|Buffy the Vampire Slayer: No Future For You
By Brian K. Vaughan and Georges Jeanty
with Joss Whedon and Cliff Richards
Dark Horse – softcover, $15.95
IT’S BEEN AN INTERESTING CAREER TRAJECTORY for Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, The Runaways, TV’s Lost), from comics to TV to comics based on TV. Here he’s the first non-Joss Whedon member of a mix of comics and TV writers to take on the comic book continuation of Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Well known for his snappy dialogue and deft balance of plot and character, Vaughan’s style is a great match for Buffy’s established tone, and he does not disappoint with No Future for You.
I enjoyed The Long Way Home, Whedon’s opening arc in Buffy’s “Season 8,” well enough, but all the necessary exposition made it a frantic experience and didn’t leave Whedon room to inject as much depth or fun as Vaughan is able to in No Future For You (season premieres have long struck me as a weakness for Whedon). Whedon also didn’t seem to quite yet have a rhythm down for his dialogue, now that it is read rather than spoken by actors. This is where Vaughan’s greater experience with the medium and having much of the set-up behind him are an advantage, making No Future For You a more satisfying read than The Long Way Home.
No Future For You reintroduces Faith––a part of the group at the end of the TV show but noticeably absent in The Long Way Home––to the series. The story picks up with her in Vaughan’s hometown of Cleveland, where she’s living in squalor and fighting vampires on her own. She is quickly recruited by Giles, the Watcher previously responsible for both Buffy and Faith, to perform an errand for him in return for passage out of the country––she’s a fugitive––and a promise that she’ll be left alone. Her mission turns out to be to kill Lady Genevieve, a Slayer and British aristocrat disgusted that a commoner from America is the “Queen” of the Slayers. Working undercover, Faith infiltrates Genevieve’s inner circle, where she discovers connections to Season 8’s overarching plot and has a run-in with Buffy.
Creating an evil Slayer as an opponent for Faith, who herself went astray years before, opens up a lot of possibilities, and Vaughan gets all of the doubts and self-recrimination he can from it. That Genevieve is British makes Giles’ inclusion feel organic; Vaughan has fun with the concept of Giles tutoring Faith in the ways of high society without overplaying it. In keeping with one of the strengths of the TV series, the story as a whole is sufficiently self-contained while maintaining just enough plot advancement in the season arc to sustain broader interest.
One of the comics tricks Vaughan brings with him is the ability to use captions as more than simple voiceover, quoting Dr. Suess’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go and putting warring voices in Faith’s head. All of this deepens Faith, creating empathy for her while emphasizing that she is dangerous and a little crazy. Vaughan also throws in several comics references, including a working relationship between Giles and Alan Moore, and a combat technique that owes a lot to the Fantastic Four’s Invisible Woman.
Series artist Georges Jeanty (The American Way) continues to grow into the job of drawing a monthly comic. Giving him months off for the single issues was a wise decision, as his work is more consistent here than in the past. It still looks a little rushed in places, but not as much as in the latter halves of The American Way or The Long Way Home. His page layouts are simple and clear, which fits a general audience series, but become less rigid to accommodate action scenes. Jeanty’s likenesses are convincing when drawing characters in close-up or moments when facial expressions and body languages are important. He seems to have more trouble doing likenesses and fluidity at the same time, but he’s generally successful in figuring out which is more important in a given panel.
Though I had some reservations about The Long Way Home, I’m a fan of Whedon’s writing generally and found his single-issue contribution to No Future For You, “Anywhere But Here,” to be his strongest contribution to Season 8 thus far. Like many Buffy episodes, it’s structured around a variation on a theme, in this instance a rumination on lies. Buffy and her friend, Willow, face a demon that confronts them with their various lies and betrayals, while Buffy’s sister, Dawn, finally reveals why she was turned into a giant. The story has plenty of great dialogue and effective comedy bits, while the serious moments work just as well and are more effective for the humorous counter-point. The story is illustrated by Cliff Richards, who nails the likenesses (including those of non-cast member celebrities in fantasy sequences) and does a better job than Jeanty of exaggerating them for effect, as in Xander’s look of shock and horror upon discovering himself sitting in Dawn’s giant undergarments.
No Future For You is where the meat of Season 8 begins and it proves that the continuation is more than a novelty. I’m not sure what the future schedule is, but I hope Brian Vaughan is signed up for more. Even if he’s not, Whedon’s contribution shows that he’s bringing his full talent to the series, and I look forward to seeing where it goes from here.