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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight: Motion Comic

January 8th, 2011

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight: Motion Comic - Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack - Buy from Amazon

Buffy the Vampire Slayer began as a movie in 1992. It wasn't a critical nor a financial success. However, it spawned a TV show that lasted seven seasons. When it ended, it made one more transformation, this time to comic book form in a series aptly called Season Eight. The first half of the comic's 39 issue run was turned into a motion comic, first released on iTunes last summer, but now coming out on a Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack.

The Movie

The comic series starts where the TV show ends. You don't need to be a master of Buffy lore to get into the show, but you do need to know some of the basics to the series' finale. Normally there is only one slayer, in this case, Buffy. But there are countless potentials. In order to defeat the big bad guy, the Scooby gang cast a spell causing all those potentials to become full-fledged slayers. In defeating the big bad, they also destroyed Sunnydale. And that's not destroyed as is everyone moved away. That's destroyed as in there's nothing left but a big crater.

In the aftermath, Buffy is leading an army of some 500 slayers, with the help of Willow, Xander, Dawn, and others. They are fighting against the forces of evil worldwide with a lot more resources than they had back in Sunnydale. They also run into a new big bad, which is a governmental agency that views the Slayers as a terrorist organization and Buffy as their charismatic, uncompromising leader. This government agency has connections to an occult group called The Twilight, and that's really all I can say without spoiling the movie. This is actually a very good sign, as it shows how intricate the story is over the three, three-and-a-half hour running time.

The 19 episodes are split into four stories, each comprised of four issues, as well as a trio of one-offs. And they involve a huge number of characters from the TV series in guest or cameo shots, including Faith, Robin, Giles, and others I can't mention because they would be too large a spoiler. Nearly every section works with only a few stumbles here and there (the Mecha Dawn seems out of place) while there are plenty of cool reveals and tonally it matches perfectly with the TV series. If you liked the show, this comic is great.

As for its conversion to a motion comic, it's mostly good, but there are a few problems. The animation is definitely a strength, and the style of the motion comic is put to use here very effectively. Also, some of the voice acting captures the characters from the TV show amazingly well. (At first I thought they got Nicholas Brendon to play Xander.) On the other hand, there are a few voices that don't quite work right. Since the dialogue, and the cadence, is so important to the show, so when a character doesn't sound right, it's distracting. I'm not going to hold it against the show too much, as they are at a disadvantage over previous Motion Comics I've reviewed. After all, when they made Astonishing X-Men: Gifted, for instance, they could just grab the voice cast from the various cartoons to put together the cast for the motion comic. They can't do that here.

To emphasize, that's a minor complaint compared to the overall strengths and fans of the TV show in particular, or of Joss Whedon and / or motion comics comics in general should absolutely check it out.

The Extras

Extras on the Blu-ray include a featurette on the creation of the comic book with interviews with some of the writers, as well as fans, including Morgan Spurlock. Wasn't expecting to see him. There is also a "test of concept", which is essentially the first half of the first episode, which was done to prove they could do it. You can watch the program with a trivia quiz, and if you get the questions right, you get a bonus clip. Very cool. There is also a BD-Live section with an interview with Jo Chen, the artist that did the Buffy Covers. It's not long at just over 2 minutes, but it is worth checking out. The Blu-ray also comes with the motion comic on a Flipper DVD, and since there's no DVD only option, it's not entirely accurate to call any of the extras Blu-ray exclusives, but obviously the BD-Live feature can only be accessed with a Blu-ray player.

Finally we get to the Blu-ray's technical specs. You have to take into account that this is a motion comic, and as such, it might not have as much detail as a fully animated film would have. It does have very vivid colors and very deep blacks, while I didn't notice any artifacting or similar problems. The sound is good and the dialogue is clear, but don't expect to use this disc to show off your home theater system.

The Verdict

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight is an award-winning comic book series that should please fans of the show. The Motion Comic adaptation is very well done, with some excellent action scenes and more motion than many previous such releases. There are a few voices that are a little off, but that's not enough to limit my recommendation. Meanwhile, the Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack has enough extras to lift the overall value from a solid rental to an easy purchase.

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