Joss Whedon (creator of cult classics Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly) certainly didn't need to continue "Buffy" in the comics medium. He's got two feature films in the script-writing stage, has recently made a deal for a new weekly television series starring Eliza Dushky, and he's also in talks with the BBC to write/direct a made-for-television movie starring Anthony Stewart Head as Giles. Not to mention, he's currently writing "Astonishing X-Men" and "Runaways." So, with or without this comic, we fans would have been satisfied with a very Jossy year.
But Joss couldn't stay away from Buffy, his dream story, and we--the fans who found themselves helpless captivated by the seven seasons we caught on television--couldn't be happy to have the continuation to the series coming our way, written by the only man who could have done it justice: Joss Whedon himself.
Season Eight, though it is a comic series, is very much like a season of television. We're meant to think of this volume (collecting "The Long Way Home" arc, issues #1-4, and #5 "The Chain", which is an unrelated one-shot) as the first episode of a season. And everyone who loved Joss' work enough to be disappointed by the flaws (as uncommon as they are) know that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was never good with season premieres. The first episodes of Season Two, Three, Four (in some circles), Five, Six (though it wasn't as bad as the rest), and Seven (again, in some circles) failed to kick off the seasons with a bang. That was always reserved for the later episodes. Not since Season One's "Welcome to the Hellmouth" did we have a season opener that completely delivered.
Well now, we do.
"The Long Way Home" takes the time to reintroduce us to the characters, set up the season, and bring up points that will have us asking questions for issues to come. Unlike the aforementioned season premieres, we have a solid story about Buffy and the gang battling both new and old foes, delivering a story that begins and ends within the four issues given here, but also introduces a few mysteries that will no doubt play throughout the entire season. "The Chain", the standalone one-shot issue (in television terms, think of it as sort of a one-act bonus story), isn't nearly as good as "The Long Way Home", but it certainly isn't bad. Further comments on the artwork and stories of the individual five issues can be found by following the "Season Eight" tag at the bottom of this review.
This trade paperback itself is well-made, as with all Dark Horse volumes. The beautiful Jo Chen cover is thing that will attract all those who have already bought the individual five issues but, to those who haven't, you can rejoice. All the covers and the variant covers are reprinted here. The color leaps off the pages just like Joss' snappy dialogue. What I did expect, however, and didn't get were a few extras. The layout of the comic (red pages with the Twilight sign between issues) is beautiful, but since this series is the biggest thing Dark Horse has ever put out, I expected a little extra tidbits. But that doesn't detract from my enjoyment of this volume.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is true to its form in Season Eight, proving that is was, is, and always will be Joss' most important work. Let's just hope that he keeps it coming for a long, long time.