Buffy, Willow, Xander, Dawn, Giles, Angel, Spike, Faith, and Fray return for one final apocalyptic showdown against the forces of darkness in Season 12 of the Boom! comics Buffy the Vampire Slayer continuation. Unlike previous seasons, Season 12 has only four issues and a more narrow focus. The shortened season is due to an impending deadline when 20th Century Fox regained the rights to Buffy and wanted to reboot the series. This just made me realize that Disney now owns Buffy and I shudder to think what they are going to do with her. Anyway…
It’s been one year since the internment camps and magical being repression laws were revoked after Buffy, Willow, and Faith took down the political big bad that was making their lives hell in season 11. Dawn and Xander have a baby daughter, Joyce (awww), and Buffy is now thirty and working as a consultant to the San Francisco police on magical crime investigation. Things are going relatively well. Until one night when Angel arrives unexpectedly at Dawn and Xander’s housewarming party with warning of another impending apocalypse. Naturally, the evil law firm Wolfram & Hart are involved, along with an unexpected foe who knows what the Scoobies are going to do before they do. Before long the gang is back in action with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.
The main drive behind the season 12 story is to close the loop on the 2001 Fray graphic novel. In that story, Buffy travels to the 23rd century and meets Melaka Fray, the last Slayer. Fray lives in a future dystopia and tells Buffy that the Slayer line was extinguished centuries before. Fray concludes with Buffy being forced to confront a nearly immortal Dark Willow. Why Willow went dark again, and what happened to the Slayers had never been answered. These questions have hung over the Buffy series continuation. Willow knows she goes dark again, but she doesn’t know why. Buffy and the Slayers know their line will be extinguished but not the cause. Season 12 answers those questions and delivers a satisfying if somewhat rushed, conclusion to the entire original Buffy saga and the various spin-off titles.
It is the inclusion of the other titles where I lost some focus with Season 12. To pad out the short length of the Season 12 hardcover with more content, the collected edition includes the Giles: Girl Blue one-shot arc, which canonically takes place during the events of Season 11. In this story, Giles as a sixteen-year-old goes undercover in a high school to investigate several disappearances linked to a magical anomaly. There he falls in love with Roux, a two-hundred-year-old black vampire who was turned when she was a slave. It’s an enjoyable story but does not have any impact on the events of Season 12. Then in the actual Season 12 arc, The Reckoning, Giles is back to his normal age. This restoration happened at some point between Season 11 and 12, but occurred in the Angel and Faith title. Additionally, the Season 12 collection includes a single-issue flashback to Buffy in high school and a never seen story about her and Xander saving a young girl from a vampire in a comic book store. Rounding the book out is a preview of the Buffy reboot taking the characters all back to the start when Buffy first arrives in Sunnydale but modernized to now. It’s a beautifully presented volume, with stunning artwork throughout and a handsome presentation.
Season 12 is a goodbye to the original Scooby gang immortalized by the tv show. By circling back to Fray, the writers are able to close a plot point that has been nagging for twenty years. It includes all of the action and witty banter as expected, as well as some surprising callbacks. After the momentous events of Season 11, not to mention the very now social commentary, Season 12 feels like a step back. Maybe if the writers had more time to expand the story some of the story beats would have hit harder. As it stands, there are so many characters with a singular focus in Season 12 there is not a lot of time for character development outside of the arc. The series ends unexpectedly and surprisingly. For those who are curious, I will spoil the ending below. For anyone who has read the preceding seasons, 12 is a worthy second series finale closing the book on the original incarnation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Note: Joss Whedon has Season 12 story credits but is not credited with the scripts.
FINAL SCENE SPOILERS BELOW
SPOILERS (LAST CHANCE)
Everyone lives happily ever after. No, seriously, and I was shocked too. With the help of Fray and her sister, they eventually send the forces of Wolfram and Hart to Hell and kill the Big Bads (Including Mayor Wilkins still in snake form!) with only one casualty (Illyria/Fred), who opens the gate to Hell when it proves to be too much for Willow and Dawn to manage on their own. However, even she isn’t dead and in the end, Angel is making plans to go into Hell to save her once enough time has passed for Illyria to finish mopping up the demons in Hell. When Fray and her sister arrive back in their own time they find a world changed for the better. Buffy and Faith join the newly formed Supernatural Division of the San Francisco police, Andrew and Giles start to reform the Watchers Council, Willow creates a center for women, and Spike and Buffy are able to move on as friends (after quite a lot of on again off again dating throughout the continuation). It’s a nice, unexpected ending that leaves the characters in a good place.