Since I reviewed Volume Five before I received this pretty parcel, I know what will be coming down the road. This review could have a bit of a spoiler taste to it, but I promise to be as good a girl as I’m able and keep peeks to a minimum. Well golly, you’re welcome.
Buffy, the Slayers and the Scoobs are gearing up for a showdown. As with Wolves at the Gate, make sure you are up on your Buffyverse before you tackle Time Of Your Life. I’ll go so far as to say that a reading of Fray would come in handy as well, since Melaka Fray makes a Hyped-In-Volume-Three-So-This-Ain’t-No-Spoiler appearance here. With a character as strong as Melaka Fray and an intriguing, fully-fleshed future world mythology, I recommend it even though I have yet to read it myself. Even if you have a firm knowledge of what has gone before in Season Eight and Fray, this is something to read, then immediately re-read. Once everything has played out, there’s a sixth sense-like “how’d I miss that?” feeling that will have you riffling through the pages to see what you did or didn’t pick up on.
But to the matter at hand. The main story line in Time Of Your Life deals with a temporal rift that pulls Buffy into the future. Two hundred years into the future, to be exact. Buffy meets Melaka Fray (a name that always cracks me up, because the way her name is pronounced means something rather insulting in Greek). Mel is her generation’s slayer. Yep, the only one. Because in that world, there haven’t been slayers for a very long time; Mel is the first to be called in generations. The how and the why isn’t addressed here, though (but there are hints in earlier Season Eight volumes). Buffy doesn’t have it easy in this brave new world, however. Mel’s got her own set of problems to deal with, and she’s not ready to trust “… a tiny, whiny long-dead Slayer . . . in a damned impractical frock.”
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, circa nowadays. Dawn is going through her changes, morphing from her Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman status to something a bit more manageable though no less strange. Dawn and Xander deal with the fallout from Wolves At The Gate and get to log in some serious warrior time. Willow goes after answers in all the wrong places, and only Buffy knows what kind of price Willow could ultimately pay. And we get to see more of the Season Eight Big Bad, Twilight, which I’m sure will lead up to the Big Reveal in some future issue. Which isn’t gonna be so big to those who got that spoiled for us. Er, them. I’ll spare you that mess by keeping my tapping fingers silent on that piece of spoilerage. (Though you can hustle through Volume 5 and on to Volume 6, Retreat, for more on Twilight.) Other pieces start to fall into place, with characters of old make appearances, but to what end?
But first, back to Willow. At the start of Time she’s dressed in what looks like Tara’s old number from “Once More With Feeling.” Not exactly the typical Willow-wear, and I’m wondering why they’ve changed that for her. And with the drawing in this volume the only way I figured out it was indeed Willow was her red hair and the way everyone called her “Willow.” Which is disheartening, since the Wicked Willow image on the cover of this volume is almost photographic in intensity. I don’t expect every frame in a graphic novel to be cover art, but I do expect a continuity of features, which doesn’t seem to play in this instance. There are a few drawings of Willow that are what readers are used to seeing, but they only serve to highlight the bland majority of images. Dawn and Buffy also get more than their share of wobbly representation, though not to the same extent. With so much going on with the storyline, these illustrations don’t look like a best effort. They look slapped together to make a deadline. I can’t draw even a stick figure to save my very soul, so I understand how difficult it is to create any type of artwork. But to see a series that usually has absolutely amazing artwork looks so piecemeal this time around is heartbreaking.
To set this volume apart from the others Season Eight tomes, this one has no cute chapter or individual issue titles. They’re simply Part One through Part Four. That’s because it plays out like a true graphic novel rather than individual issues. The action is non-stop, and the bombshells dropped will have you scurrying for the next installment. Fans of the lighthearted or one-off bits shouldn’t worry though, they haven’t forgotten to put a little treat in this volume. After the basic storyline plays out, Time ends with “After These Messages . . . We’ll Be Right Back!” This tale transports our heroine to an earlier, “happier” time. Jeanty’s anime-like artwork and Lee Loughridge’s vivid candy-coated colors give the dream sequence a childlike warmth made all the more innocent by the story wrapped around it. It’s a brief rest before things gear up in future issues and volumes.
Since Time Of Your Life seems to be the only piece of Melaka Fray we’ll be getting for a while here at Season Eight, you may want to give it a look (or a quick re-read if you already have it.) Mel’s world is rocked — and possibly changed — at the end of this volume, so I can only hope another Fray spin-off isn’t too far behind. Until then, Time Of Your Life is a bittersweet love note to Melaka Fray that gives Buffy fans a whole lot to think about as they wait for the next chapters of this saga to unfold.
(Dark Horse Books, 2009)