Those of you who haven’t had a chance to read the latest season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer have missed out on what is probably Dark Horse’s most successful attempt to match the tone and feel of the beloved television series source material. Featuring a small mix of creators led by writer Christos Gage and artist Rebekah Isaacs (who previously gifted us with their absolutely stellar Angel & Faith series), Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 saw the Scoobies dealing with the fallout out of their mission to “reboot” magic in their world during Season 9, and grappling with the heavy responsibility of re-writing the rules of the supernatural for their entire world. Like all of Dark Horse’s “canon” seasons so far, Buffy: Season 10 manages to feel like a true and worthy addition in the series. As always, some of this can be attributed to Buffy-creator Joss Whedon’s involvement in the series, but it’s also impossible to deny the talent and craft possessed by those like Christos Gage, Rebekah Isaacs, Megan Levens, Steve Morris, and others. Buffy fans everywhere should feel gifted and grateful to have such an A-list team watching over our favorite franchise.
In that spirit, below are my selections of the top ten canon-worthy moments from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10. These are the moments that were so awesome, so heartbreaking, or so perfect that one can almost hear the actors saying the words printed on the page, hear the rising score, hear the signature Buffy vampire growls in the background. These are the moments that seem like the natural path for your favorite Buffy characters. They are the moments those beloved characters deserve and that make their continued existence in the sequential art form oh so delicious and absolutely necessary.
Also, as I mentioned, these are just my personal selections, so please feel free to share your own favorite moments from Buffy: Season 10 in the comment section below. I look forward to reading them!
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer
MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW
1. Giles reunites with Buffy
The death of Giles at the hands of the Twilight-possessed Angel in Season 8 was one of the most rattling and impactful moments to happen in all of Dark Horse’s cannon Buffy comics, so when Angel and the troubled slayer, Faith, managed to successfully resurrect the Watcher (but as a Harry Potter-esque child) in Season 9’s Angel & Faith series, every fan was eagerly awaiting Giles’ reunion with his pseudo-daughter. Season 9 wrapped with Buffy and company still in the dark as to the reversal of fate for Giles, but fans weren’t made to wait long when it came to Buffy: Season 10. Towards the end of issue one, things are looking grim for the Slayer with her and her allies at the mercy of a new breed of vamps that can shrug off exposure to sun like it ain’t no biggie. Enter Faith, Kennedy, a cadre of slayer commandos, and a young magic user to save the day. It only takes a moment (and a snide comment about everyone’s poor Latin speaking skills) for Buffy and Willow to realize that the spell-casting kid is their beloved Watcher reborn. Giles and Buffy cut their way through the vamp between them, breaking into a run and into an embrace. Then, the tears pour on the page and off of them.
As delightful and heart-warming as the moment of the embrace is, it’s surpassed by the moment that follows where Buffy, radiating confidence and power, turns to her remaining enemies, remarking how much it “sucks to be them” now that her long-fractured family is once again whole. It’s an incredibly strong and satisfying ending for the first issue and sets a bar that the creative team meets again and again throughout the season.
2. Xander’s anger issues and Dr. Mike
One of the greatest aspects of Buffy is the way the series, whether through demonic metaphor or not, has touched on and explored relatable and meaningful life experiences as the cast of characters ages and matures. Xander’s struggle with his anger issues really began to develop in Season 9, but one can trace their origin through various isolated events in the TV series and probably right back to his angry, abusive father. Writer Andrew Chambliss may be responsible for introducing the very common occurrence of an individual battling their own destructive behavior, but in Season 10, Gage picked up that “ball” and ran with it, giving us Xander Harris who is meeting with a therapist. Further more, therapy is shown having a positive effect on his life.
Mental health and those seeking counseling for such issues seems to be one of the big issues we still rarely discuss in regards to its effects on our daily life, but normalizing it in pop culture (in a positive and factually correct fashion) is one way to advance the cause. Hearing Xander’s positive experiences with Dr. Mike and insights he’s learned about himself and those around him may sound mundane in description, but it’s powerful and moving to witness through Gage and Isaac’s creative lens. Xander has always been the heart of the series, and it’s a gift to see him start to find his way out of the darkness that has clouded his life recently. Furthermore, I must applaud Gage and Whedon for resisting the urge to reveal Dr. Mike as some sort of demon or enemy with an agenda of his own. Dr. Mike, as far as we know, is very normal, very human, and a very helpful therapist.
Also, he inspires Xander to finally squash the beef with Angel. Who would’ve guessed those two would ever come to an understanding? It’s time to celebrate. Cue the Snoopy dance.
3. Andrew’s attempt to resurrect Tara
Returning to Sunnydale in an attempt to right some of the bigger wrongs of his past, Andrew tasks himself with traveling underground and finding Tara’s grave in the sunken, swallowed former city. Once locating Tara’s final resting place, Andrew begins a resurrection spell (with the help of Siri’s reciting skills) and then sits down to work out the specifics of the new “rules” for magical resurrection before inscribing them in the all-important Vampyr book which now, in a frightening powerful turn of events, establishes the new laws of magic in our dimension based on the words that are written down within its pages. Just as ink is about to hit paper, Willow finds Andrew and approaches him.
The red head confesses to Andrew that bringing Tara back to life is the first thing she thinks of anytime she comes across some new artifact or spell, but that things have to stay the way they are, no matter the pain and sorrow. Andrew argues back a pretty good case, using Buffy and Giles’ resurrections as evidence that a new day is upon them. He implores Willow that they “don’t have to live by some stupid laws a patriarchy of stuffy, old wizards made thousands of years ago.” Willow’s answer shows how far she’s come since Season 6, as she admits to Andrew that pulling Buffy out of Heaven was a selfish move on her part that nearly destroyed her friend, and she’s not willing to subject Tara to that indignity and betrayal. Andrew’s guilt over his involvement with Tara’s murder and his anxiety regarding his questionable status with the Scoobies causes Andrew to hold out, but this not the same immature and careless fanboy who was once part of the less than famous “Trio.” Through the bond of friendship and their shared suffering over the loss of Tara, Willow finally reaches Andrew, convincing him to terminate the resurrection spell.
This moment in issue #9 is a prime example of why Gage and Isaacs are the perfect pair to be manning this series. Isaacs' art is epically cinematic and electrically charged when it comes to depicting both the subterranean state of Sunnydale and Willow’s confrontation with Andrew in the center of the swirling tendrils of the resurrection spell. Meanwhile, Gage plucks the heartstrings with a Joss-like grace that miraculously addresses the growing trend of resurrection in the Buffy-verse and takes us to new emotional peaks with Willow and Andrew.
4. Andrew finally realizes he’s gay
It’s been teased for years and obvious to almost everyone but Andrew Wells himself, but while Season 10 saw the character mature and progress in more ways than one, the most significant growth for Andrew came when he realized and fully accepted the fact that he is gay.
In Buffy: Season 10 #11, Andrew meets a coven leader named Clive who has a serious Patrick Stewart-esque cut to his jib. Momentarily stunned by his attraction to Clive, Andrew quickly puts it together, and confesses to his friend Julie, “I think I’m gay.” Then, because this is Buffy, a disgusting flesh monster bursts through the wall making demands and threats of death. Using a vial that supposedly transforms you into your perfect self, Andrew gets a instantaneous Captain America-style physical upgrade and kicks some monster ass.
All in all, not a bad night for the lesser-known brother of Tucker Wells.
5. Buffy and Spike revisit that scene from ‘Seeing Red’
While the reignited romance between Buffy and Spike gave “Spuffy” fans plenty of reasons to celebrate Season 10, one issue has always plagued this uber-popular pairing: the controversial attempted rape scene from Season 6 of the TV series. While an entire article could be devoted to the impact, controversy, and discussion of that critical incident in Buffy and Spike’s history, Gage used Season 10 to explore Spike’s guilt and Buffy’s remaining trauma regarding the event.
In Buffy: Season 10 #20, Buffy and Spike take on an incubus and the demon’s will-robbing assault of a young woman drags up old, unpleasant memories for the Slayer and her vampire boyfriend. During a brief break in the case, Buffy grabs a shower and her suppressed traumatic feelings are triggered when Spike decides to join her. A swift, instinctive kick from the Slayer and an awkward exchange leave the couple bruised and emotionally fractured, but, as always, they manage to pull together and slay the demon.
Later, Buffy confronts Spike about how his hurt feelings are an unfair way of making the issue about him, especially since she’s made it clear that she doesn’t hold him responsible for the things he did before his soul was restored. As she puts it, “the only way it’s a problem is if you expect me to reassure you it’s okay every time. ‘Cause I need to be able to deal with it myself. My way.” Spike asks how he can help, if at all, this time and Buffy embraces him. The scene ends with the two damaged, but healing, individuals holding each other tightly in solidarity and love.
While this Buffy: Season 10 #20 won’t solve every fan’s issues with “Seeing Red,” it’s a powerful and impactful issue that is honest and accurate in its portrayal of trauma and its lasting effects and emotional triggers, while also serving as another example of Gage’s bold efforts to confront the tougher, more complex issues present in Buffy, rather than sweeping them under the rug for another writer to handle down the road. In addition, fill-in artist Megan Levens delivers phenomenally in this issue, as she did with every story she illustrated this season.
6. Xander stops talking to “Ghost Anya”
During much of Season 10, Xander is accompanied fairly often by a mysterious spectral version of Anya who can only be seen by him and Spike’s kittens. (Yes, Spike has kittens.) After finally speaking to Dr. Mike about the apparition, Xander receives the advice that he should ignore this vision of Anya in an effort to break the both of them out of their co-dependent cycle. Levens beautifully depicts Xander’s overwhelming pain and depression as he begins to ignore the furious Anya. Then, as she changes tactics, begging him to please change his mind and not to do this to her, Xander steels his resolve as a single tear runs down his face.
Easily one of the most emotional and heart-breaking scenes of the season, and it’s amazing that these characters can still get to this intense of a place after all these years (and the fact that one is dead).
7. Dawn is empowered and being “The Key” finally matters again
Last season, Dawn was almost literally faded from existence as the effects of a magic-less world began to be felt. It was a nice move by Season 9’s Chambliss to make Dawn’s status as The Key relevant once again and, luckily, this was a story element that Gage and Whedon decided to continue in Season 10.
First, earlier in the season, it’s revealed that when the Scoobies rebooted magic at the end of Season 9, they also rebooted Dawn, given her magic status as The Key. Dawn, in tears, confesses to her sister that the distance between her and Xander has to do with the fact that she feels like her “emotions are back to the default setting.” She can remember that she loved Xander once, but her internal feelings are the emotional equivalent of a high school crush, and still developing. What’s more, Dawn is experiencing everything in her past over again, including the pain and grief she felt when she and Buffy lost their mother.
While Dawn eventually overcomes her emotional turmoil, her status as The Key comes up once again when the Scoobies are confronted with an ever-expanding portal to a demon dimension threatening to merge with our own. While Giles is confident that Dawn can close the portal and also have access to her full, god-like power in the demon dimension, she wouldn’t be able to come back through the portal. While her sister and friends argue against it, Dawn makes the choice to enter the portal and close it from the other side. Xander volunteers to join Dawn as they wait for their friends to find a way to rescue them. Eventually, Dawn takes the lead even further, deciding to find her own way back home, traveling with Xander from dimension to dimension and discovering new powers where ever she goes. (They may even visit a world composed entirely of shrimp.)
8. The return of Wolfram & Hart and Lilah Morgan
Lilah Morgan and the evil supernatural law firm of Wolfram & Hart were a viciously good villain during the TV seasons of Angel, and even popped up in a comic season or two. In my opinion, it’s always fun to see them thrown into the mix again.
Xander and Dawn run into Lilah during their unexpected dimensional journey and immediately turn down her and the law firm’s offer to give them a lift home. (Obviously, there’s a catch.) In the final issue of the season, Lilah can also be seen acting as a lobbyist for Wolfram & Hart and attempting to woo newly appointed council member, Dracula, to her cause.
9. D’Hoffryn as the Big Bad
Let’s be honest, the position of “Big Bad” fit D’Hoffryn like a glove… an evil, vengeful glove… In all seriousness, the move from questionable ally to villain with a personal vendetta against our group was a smart and powerful move. Like the “The First Evil” in Season 7 or “Whistler” in Angel & Faith, mining the already established characters and mythology of the Buffy series results in interesting and believable villains with personal connections to our leads.
D’Hoffryn starts out the beginning of the season as the head of the magic council that helped Buffy and her friends restore magic to their dimension, but swayed by the power to write the laws of magic in his favor and his anger with Xander and the rest of the Scoobies for “stealing away” Anyanka from him, the lead vengeance demon proves a cunning and cruel adversary for our main cast.
Also, as with most monsters, Isaacs’ illustrations of D’Hoffryn are absolutely fantastic.
10. Buffy leads the a new mystical council
The final scenes of Buffy: Season 10 provide an exciting, new direction for Season 11 to tackle.
Realizing that she can’t shirk her responsibilities or trust anyone to act in her stead, Buffy rebuilds the council after dispatching D’Hoffryn. Only, this time, with Buffy herself sitting at the head and a number of other familiar faces taking part (Dracula, Riley Finn, Rupert Giles, Willow Rosenberg, and a number of other demonic members). While awaiting the Slayer’s arrival, accusations are thrown back and forth, but the political rhetoric is silenced when the slayer’s scythe slams into the table, stuck fast. Buffy confidently approaches the council and states the following:
“This isn’t gonna be easy. Ultimate goal, we’re here to try to figure out a way of doing things that doesn’t mean killing each other all the time. Which, let’s face it, is not how any of us are used to doing things, me included. I’ll be honest, I have no idea how it’s gonna go.
But that’s life, isn’t it?”
Is it possible that the time has come for the Slayer to put down her scythe? Can problems be solved without a stake? If there’s one slayer who can make peace with the supernatural world, it’s got to be the one who has a habit of “sponsoring” (and sometimes dating) reformed vampires, monsters, and other supernatural beasties, right? Give peace a chance, right, Buff?
Unicorns are real
Yep, they’re real now. It was a gift to Harmony, thanks to a random entry in that problematic Vampyr book. Also, it’s kinda awesome. Nice work, Clem!