Old wounds, old enemies, and old questions all play a big part in season 10 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer from Dark Horse Comics. For the first time since the series was restarted in comics format this season feels the most like the original television series in both scope and the characters and how the interact with each other. If you are not caught up on the series I will try to quickly summarize the pertinent bits. If you are not familiar with the series in television than I have no idea why you are reading this anyway. Get ye to Netflix and start binging what is one of the greatest television series of all time. Yes, I said All Time. Come at me.
You should recall that at the end of Season 7, Sunnydale had been destroyed after Buffy and her army of potential Slayers defeated the First Evil. The comic series begins about 6 months after the destruction of Sunnydale, an act which the US government labels as an act of terrorism forcing Buffy, the potentials, and all the surviving Scooby gang on the run. As so often happens on the show, magic has consequences and the spell that unlocked all of the potential slayers worldwide has seriously disrupted the balance of magic. That event is the catalyst for the entire canonical comic series resulting in the destruction of all magic at the end of Season 8, a re-emergence of magic in Season 9, and in Season 10 the writing of the new rules of magic after this forced reboot as it were. It’s a smart, sometimes dizzying narrative that feels perfectly tied to the show, just with a billion dollar special effects budget.
As Season 10 begins the Scoobs are learning to deal with a new set of rules for magic and are learning that these rules are being written as they go in the book of Vampyr, of which the Scoobs have the only copy. A new breed of vampires has emerged, one that can survive in sunlight and has all the powers of Dracula, and this is causing its own share of headaches. The supernatural is no longer hidden from the world at large and now everyone knows about the Slayer, the demons, the Hellmouths, and the many many things that want to eat us. Police departments and the military now have witches on staff and departments dedicated to supernatural crimes. It is a world remade, young, and dangerous and as so often happened on the show, Buffy, Willow, Xander, Dawn, Spike, and all the others are trying to figure out where they fit in.
Season 10 is the first time since the comic series began that things have sort of calmed down and are back to “normal”. The Slayer goes out on patrol, Giles, Andrew and Dawn “hit the books”, Willow provides magical back up, Spike and Xander are the muscle. As so often happens this doesn’t last for long and Season 10 ends up hearkening back to Season 6 in both its themes and through direct references. The ghost of Anya is haunting Xander but only he can see her, Buffy and Spike decide to enter in to a relationship again, Andrew is racked with guilt over killing Jonathan and Tara. The weight of responsibility starts to wear on all of them, fracturing their friendships just when they need to be at their strongest. Because as all things Buffy, not everything is as it seems and too late our heroes realize how their self absorption has allowed a powerful figure to rise from the shadows to threaten the world.
For a series that up to this point has been heavy on the action, it’s refreshing that Season 10 is much more compact in scope and focuses on the interpersonal relationships and dialogue. In some degrees there is some repetition of the arcs from season 6 but in story time that was more than 5 years before. Season 6 was centered on these characters making the awkward and at times painful adjustment to adulthood. Now the characters are adults in their mid to late 20’s and do seem to have learned from past mistakes. This season is not afraid to show the heroes as decidedly non heroic at times either. Buffy is even more hesitant to make decisions than usual, Xander doesn’t reveal that Anya is haunting him, Spike is guilt ridden over his near rape of Buffy in season 6 and is terrified of losing control again, Giles is learning to cope as a middle aged mind in a 10 year old’s body (long story that one) and is prone to adolescent tantrums. The morale in each case is the easy path is the road to ruin. If the Scoobs can overcome their fear and doubts and come together as a team is the biggest question the season poses. This gives the series an emotional center that is just as compelling as the action.
The writing team this time includes Nicolas Brendon and it may be his involvement that really makes Xander’s dialogue sound natural to the character. It also is Xander’s best character arc yet in the comic series and it’s great to see that interaction with Anya one more time even though we know its going to have a bitter sweet ending. The illustrations run the gamut from “Excellent” to “kind of weird but you get used to it”. The cover art is as spectacular as ever and special notice must be made to the illustration work by Rebekah Isaacs.
As a fan of the show I loved Season 10. It’s complex and exciting and serves as a welcome companion piece to Season 6 while resetting the action to something a little less grandiose than Seasons 8 and 9. Very much recommended.