buffy in the small box of things I take seriously in my heart.
Yes, I signed petitions, and sure I felt a small start of excitement when the rumour went around that there was going to be a Season 8 movie, but it all came to nothing. Until 0ctober 2007. Now, because I am an ill-informed chap I didn’t find out about the Dark Horse comics continuation of the Buffy saga until Christmas of 2007 but the good news was like an aneurysm of joy in my brain. Dark Horse, the uncompromising comic-publishing heroes of my youth, had teamed up with Joss Whedon to bring the story to fruition. Maybe there was a God after all ?
But anyone who knows the mythology of the resurrected cult icon knows that failure is a more commonly travelled road than success. Think Doctor Who, Aliens vs Predator, Terminator 3, Jason vs Freddy. Maybe not the most lucid selection but all epic fails in my eyes. So does Buffy measure up ?
Oh yes. Volume 1 of the Long Way Home is an absolute success in every respect. The art is fairly standard comic book fare, but when dealing with such a well established Buffy-verse, anything too experimental or abstract would only be a distraction. So it knuckles down to taking us from the point at which we last saw the gang (at the edge of the smoking black pit formerly known as Sunnydale) to “the present”. Most of the major characters make an appearance in a pleasingly low key style, rather than the reader being smacked in the face with a succession of “…look it’s X …haven’t you missed them…” scenarios. But that doesn’t mean it’s all low key, after all it’s not a “weepy episode” of Buffy, it’s the triumphant return, and as such there are there are an assortment of surprises, some great fights and dialogue so in character that I wanted to hug Joss Whedon for being so very good at what he does.
The most compelling thing about this first installment though, for me, is how close this comic feels in spirit to the TV show. The dialogue, art and early plot all merge into an experience that is very close in spirit to the TV show. It is primarily this which made me want to write the review, because I suspect that there are Buffy fans out there who haven’t discovered “The Long Way Home” on the basis that they are not comic fans. Indeed, a couple of close friends (and fellow Buffy gimps) who are just as obsessed as me, have still not read “The Long Way Home” a year after I got hold of it. I can only put this down to a distrust of the medium of comics, or maybe it is slightly more complex. Maybe it is the niggling worry that a mere comic can’t possibly hope to carry the weight of the Buffy-verse or accurately convey the warm wit of Whedon ? If these worries are afflicting you, fellow Buffy nerds, cast them aside, and re-immerse yourself. Satisfaction is guaranteed.