Before I start my review, I want to make it clear that I'm not recommending this book to a general audience. There is a lot of stuff that would make most people uncomfortable, so I would really only recommend it to a die hard Buffy fan, and even then with a few caveats. Okay, here's what I think!

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of reading Buffy Season 8: Volume 8, “Last Gleaming.” This is definitely a must read for any Buffy/Angel fan who is itching to find out what their favorite characters are up to now.  I’m still reeling from the unexpected death of a key character. In this scene, the extremely talented authors and artists somehow are able to instill dramatic pauses and timing, reminiscent of “The Body,” into the pages and artwork of this comic.  In this volume, the storylines of both beloved TV series Buffy and Angel culminate into a tragic, yet strangely appropriate finale. The developments in this comic are perfectly fitting when one remembers the years they spent with Buffy in Sunnydale and Angel in Los Angeles.  

However, remembering the series, especially Angel, with this bleak future in mind, is simply heart wrenching! A part of me wishes this volume had a sappy ending where Buffy marries Spike or Angel (I would have preferred Angel), has super powerful babies and trains them to fight the good fight against continuous waves of baddies. In fact, the writers dangle this sort of happy ending in front of the readers when Buffy recounts Angel’s sacrificial behavior “That’s not just the love of my life, that’s the guy I would live it with,” only to abruptly snatch it away.

In the TV series, Angel and Buffy battle with their self-serving desires to be together and their self-sacrificing duty to save the world. It was such a common theme it eventually became a running joke. Somehow, “Last Gleaming” forces the reader to recognize the tragic reality that the star-crossed lovers cannot be together, and does so without being redundant or melodramatic. Quite the feat! I haven’t given up hope yet that someday, Angel and Buffy might have that white picket fence life I’ve imagined for them, but it definitely does not seem as inevitable as I thought it once was.

Hope is the most interesting theme of this volume. Season 7 ends when Buffy and the Scooby-gang have unleashed the power of the Slayer, their potential to fight evil seems limitless. Hope has prevailed. But Season 8 begins with the sober reality that changing the world is not that simple. The entire season revolves around Buffy’s, the gang’s and the countless slayers’ struggle to make sense of Buffy’s monumental decision which, instead of revealing a powerful weapon against evil, unleashed an entirely new evil. So, how does Season 8 make sense of this disequilibrium? “The trouble with saving the world is…you don’t.” This shows a dramatic change from the Buffy at the beginning of Season 8 who says in “The Long Way Home,” “The thing about changing the world…once you do it, the world’s all different.” Has the world changed at all? Did Buffy et al. even leave a dent in evil’s armor? Were any of their sacrifices worth it? Here is her answer in the final pages of Volume 8: “…you don’t. Not all at once. You just inch it forward a bit at a time, and watch it slip back, like the Greek guy with the rock. And you hope that when you’re done, you’ve moved it up a little, changed it just enough. You hope. Let’s go to work”

Man, is this just a story or a philosophy!? What I love most about the Whedonverse is that within each plotline is the constant reminder that there is a difference between good and evil, and it’s huge. It may not be vampires or Reavers in real life, but it’s just as easy to identify and just as important to fight against. Life’s not about white picket fences, is it? It’s about self-sacrifice and hope. 

 


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