In 2007, Joss Whedon finally released Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 #1. The comics have been a combined effort of Whedon and other writers from the TV series, as well as some new names. Picking up some time after the events of “Chosen”, the comics introduce fans to a much expanded Buffyverse where there is conflict with the US government, and a Slayer army stationed all over the world.
Admittedly, Season 8 was a rocky ride that felt larger than life. In its Afterword, Whedon writes “We’ve learned what you like, what you don’t… We’ve lost a few fans along the way and, hopefully, gained a few.” He added a promise that the following seasons would strive to return the series to what made it special, “the everyday trials that made Buffy more than a superhero.”
The series is currently in season 11 and delivering on all that it promised. Plus, there are some really fun new concepts and characters, like zompires, and the return of some former Scoobies, like Oz. And for the shippers, we do get to see Buffy and Angel interact again – and we finally get some proper resolution with Spike as they finally develop a mature and loving relationship.
You have to take the bad with the good, so here are the 15 Most WTF Moments, to date.
15 Dawn and Xander Get Together
When Dawn first appeared on the scene during season 5, it was as Buffy’s annoying kid-sister with a cute crush on Xander. For his part though, Xander only ever treated her like a little sister. After Joyce’s death, the Scoob dynamic further morphed into a family dynamic, with each member taking on various aspects of “parenting” Dawn. But in season 8, there is a forceful shift toward making fans think of Dawn as a woman.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel all that authentic, since she’s still mostly getting herself into trouble that the Scoobies have to get her out of. So when she and Xander profess their love for one another – it feels a little strange, to say the least. When the end of magic causes Dawn to forget their love, they have to start over. It’s touch-and=go for a while, but Xander remains entirely devoted to Dawn. Nowadays (season 11), they are making a real go at it, whether we like it or not.
14 The End of Magic
The Season 8 story arc “Last Gleaming” (co-penned by Joss Whedon and Scott Allie) was rather intense. Following the revelation that Angel was actually the Big Bad, Twilight (aptly named), we got Spike’s return as well as a traumatic character death.
In order to save the world, Buffy again has to make a tough decision – end magic, forever. Though she tries to avoid doing this, knowing it will ruin the lives of so many, including Willow, in the end she is left with no choice. By smashing the Seed, Buffy effectively resets much of the world-building Season 8 had done, which had created a much more supernatural Buffy-verse. While it’s nice to get back to a world that feels more like it did during its TV run, it does make a lot of Season 8 feel non-essential, which is really difficult to accept without feeling a little had.
13 Dawn Becomes The Key… Again
The Season 10 story arc “In Pieces on the Ground” (penned by Christos Gage) returns Dawn to her coveted Key status. When the gang finds themselves in another apocalypse, they must figure out how to close and seal a dangerous portal. Despite Spike’s insistence that they find another way, Dawn volunteers to use her Key essence to do the job.
We return to the “I’m not a real person” dialogue, but Dawn is more mature about it than she was in season 5, and Buffy decides to let her sister make the ultimate sacrifice – which causes a temporary rift in her relationship with Spike. Refusing to let her face it alone, Xander follows Dawn into the Hell dimension, where they will be stuck unless the others find a way to get them back.
It’s nice to see Dawn step up her hero-game, but it’s also difficult to comprehend Dawn as a magical essence with powers she can control, since the show worked so hard to emphasize that post-season 5 she was no longer anything more than human.
12 Riley’s Presence
The much disliked character Riley Finn makes an unexpected return in Season 8. Most fans recall Riley as the commando-boyfriend in seasons 4 and 5 who had an inexplicable hold on Buffy, but then constantly pouted in the corner about her not loving him enough.
Well, he’s back, and was even given his own one-shot issue penned by Buffy veteran Jane Espenson. At first, Riley seems to be in league with Twilight, but is then revealed to have been recruited by Buffy to act as a double agent.
His presence is frustrating because we were all so pleased to be rid of him in season 5; not to mention that his brief return in season 6 marks one of Buffy’s lowest rated episodes on IMDB. Luckily, his role in the comics is relatively insignificant and he isn't around much.
11 Anya’s “Ghost”
Season 10, penned by Christos Gage and Nicholas Brendon (Xander Harris), introduces a new character. Well, an old character – Anya. Ghost Anya haunts Xander, who is struggling to make things work with Dawn since some wacky magic caused her to forget their romance. Throughout the season, Xander falls deeper into a rut, even resorting to psychology in an attempt to rid himself of Anya.
The storyline might be more interesting if it were a product of Xander’s own subconscious, because Buffy lore has never been a space for ghosts. Her presence feels as though we are breaking the rules, which is fitting since her first appearance is in the issue “New Rules.” Eventually, though, we learn that this is not actually Anya’s ghost, but rather something cooked up by D’Hoffryn. This explains why she doesn’t even feel like an authentic version of Anya – something is definitely off, and it’s endlessly frustrating.
10 Buffy’s New Powers
To kick off the Twilight story arc, penned by Brad Meltzer, Buffy finds herself with some unusual new abilities – she is suddenly super-fast, and can fly. Willow speculates that the powers are being manifested by the dead Slayers, while Buffy and Xander have some fun testing her new limits. It’s cute and funny, but ultimately feels a little out of place.
Super-strength and keen senses are all the powers that Slayers have ever had, and it’s all they’ve ever needed. Opening Buffy up to growing powers would make anything possible – but even superheroes have limitations. That’s what creates conflict. It begs a ton of new questions about where this all might lead, and then closes them up when the powers turn out to be short-lived.
These temporary disruptions weaken the overall stories in the same way that finding out it was all a dream at the end of a movie does. There’s just no payoff.
9 The Alliance With Dracula
This is another case of bringing back a character who carries little weight. As with Riley, the reappearance of Dracula is bewildering. “Buffy vs Dracula” was the season 5 premiere, and though moments in the episode carried narrative significance, Dracula himself did not.
Brushed off by Spike as a regular vamp who happens to know some gypsy tricks, Dracula proved to be unlike any other vamps in the Buffy-verse. To remedy this, the episode relied heavily on comedy derived from referencing Bram Stoker’s book and Dracula’s pop culture image. Funny, but not meaningful.
In “Wolves at the Gate” (penned by Drew Goddard), we learn that the gang stayed with Dracula after the events of the season 7 finale. This makes little sense, since he was never previously an ally. In Season 8, he is a depressed, lonely drunkard when the gang comes to him for help battling a group of Japanese vampires mystically imbued with Dracula’s powers.
8 Harmony’s Reality TV Show
The Season 8 one-shot “Harmonic Divergence” (penned by Jane Espenson) did some heavy lifting when it comes to world-building within the comics. When Harmony gets her own MTV reality TV show, she not only outs vampires, but creates a mass fandom following for them. Within her show’s narrative, Slayers are the bad guys, killing innocent vampires who are just trying to have normal lives.
This sets up a new dynamic in the Buffy-verse, where the public hates Slayers. It’s a strange concept, but it does a great job of poking fun at the vampire-crazed pop culture world of 2007. We also got this with the Twilight story arc, just by virtue of Twilight being the name of the Big Bad.
Joss Whedon’s take on vampires was always that they were evil at their cores (however challenged the notion became overtime), so it’s no surprise the comics felt the need to address vampire-love. It’s good for a laugh, even though it feels a little silly at times.
7 Warren’s Return
Remember that misogynist evil-genius-wannabe villain who Willow skinned to death? He’s back! And it’s super weird, because he is still skinless.
In Season 8’s “The Long Way Home” story arc (penned by Whedon himself), we find out that Warren was actually saved by his secret love interest, Amy, seconds before his death. Now he’s back for some good, old fashioned R&R – romance and revenge.
Though it’s an unexpected twist, it just doesn’t feel right because Willow’s repentance was handled effectively on-screen, putting the story to rest. Willow having killed someone has become a part of her identity, and having the person still be “alive” feels unnecessarily complicated. Furthermore, his vengeance feels like overkill as it takes a chapter that feels complete, and disrupts its sense of wholeness.
Stranger still, Amy and Warren end up allying with the Scoobies against Twilight. But when magic ends, the spell keeping Warren alive vanishes, leaving only a puddle of blood and bones behind. Good riddance… again.
6 Dawn’s Transformations
Season 8 drudges up the theme of Dawn’s identity crisis which was always a side plot in the TV show. First she was a Key, but then she was a teenage girl living in the shadow of the Slayer – which seemed to be just as confusing for her.
In the episode “Potential,” we were finally given something that resembled a conclusion to her narrative. Having accepted that she would never be a Slayer, Dawn settled into her role as “junior Watcher,” with as much grace and maturity as we could have expected from her. But when Season 8 kicked off, we learned that a now college-aged Dawn is suffering from a new affliction.
Throughout the season, wacky magic sets Dawn on the path of transformations; she becomes a Giant, and then a Centaur, and a doll. Thus, we return to the idea that Dawn’s identity will always be unstable. She mopes and whines, and it’s a lot like having season 5 Dawn back, which no one is too thrilled about. Luckily, she’s outgrown the phase by Season 10, when she becomes the Key again and takes on the task of self-sacrifice.
5 Young Giles
After Angel (possessed as Twilight) killed Giles at the end of Season 8, the Angel & Faith comics took on the task of resurrecting him. Penned by Christos Gage, Giles was successfully brought back to life by a guilt-ridden Angel, with the help of Spike, Faith, and others. Unfortunately, the elaborate spell was not without side-effects; Giles came back as the same man, trapped in his 12-year-old self’s body.
Much in the way that Giles had to rediscover himself during his period of unemployment in season 4, Seasons 9 and on have him again struggling to adjust to his new circumstances. The trickiest part of all this is reading Giles’ voice, but seeing a child.
The comics do a great job at creating the likeness of the Buffy actors, so the reader can often feel connected to the characters in their original states. But this is a tough one – reconciling wise father-figure Giles with obnoxious-child Giles is quite the challenge and it’s just not clear that the story is paying off. Side-note, this marks the third major Giles death fake-out, and that’s getting old.
4 Spike’s Bug-Ship
Spike finally makes his first appearance in the Buffy comics on the last page of the “Twilight” story arc, but it isn’t until the following story arc (“Last Gleaming,” penned by Whedon) that we learn what Spike has been up to. As it turns out, he only recently crash-landed back on Earth after orbiting space on a ship manned by giant bugs, who refer to him as “your majesty.”
The ship was actually introduced in spin-off comics; it was originally going to be used by Wolfram and Hart to escape before the Twilight crisis went into effect, but after helping the bugs take over the escape pod, Spike and his unusual crew use it to get to Buffy. Spike comes bearing Twilight knowledge and rounds up the Scoobies on the ship to return to Sunnydale, where the key to stopping Twilight is.
After the Twilight fiasco, Spike lives on the ship for a while, and so does Buffy when she moves in with him temporarily in Season 9. But all weird and wonderful things come to an end, and eventually, the ship is destroyed in battle.
3 Buffy’s Pregnancy
Okay – this was a fake-out like no other. After getting black-out drunk at a party while trying to live a normal life in San Francisco (Season 9), Buffy finds herself looking at a positive pregnancy test. Completely out of sorts and with no idea who the father might be, Buffy explores the idea of being a single mother.
She decides her best bet is to ask Spike to run away with her, but after a heart-to-heart with Robin Wood, she realizes motherhood just isn’t in the cards for her. Instead, she asks Spike to take her to have an abortion – but still moves into his bug-ship.
The storyline itself is dramatic but interesting, raising familiar questions about what it means to be the Slayer and what sacrifices come with that. Then it gets weird… When Buffy’s arm gets ripped off in a fight, she realizes she’s actually a robot.
Turns out that in an attempt to keep Buffy safe, Andrew drugged Buffy at that party and swapped her consciousness into the BuffyBot. Unfortunately, a PH imbalance caused a false positive on a pregnancy test. Once she is swapped back, all is normal once again.
2 Buffy Develops Feelings For Xander
On the show, one of the things that made the Scooby Gang so special was that they functioned like a family. Friendship turned into a quick alliance, which grew into the strongest bonds. Their love for each other was always touching, but it was also relatively platonic. Sure, Xander initially had a crush on Buffy and spent a lot of season 1 fawning over her, but it was clearly never going to happen.
By the later seasons, Buffy began referring to Xander as her heart, pointing to him being an emotional link within their group dynamic. It was a special bond that romance would have made way too messy, and it seemed like Whedon and the other writers knew that.
Unfortunately, in season 8, Whedon took it to a new level, having Buffy express romantic feelings for Xander. He, on the other hand, tells her he thinks it’s a bad idea. When Buffy walks in on Xander and Dawn sharing a passionate kiss, she realizes it’s time to move on. Phew. Close one.
1 Buffy and Angel Give Birth To A Universe
In “Twilight Chapter Three: Them F#!%ing (Plus the True History of the Universe),” penned by Brad Meltzer, Buffy and Angel give into carnal instincts; and as always, it’s a terrible idea!
In what might be the most mind boggling story of Buffy yet, while she and Angel go at it, they cause the Earth give birth to a new universe. And that universe is Twilight, (the essence of which ends up possessing Angel). Angel tries to convince Buffy to stay there with him, in this magical place where they can finally be together. When Buffy realizes another consequence of them birthing a world is the old one being flooded by demons, she chooses to return to her friends; to protect them.
Angel, Giles, and Spike all have info-dump dialogue to try to explain the phenomenon, but no matter how you spin it – it’s just plain weird.
Season 11 issue 8 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer hits stands June 21, 2017. Are you reading the comics? Did anything even weirder happen? Let us know in the comments!