Four issues in, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 might be my favorite of the Buffy comic book seasons yet. While I enjoyed aspects of seasons eight and nine, both of those seasons forgot that ultimately, Buffy still has to have a sense of fun and family underneath all the angst and drama. Season eight was the first comic season, which ran from 2007-2011, and Joss Whedon was hell-bent on making the “budget bigger” so to speak, which ultimately came at the expense of the story and characters. Season nine tried to pull back from that, and while it succeeded, it was really quite a downer of a season, with the characters spending their time depressed due to the fallout from the previous year. Luckily season nine only ran two years, but nevertheless, it was two years too long, and when season ten finally came around, I was happy to see a lot of the angst finally go away. (Well, most of it… this is Buffy after all.)
As it says in the opening recap of the issue, season ten finds Buffy Summers in the best place she’s been emotionally in a long, long time. She’s got her sister Dawn back, her friends Willow and Xander at her side again after a period of estrangement, and even Spike is behaving. Best of all, Buffy has her Watcher Rupert Giles back (after Angel snapped his neck and killed him at the end of season eight), even if he is stuck in the body of a hormonal twelve year old. Oh yeah, and Andrew is there too, being the ever-annoying fifth wheel to the Scooby gang. But basically, the family is back together.
To recap what’s happened so far, in season eight, Buffy had to eliminate magic from the Earth to save it. Then in season nine, she spent all that time restoring magic to the world. But this is new magic, with no set rules and guidelines like before. So new vampires can walk around in sunlight, turn into panthers, and all kinds of crazy stuff. These were powers that (at least in the Buffyverse) were soley in the domain of Dracula. And Dracula really doesn’t like not being special anymore. Dracula also has a bit of a hold over Xander still, who was his Renfield-style man servant in the season five episode Buffy vs. Dracula, and together they steal the big “Vampyr” book, which is a tome of all magic in the universe… except when Buffy erased the rules of magic, the book’s pages became all blank. Good old Vlad the Impaler figures out that whatever you write in the big bad book becomes the new rule, so if he were to write “Dracula marries Katy Perry” in its pages, then that happens. (That doesn’t actually happen.) But he does write other stuff, and much wackiness ensues.
Dracula is more of a joke here than an actual threat (despite having a ton of powers regular vampires don’t have. Or at least didn’t have till recently) but his relationship with Xander, his former slave, is oddly endearing. When he first appeared on the show, the whole point of the character was how much he ultimately didn’t live up to the hype of being the biggest, baddest of all vamps, but the writers on the series never found a way to make him not come off as just cheesy. In the comics though, he’s become one of my favorite characters in the Buffyverse (he was best used in Peter David’s Spike Vs. Dracula mini-series from IDW, which is apparently not in canon).
I did love how this issue dealt with the fact that Dawn, Buffy’s sister, isn’t exactly real. This is something that the later seasons of the series (as well as the comic) have mostly just ignored, but the comic writers finally address. In the series Dawn was created out of living energy, and while everyone had memories of Dawn growing up with the Scooby gang and as the Slayer’s little sister, the memories are fabricated. When they had to magically ‘reboot’ Dawn last season, it never made sense that she’d be the exact same person. Turns out, she isn’t, not quite, and I’m glad this was something they decided to bring up.
This issue, much like the previous three for this season, feels like the best of the television show — which is interesting because Joss Whedon really doesn’t have much to do with this comic, aside from being “executive producer.” It’s all written by Christos Gage, and for this issue, Xander himself, actor Nicholas Brendan. I’m not sure which parts of the writing were Nick’s, but Xander has some particularly great lines in this issue, which leads me to believe it was the man behind Xander himself doing the writing. I still don’t like Rebaka Isaac’s art as much as Georges Jeanty, the previous season’s artist, but she is a good storyteller. Regardless, this issue was a blast, and it’s been a while since hanging with the Scooby gang has been this fun.