THE WALKING DEAD (TV) and my zombie problem

The other night A went off the see TDKR with a friend and his dad. Anne-Marie went off to bed early, but I wasn’t feeling particularly sleepy. So, I decided to stay up and wait for the kid to get back (responsible thing to do in any event, no?). To pass the time, I decided to try a couple of shows that we had been putting off or avoiding, or, really, that Anne-Marie and I could not agree to watch together. One of the episodes I watched was the opener for The Walking Dead, “Days Gone Bye”.

On one level this is a show I should already be watching, or would be mainlining right now instead of writing this blog post. I have a long history of attraction to stories about the apocalypse/post-apocalypse, and “Days Gone Bye” is a well-crafted introduction to a world in collapse. Writer-director Frank Darabont and Andrew Lincoln effectively show Rick as disoriented, but still capable of recognizing, and accepting, that the world is no longer the place he knows. The episode also uses the characters of Morgan and Duane to show the emotional toll of what’s happening – the scene that cuts between Rick and the bicycle girl and Morgan trying to shoot his wife is authentically affecting. The image of Rick riding into Atlanta on the horse is a great visual, the kind that you would love to see on the big screen.

That I am not already watching this series and anticipating the coming season is down to one reason: zombies.

When I was six, and my sister four, our dad took us to a double feature of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1956) and Night of the Living Dead (1968) at The Guild Theater in Portland, which, at the time, was a revival house. His defense, now and then, was that he thought Living Dead was a different movie, Invaders from Mars (1953), or something like it.

I have no reason to doubt his explanation, which accounts for why we went to the theater in the first place, but not so much why we stayed. As I recall, Bodysnatchers was second on the bill, but that’s pretty weak reasoning in this case.

The trauma mostly worked itself out that night, and has now become a good family story, the subject of jokes and sardonic wit. I have no memory of ever having zombies invade my dreams. When I get startled and anxious about weird noises in the middle of the night or walking alone in strange places, zombies don’t even register in my fears. Nor am I an especially fearful person, and I have a high degree of tolerance for other kinds of monsters, demons, devils, and aliens. As a kid I watched plenty of classic horror and monster movies (c. 1950s-1960s) even after the Living Dead mistake. Later I began watching TV like The X-Files, Buffy and Angel, all of which feature episodes with zombies or zombie-like creatures (“Habeas Corpses” is one of my favorite Angel episodes). Similarly, Hellboy and B.P.R.D. are among my favorite comics. These experiences led me to opportunistically sample zombie films like 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead, even a scene or two of Night of the Living Dead on one occasion.

What I’ve learned as an adult is that zombies are fine when they are part of a larger storyworld, and are not the only monsters or antagonists. As a genre, though, I am mostly bored and grossed out by zombies. So, one episode of Buffy fine, one aspect of the narrative to Game of Thrones, also fine, but episode after episode, or hour after hour, of nothing but zombies is a line I am not convinced I can cross or stomach.

Some of this feeling no doubt relates to my childhood experience at The Guild and years of avoiding zombies, but there is also the fact that zombies are kind of intrinsically lacking in intelligence and that makes them boring to me. To the extent that they are embodiments of fears about loss of one’s humanity or will, they do not particularly work for me (the Reavers from Firefly and the victims of Rossum’s mind-wiping in Dollhouse have come the closest to zombie-ish ideas that are intellectually engaging in some way). The worst parts of “Days Gone Bye” for me were easily the ones directly involving walkers, particularly the repeated shots of bullets to brains, which left me numb and queasy.

One indication of how little I am engaged by the genre is the horse. I knew that the horse was going to get eaten the second that Rick decided to ride her or him to Atlanta. I imagine that most people who have watched the premiere also knew that. I also imagine that, for zombie fans, the moment when the horse gets consumed by a pack of walkers is satisfying in terms of the narrative. Not so much for me; just more grossness and, in this case, cruelty.

What I’m wondering is what, if anything, am I missing about zombies in general and The Walking Dead in particular. For reasons that should be clear, I have not been reading The Walking Dead, although I did download the first issue while watching “Days Gone Bye”. So, I don’t have much of an idea of what the trajectory of the series looks like (or if it is being mirrored in the television show).

One reason why I like Falling Skies is the way that series is focused on the human characters and on exploring different responses to the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it. Even in the second season, where the aliens are becoming more prominent, the key questions still revolve around what’s left of humanity, what it means to be human, what the “right” choices are in trying to survive. If the zombies recede into the background on The Walking Dead, and the series focuses more on the remaining human survivors, that might change my disposition about continuing to watch, or how many episodes I think are worth watching before deciding what to do about continuing.

I want to like this show, but I’m not sure I want to like so much that I can overlook hordes of zombies, at least that is my impression after streaming the premiere on Netflix.

Advertisements

On ALPHAS and X-MEN

At the end of “Catch and Release“, Dr. Lee Rosen, when given the technology to create, essentially, Cerebro, decides to destroy Skylar Adams’ device rather than put it to use in his search for Alphas. After watching Alphas, I (like many, I’m sure) often think about X-Men, and the extent to which the new series is lifting parts of its narrative from the established franchise, but also where it is recasting familiar ideas. This moment from Monday’s episode is a good entry into that discussion.

The primary difference between the program that Rosen could run and Cerebro is that the latter is in mutant hands whereas, as Rosen and his team are learning, it is not entirely clear whose hands would ultimately be holding any tracking device he might make from Skylar’s computer core. As much as Rosen and his group of Alphas are to the show what Charles Xavier and the X-Men are to the Marvel Universe (and Red Flag is effectively the Brotherhood of Mutants), Alphas are at once in a more fragile position and less part of the social consciousness than are Marvel’s mutants.

In the X-Men universe, mutants are constantly under attack or stress from non-mutants, but they also have allies and their own place, their own “nation” even, from which to build (relative) safety and solidarity. “Mutant” is also a recognized social category in the Marvel Universe (as poignantly, and recently, explored in Generation Hope #9). By contrast, the only people who seem particularly aware of the existence of Alphas are government intelligence agents and Dr. Rosen. In the Alphas storyworld, I might have an extraordinary ability, but would have no way of placing myself in relation to others. While Rosen may represent an ideology of integration between Alphas and non-Alphas, his team do not stand as a symbol of identification as the X-Men do. When and if I am identified as an “Alpha” I run the risk of being warped into a tool for the government or locked away at “Binghamton”. My best choice might be to get accepted onto Rosen’s team, but, from some perspectives, as the series has made clear, that choice  is, so far, little more than another way of being made into a government tool (this is precisely the pitch that Rosen uses on Cameron to get him on the team; be sent off to scary place or join me, either way, we own you).

One of the qualities that makes “Catch and Release” one of, if not the, best episodes of the series so far is that it raises the issue of individual rights for Alphas, or the right to choose a life that involves neither being in Rosen’s group nor in Binghamton. Rosen’s decision to enable that choice for Skylar is a sign of the more tenuous position that known Alphas find themselves in relative to mutants in the MU, which is to say, Rosen is starting to think that it might be safer, for some individuals at least, to go underground than for them to be held too close to the intelligence agents with whom he works. I have a hard time imagining Charles Xavier or Scott Summers taking a similar posture towards most mutants and the X-Men, or, certainly, Utopia. Again, I think the idea of mutants having self-determination is the crucial difference here. Alphas, as far as we know, are scattered and relatively rare, even compared to mutants post-M Day.

Another difference I have noticed between the show and X-Men in its various forms, is how the series is crossing Alpha abilities with mental conditions like Gary’s and Anna’s (“Rosetta”). In X-Men, “mutation” has become a metaphor for difference; mutant/non-mutant is the fundamental divide in the world. Being a mutant is, in the relevant contexts, like other forms of subordinated identity, but mutations generally present as their own conditions. Alphas suggests that being Alpha may present as a form of “disability”, at least when following existing norms for brain function, and for ways of communicating with others and relating with the world. To most people, or, at least, in North America, Anna and Gary already seem “special”, but the meaning of that category changes radically when you move from thinking of those individuals as “disabled” to seeing them as “super abled”, something that current social prejudices would prevent most people from doing. The fact that Rosen is a psychiatrist bolsters the idea that Alpha-ness is associated with mental illness or disability, and we know that Rachel’s parents think of her as having a disease or sickness, that Cameron has been unable to “fit in”, and so forth. As a metaphor for difference and discrimination, the x-gene is understood more in biological terms, as akin to race or sexuality, than it is understood as psychiatric or neurological.

In addition to being a psychiatrist, Dr. Rosen is also notable for not being an Alpha, and for that reason is a kind of liminal figure on the show, neither fully trusted by Alphas nor by non-Alphas. Xavier for all of his belief in homo sapien and homo superior living in cooperation, is a mutant who advocates for mutants. Rosen’s position is more ambiguous, as he himself seems to be realizing.

A lot can change on the series, particularly as the number of known Alphas increases, and if and when their existence comes to be more widely known. I think that the show has done an interesting job in giving the central cast a set of abilities that can go unnoticed or be explained away, but after too many scenes like the rescue in “Bill and Gary’s Excellent Adventure” or the Red Flag operations in “Rosetta”, it will stretch credulity to think that no one outside of government intelligence and a few known Alphas would know about people with superpowers. In either case, these are the narrative directions that will push Alphas even further onto the same ground as X-Men.

Checking in on TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY at mid-season

At the mid-point of Torchwood: Miracle Day, for me, whether the series proves to have been worthwhile or simply a high concept mess depends on who or what is actually behind “the miracle”; and here I, like the central cast, am assuming that PhiCorp is not at the end of the plot. I am pretty open-minded about possible explanations, but at the very least I think there should be something like the Wolfram & Hart Senior Partners moving all of the pieces, if not some force to which PhiCorp is little more than a handmaiden, like Pope & Zinco in B.P.R.D. I would be perfectly happy for PhiCorp to turn out to be essentially opportunistic, unconnected to the who or what of the miracle.

Otherwise, the series leaves you with a pretty venal and stupid corporate conspiracy as the mechanism for the plot, and one that cannot possibly sustain the series premise over the course of ten episodes (or, really, any episodes).

Just imagine this board meeting:
“Hey, you know if we could make it so people stopped dying, but still could feel pain or suffer from chronic disease and debilitation, we could guarantee a permanent market for our product.”
“You’re right. But what about the excess population? You know, people who are essentially ‘dead’ or who can’t pay for the drugs they night need.”
“Gee, I dunno. Maybe we could incinerate them.”
“Hmmm. Yeah. That could work. Let’s get on this.”

Evil, sure, but also mind-bogglingly dumb as a business plan. While the corporate element seems like a necessary part of the story being told, it does not seem sufficient to fulfill the plot. The fact that Jack is mortal at the same moment as others are made immortal also suggests some kind of will at work beyond the ken of an earth-bound corporation, no matter how greedy or big it is. I trust that PhiCorp will, indeed, turn out to be nothing more than a shell or even irrelevant to what’s really going on.

Making the underlying secret of “Miracle Day” a good one is also important because as the series has become more heavily plot-driven, it has, paradoxically, also become more lax. Most of the key details to the Torchwood crew’s investigation have been yadda yadda-ed, as in, the team needs to get into this or that highly secure facility, yadda yadda, and they’re inside.

Even when the writers bother to note complications, these are so easily dismissed in the script that I am left wondering what the point was.

In the most recent episode, for example, Rex mentions, off-handedly, that he has started to heal. Leaving aside the greater significance of what this revelation means to the miracle, the immediate implication is that this will make it harder for him to be placed into category one containment. Seems like a problem to be worked, right?

Not so much. Not only is there no strategizing over this challenge, but the computer networks and procedures for the camp are so leaky that Esther, posing as no one more significant than a brand-new clerical worker, can, on the spot, not only reclassify Rex, but order medical staff to act on the new orders.

This, however, pales in comparison to the ridiculousness of Gwen and Rhys not only managing to get all of the appropriate credentials for access to the Overflow Camp housing Gwen’s dad, but also being allowed to just hang out after their cover is blown. Rhys, in fact, seems to actually pick up work while there, and, in short order, learns what the supposedly highly secret Modules are for.

There are aspects of the police procedural and the heist film to Torchwood, but the show is not fully of either of those genres. I am fine if there are details which get glossed over so long as it is in the service of something interesting, and that something has yet to be revealed in Miracle Day.

What I find most frustrating about the most recent episode, particularly, is that it seems as if it would only take a few minutes of showing members of the team doing reconnaissance to establish that the pace and scale of events are such that there are holes in the security networks  to be exploited. There is no reason to just rely on the idea that everyone here is so awesome and charming that they can break into whatever facility they choose.

Through the first three episodes the series focused on philosophical and affective reactions to the miracle. In the last two, the show has taken a hard turn to the political, and I am struck that there are no notable characters here within government. The governmental response to the crises coming out of Miracle Day appears to have been dropped from the sky.

And maybe that is what happened, bringing me back to the beginning of this piece and hoping that the second half of the series shows us something big and interesting underneath the surface of events.

(And, as a side note, as much as Dr. Juarez is one of my favorite characters, I was not terribly moved by her death, but maybe that is because at the heart of the series is the conceit that people can no longer die, which raises provocative questions about what happens after incineration. Or maybe it is indicative of a series that hasn’t been able to develop an emotional core yet).

May “Worlds in Panels”: the wider fandom for comics adaptations

This month’s “Worlds in Panels” posted at PopMatters yesterday. I speculate on why people who don’t read comics get deeply committed to TV and film adaptations of comics characters, particularly superheroes.

Comic books, more particularly comic book characters, especially superheroes, are woven into the warp and weft of American popular culture. People can and do become fans of characters like Batman and Spider-Man without reading comics. More importantly, I can start conversations about iconic characters with all kinds of people in all kinds of places in the United States, and most likely, I will get responses that show a clear idea or image of those characters. Those ideas or images maybe positive or negative, or something else, but that flash of recognition is a sign of comics’ familiarity and meaning for readers and non-readers alike.

Read the column

Joss Whedon special section at PopMatters

On Friday, Robert Moore introduced a PopMatters Spotlight on Joss Whedon. Moore’s essay critically reviews Whedon’s body of work, and then asks, “Why do his shows resonate so strongly with his viewers?” Moore suggests that Whedon’s films and TV shows (and, presumably, comics) work because he likes what his audiences like, and, most importantly, does what he can within limits imposed by networks and producers, to deliver on those tastes and preferences. He also argues that Whedon’s work attracts loyal fans because he respects their intelligence, and that he demonstrates an authentic interest in and respect for women, a rare quality in Hollywood and in mainstream comics.

My favorite passage is from that last section of the essay. Like Moore’s motivation for writing these paragraphs, I have personal, as well as  political, reasons for appreciating Whedon’s interest in making strong, complicated female characters central in his work.

I have a twelve year-old daughter who is currently trying to watch Buffy and Angel as fast she can, and who has already devoured Firefly. I think that Moore perfectly captures why Whedon’s work has been significant in helping to change how American pop culture is gendered.

Why is this important? Why particularly is it crucial that there be these vital, strong, heroic women?

Here I must turn personal. As a single-father raising a young girl, I quickly appreciated how desperately my daughter wanted to see heroic girls and women in movies and on TV. Watching Peter Pan, she unexpectedly viewed Wendy as the hero of the story. Many classic films were rejected when we visited the video store, my daughter asking instead for movies “with girl heroes.” This was immediately before Buffy, and after The Wizard of Oz, The Journey of Natty Gann, and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind we were faced with slim pickings.

All this changed with Buffy. Instead of a handful of movies or television series with strong girls and women, there are a host. It is possible that shows like Fascape, Roswell, Dark Angel, Alias, Veronica Mars, Battlestar Galactica, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Fringe would have appeared anyway, but the fact is that it was only after Buffy that such shows hit the networks in any quantity.

I learned firsthand just how important it is for young girls—or even older girls—need to feel that it is OK to be strong. It is just as important for men to grasp and understand that it is a great thing for women to be every bit as strong and heroic as we popularly assume that men can be.

My daughter wanted “girl heroes” that she could identify with and whose exploits she could enjoy. Unfortunately, she had few. Today, post-Buffy, there are many. Anyone who has helped change the cultural landscape to that degree deserves considerably more than a Spotlight.

The first regular entry in the series, Laura Berger’s, “Joss Whedon 101” piece on the Buffy movie, also appeared on Friday. I am looking forward to the rest of the Spotlight, which you can track from its homepage.

Recommended daily reading – 2 March (yes, I still do this edition)

I finally compiled enough links to post a new round-up.

In the area of teaching and learning:

  • At Inside Higher Ed, Robert Eisinger writes about the importance of “teaching ambiguity”. This is one of my great challenges. Cultural geographers deal with subjects that are ambiguous in their meaning and significance, and one thing I try to do is to help students develop tools and perspectives that enable them to effectively address topics where answers can be open-ended and much depends on the questions asked and in what context.
  • Curiosity Counts provides this quick hit about teens and geo-location services.

Turning to geography-related matters:

  • Jake Tobin Garrett has a defense of “messiness” in Toronto, and in cities in general. While one way to look at telephone polls plastered with fliers is as eyesores, Garrett points to them as indicators of a city’s creativity and energy.
  • SightLine has an interesting look at traffic volume in the Pacific Northwest, and how it has fallen short of expectations, suggesting that transportation planning need not be as car-oriented as it has been.

Renee French posted this image of a woman with a closed eye that I can’t quite shake. I think there is something compelling in the contract between the enclosed eye and the open one.

This, via ComicsAlliance, is awesome news, even if it is speculative.

Finally, I found The Mary Sue, a new blog devoted to girl geek culture, via GeekGirlCon on Twitter. And at The Mary Sue, Susana Polo has an interesting post arguing for women, and sexual minorities, to strategically gender or “out” themselves online as a way to break down the idea that the internet is a male/masculine space. The discussion in comments is well worth reading, too. While you are there, read Polo’s introduction/mission statement for the site.

On finishing BUFFY SEASON EIGHT

I had been thinking about what I might want to write about Buffy Season Eight even before reading issue number forty and Joss Whedon’s letter at the end of the “episode”, as well his EW interview, which I had stored away in my “read later” section on Pinboard.

And what I had been thinking about runs parallel to Whedon’s remarks on the end of this first comics season for Buffy. In particular, I think that these comments from the EW interview, and also represented in the letter, identify what made Season Eight both exciting and frustrating:

I got very excited when I had a comic book with the idea that I could do absolutely anything. We hit a lot of beautiful notes and I’ve got a lot of great writers working [on the comics], and I’m very proud of it. But at the same time, it’s like, yeah, “You can do anything” is not really the Buffy mission statement. The Buffy mission statement is, “What does this feel like?”

With the comic, we just sort of said, “Wheee!” Ultimately, “Wheee!” caught up with us in a cavalcade of mythology. It became clear, as it did with the show, that people really liked when Buffy’s adventures reflect what she’s going through in her life [and] what we’re going through in our lives at that age. That was the thing in season 8 that we didn’t tap into as much as I think we ultimately should have.

As I remarked in this column on PopMatters, the scale and scope of the storytelling in Season Eight is much greater than it ever was, or could be, on television. While this undoubtedly took advantage of the new medium, sometimes bigger is just bigger, not better. That the creative team recognizes this is not only apparent in paratexts like the letter and the interview, but also in the text of issue number forty.

One of the strengths of Buffy on TV is how consistently the series deals with the consequences of big events and character choices. And that’s what the final issue of Season Eight is about – the aftermath of what Buffy did to conclude “Last Gleaming” (#36-#39). While destroying the seed of magic creates a break in the storyworld it also constitutes a beginning, one where the effects of Buffy’s action have to be dealt with, both on a personal level for the characters and also in terms of how the universe works. This is strong storytelling, and looks to be the jumping off point for Season Nine, for which Whedon seems to be promising less grand theatrics and more character-driven narratives.

For me, I think the apex of the “wheee” thinking is in the Brad Meltzer written “Twilight” issues (#32-#35), where Buffy and Angel have explicit, epic, universe creating sex. For one constraint or another – censors, budgets – this storyline would have been impossible to work into the TV series, and likely so even if it had not been on a broadcast network.

And I’m still not sure what I think about this particular piece of the Season Eight story, or what it added to the mythology of the Buffyverse, or to our understanding of Buffy’s relationship with Angel. It still feels to me as if it was done more because it could be done, and not as much because it was an entirely good or compelling idea.

A more minor “we did it because we could” moment in Season Eight is the reappearance of Warren. In terms of technique, aesthetics, and budgets, a drawn character who has no skin is a much better proposition than a live action version, but the narrative reasons for bringing Warren back, really skin or no, still elude me. There is also the question of what his appearance in the comics implies for season seven and how the First Evil works. I’ve done some research, and know that a rationale has been given (wanked) for how Warren could both be used by the First Evil and come back in uncovered flesh and blood for Season Eight, but I don’t find the explanation compelling in light of the limited pay off for needing to rationalize the choice at all.

To be honest, I’m not sure Amy needed to be brought into the new comics either, but with her there might be future uses that could still result in something interesting. More importantly, her introduction into Season Eight did not create meta-narrative level problems requiring readers to either forget what they had been told previously and/or some kind of patch for the mythology to remain consistent at a pretty fundamental level.

On the other hand, I agree with Whedon that Giant Dawn is maybe the best example of how the writers and artists took advantage of the medium in Season Eight. All of Dawn’s transmogrifications worked for both humor and character development, giving Dawn adversity to overcome, and helping her to mature as her feelings of being different take on literal form.

“Wolves at the Gate” (#12-#15) stands as one of my favorite mini-arcs of the season. Giant Dawn, of course, plays a major role in that story, but I also like how Drew Goddard writes Dracula as both a powerful and a vulnerable character, and the shift of the action to Tokyo is another good example of using comics to good effect (I did not particularly care for the killing off of Renee, but was not surprised by it either).

“No Future for You” (#6-#9) and “Time of Your Life” (#16-#19) are my two other favorite series within the series. The latter, like “Wolves at the Gate”, takes Buffy into a high concept world that would have been impossible to render in an effective way on TV, but also gave fans a much anticipated crossover with Fray, drew out some very long term implications of the present-day story, and brought Karl Moline back to the Buffyverse. I think that Whedon’s rendering of an even thicker version of future slang for this mini is a good use of bringing Buffy into Fray’s New York, giving readers what they don’t have in Fray, which is someone in the story who has to navigate that time and place from an unfamiliar position.

The Drew Goddard written “No Future for You” knows its core characters well, and provides a superb reintroduction of Faith, but is also the first point in the series where Georges Jeanty and Andy Owens showed me a real weakness in their art. For the most part, the comics versions of the characters took on effective lives of their own, different from, but related to, their live action counterparts, but the early attempts at drawing Faith did not work well for me at all, making her seem, of all things, dumpy. By the end of the whole series, she starts looking sharper and more Faith-like, but initially, not a high point for the art in Season Eight.

Looking back on the single issue stories from Season Eight:

  • In “The Chain” (#5), Joss Whedon writes a story that ably explores the tougher side of running a Slayer army.
  • Also written by Whedon and appearing in succession are “Anywhere But Here” (#10) and “A Beautiful Sunset” (#11). The former is notable to me for Cliff Richards’s art, which, as always, provides effective comic book likenesses of the characters. The latter reveals Satsu’s love for Buffy and also brings the series around to questions of love and sexuality that it kind of punted with Willow by making her a fully committed Lesbian. Anne-Marie and I have always talked about how it would be more interesting if Willow simply loved who she loved, male or female, than it is for her to have not only discovered an attraction to women, but also that she is, in some sense, exclusive in her attractions. Buffy’s sexuality seems to have become more fluid with time, and that is interesting, and well worth the static this revelation earned the creators on the letters page.
  • “After these Message … We’ll be Right Back!” (#20), by Jeph Loeb, “Harmonic Divergence” (#21), by Jane Espenson, and “Swell” (#22), by Steven S. DeKnight all provided fun diversions from the main story, playing with cultural trends and keeping the series grounded in everyday life.
  • Whedon’s “Turbulence” (#31) is strong bridge between “Retreat” (#26-#30) and “Twilight”, and introduces one of the most interesting aspects of Season Eight for me: Buffy’s superpowers, a development made even more intriguing given their source. This story poses interesting issues about power and the costs of using it that are well within the scope of both the series itself and superhero comics in general. Granting Buffy new powers, even for a few moments, serves to ground her in that larger tradition, but in a way that seems very organic, and not forced.

In considering my review, clearly I have more doubts about the latter third of the series than the remainder, but there are, of course, moments I liked. Spike leading a pack of spacefaring bugs, for example, is crazy fun, and the character wears that kind of thing well. I also am impressed that, in issue forty, Whedon manages to make Kennedy interesting, albeit at Willow’s expense.

However, I do not know what to write about Giles’s death at the hands of Angel. On the one hand, this death is less cheap than Anya’s is in season seven. On the other hand, I am not sure what to make of the how it happened, or whether this is, in fact, the time to actually take Giles out of the storyworld (the previous time this happened did not work out so well, but everyone was younger then, too). I hope that this a thread that gets woven into Season Nine and/or the new Angel books from Dark Horse.

Mostly, I am interested to see if the new series does, in fact, follow the lines outlined by Whedon so far. If it does, that will be for the better, and will also, I think, keep giving Buffy (and Buffy) a meaningful life in comics. What I hope does not change is Jo Chen as the primary cover artist. Virually every cover she made for Season Eight is a frameable work of art. Still, I am open to change and surprise even here.