Just as “The X-Files” returned for shorter TV seasons in recent years, the “Buffy” comics take a crack at the miniseries format in Season 11, which is only 12 issues long, compared to at least 25 in the previous three seasons. On one hand, important side stories are missing within the overall arc of the US government’s smackdown of the supernatural population. On the other hand, Buffy shines this season – partly affirming superhero traits that have always been there, but also achieving milestones that would’ve been unthinkable in past seasons.
John Passarella completes a solid three-for-three among Buffyverse novels with “Angel: Monolith” (June 2004). As with “Buffy: Ghoul Trouble” (2000) and “Angel: Avatar” (2001), this is a rock-solid effort with on-point characterization, accurate continuity, a decent sense of mystery and committed action writing. It doesn’t offer any plot surprises, which is why it doesn’t rise to the level of elite Buffyverse novels, but it’s completely respectable.
In my review of the first two installments of “Buffy: The High School Years” – “Freaks and Geeks” and “Glutton for Punishment” (both from 2016) – I noted that they seemed to be aimed at the youngest theoretical fan. The stories both center on Buffy’s school-Slaying conflict and have simple resolutions; if one wanted to be generous, they almost matched the shallowest episodes of Season 1 in depth.
Angel & Faith” wraps Season 10 with the five-part “A Tale of Two Families” (Issues 21-25, December 2015-April 2016), which affirms the themes I’ve remarked on in previous posts. A makeshift family has formed around Angel in Magic Town; they are voluntarily drawn to him based on the good example he sets. This contrasts with Archaeus, who recruits vampire minions with the promise of power.
There was never an “Angel” young-adult book line, but Craig Shaw Gardner’s “Dark Mirror” (April 2004) gives a sense of what those books would be like. This is a simplified view of the Angelverse without much interest in continuity or accurate characterizations, and with a cartoonishly big evil that’s hard to take seriously.
At the end of Issue 15, Fred asks Angel: “Can we call ourselves Angel Investigations?” But, nostalgia aside, writer Victor Gischler’s “Angel & Faith” Season 10 isn’t about the re-forming of the detective agency, but rather about a disparate group of people coming together to defend their home neighborhood of Magic Town in London. For being loners at heart, the title characters sure do attract allies, and the rich cast of characters is starting to make this title a page-turner; the drama is often low-key, but intensely based on the journeys of these individuals. This batch begins with the best “Angel & Faith” arc so far:
Angel & Faith” Season 10 should really be called “Angel. And Faith,” at least for the first 10 issues. The co-leads have completely different story arcs, although both benefit from the moodier, noir-style look from artist Will Conrad and colorist Michelle Madsen.
Scott and Denise Ciencin deliver another messy yet surprisingly enjoyable page-turner with “Angel: Nemesis” (February 2004), their final work in the Buffyverse. Similar to the couple’s other co-written novel, “Buffy: Mortal Fear” (2003), the ideas here are wildly imaginative and the characterizations don’t feel entirely correct, but there’s never any sense that they are phoning it in. Clearly, they love telling stories and their enthusiasm is contagious.
Season 10 started with Buffy and the gang being modest about their callings, and it ends with them realizing the mature response is to embrace their callings, because the world will be worse off they don’t. Too many bad actors will seek to fill the power vacuum. It’s a pretty great way to dig into the theme of adult responsibility, and not exactly like what we’ve seen before.
Over in the pages of Season 10, things are going well in Buffy and Spike’s relationship, so in true “Buffy” fashion, it’s time to throw a monkey wrench into the mix. It comes in the form of an old flame of Spike’s, who pops up in Issue 21. But who would that old flame be? Drusilla doesn’t work because she and Spike are in decidedly different places in terms of soul-having. His first love is intriguing, because no one gets over their first love, but he actually does get over Cecily (more than a century later) in “Spike: Old Times.” (And he gets immediate revenge on her in the non-canon but excellent “These Our Actors.”)