Buffy the Vampire Slayer #26

6th July 2009 | by | 2 Comments

buffy 26Although the slayer’s adventures currently lack quite the high profile of this week’s ‘event’ book, there are distinct parallels between Buffy’s eighth season and the ongoing Death of Captain America epic. Both see a focused lead writer with a strong cast of characters experimenting with a much more long-form mode of storytelling than is usually found in mainstream comics. While there’s no shortage of quality is either case, both seem to be in danger of being undone by their most novel aspect, with the structuring of the epic letting the side down somewhat.

Joss Whedon’s instalments of this series tend to favour slightly opaque titles, but the first part of Jane Espenson’s ‘Retreat’ does exactly what it says on the tin. The splintered white hat survivors of previous story arcs pool their resources, only for Buffy and co to be confronted by yet another massed body of Twilight’s demonic forces. Another rearguard action is called for, but the slayers are rapidly running out of places to turn…

Espenson proves that the superb work she did in ‘Harmony Bites’ was no fluke, managing to strike a good balance between characterisation and plot. Given the number of favourite figures at work here, the latter is sensible kept to the bare minimum, with moments such as Buffy filling in Giles on the ongoing backstory and Warren leading the offensive on the Italian squad placed centre stage. Regular artist Georges Jeanty has never really lived up to the “horror” billing that Dark Horse give the book at event opportunity, but this issue plays to his strength, with plenty of massed crowd scenes and the opportunity to draw most of the regular cast.

The difficulty is that this issue has already had its bolt shot by a previous arc, with the offensive on Buffy’s new HQ a near re-run of the attack which forced the slayers out of their Scottish castle. This duplication was probably intended to underline the depletion of the heroines’ resources, but the events are a little too close together to avoid the feeling that the reader is being asked to pay for the same tale twice. It’s hard to begrudge the book’s willingness to vary its approach, but the set of five stand-alone tales that preceded ‘Retreat’ is starting to look like something of a cop-out, progressing elements which should have been included in the more normal stories. The book is still a compelling read, but is starting to look like a prototype for Season Nine…