"Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Volume 4 - Time of your Life" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James "Spez" Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Originally Published as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 8) #16-20
Written by Joss Whedon & Jeph Loeb
Illustrated by Karl Moline, Georges Jeanty, Eric Wight, Ethen Beavers & Adam Van Wyk
2009, 136 Pages
Trade Paperback released on May 19th, 2009
When the eighth season of Buffy started up in comic form, one of the questions that popped up a lot was if and when this would crossover with Fray. Released from 2001 to 2003, Fray was written by Buffy creator Joss Whedon and told the story of Melaka, the slayer set in the distant future. Fray was published before the Buffy TV series finished up so there are questions that were left unanswered, especially since Melaka is the only slayer in her time.
While reading Fray is strongly suggested as it's a great book and would provide you with some background info, it's not required to enjoy Time of your Life. Whedon does a good job explaining what's going on without sounding like boring exposition. Buffy and some of her slayers head to New York City to investigate a temporal anomaly. This ends up sucking our hero into the future and she's brought face-to-face with Melaka faster than you can say "Biff Tannen's Pleasure Palace." As Buffy adjusts to a world of flying cars, she's surprised and rather bummed to find that her actions as the Chosen One clearly didn't make much of a difference after she passed the mantle on. The pair team up to take on Melaka's twin brother — a vampire who has the slayer memories, but none of the abilities — and a mysterious witch who's pulling his strings.
Meanwhile, Dawn is no longer a giant (yay!). Now she's a centaur (boo!). She deals with her newfound hoofs with Xander as they hold down the base in Scotland as Twilight's forces attack.
As with previous volumes, the main story is a four-parter and the last issue is a one-shot. This volume includes a special treat for long-time Buffy fans. Years ago there was some talk of doing an animated series based on the TV show. It ultimately fell through, but the animators were brought on board to illustrate a special issue of Buffy Season 8 where the slayer dreams she's back at Sunnydale High. The issue is a fun throwback to Buffy circa Season 3, but our hero has all of her memories.
It's no surprise that the writing in this volume is top notch as it's done by Buffy's creator himself, Joss Whedon. The dialogue is quick and witty and there's a tinge of sadness. There's also a heaping helping of character development. Willow learns about the gravity of her powers. Buffy's figuring out who she is in the wake of her lesbian experiment. Dawn is learning how to gallop. The "animated issue" is written by Jeph Loeb, whom I've had mixed feelings towards lately, but he manages to capture the spirit of the show wonderfully. His issue looks and feels like a cartoon and it's a nice break from some of the heavier moments we've seen throughout Season 8.
Georges Jeanty had a break from art duties, only handling a few pages in Loeb's issue. Karl Moline, the artist on the original Fray series was brought in to do those. Moline's style is very similar to Jeanty and I think the average fan wouldn't notice much of a difference. However, Moline is far better at drawing people, specifically their faces. Moline gets into a lot more detail. This helps with some of the bigger battles and high-flying scenes in Melaka's world. As I mentioned above, the animators of the Buffy cartoon were brought in to do the one-shot issue and it looks great. You could easily see how this would translate to a cartoon. It's a damn shame it didn't get picked up.
Time of your Life continues to rocket the eighth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer forward. Twilight takes a bit of a back seat but there's plenty of ominous foreshadowing to go around. It's clear that a serious threat is on the horizon and slayers in the present and the future need to step up their game if they want to survive.