The Buffy Season 8 comic series started off with a 4-issue arc that was just okay, then produced the best single-issue comic I have ever read in my life (“The Chain”), and then managed to sustain some serious quality through the second 4-issue arc, “No Future For You”.
I have always liked the character of Faith–I thought she had some complexity, some struggles, some ambiguity. And this arc is exactly where the character has needed to go. This is Faith’s transition-to-adulthood story. In this arc, she recognizes her value in the fight outside of her constant comparisons with Buffy–she realizes the limitations of Buffy’s super-special chosen one status, the things that she can do that Buffy will never be able to understand, not just in spite of her troubled past, but because of it.
The final issue in the story arc opens with Faith reminiscing on the impact that the mayor had on her. On one level, it may have been easy for her to hate him, for her to blame him for a lot of the things she did at one point. She knows that others see him as pure evil and as exploitative, but she can’t do that. She keeps the thoughts to herself, but she says
Even today, it’s still hard to look back on my time with that guy…and feel anything but loved.
She’s neither simple victim nor caricatured demonic evil in this depiction. This kind of complex, ambiguous morality is not often allowed to villainous women in fiction or in media depictions of events–we must construct them either as shaped entirely by the whims of the male forces in their lives, too dumb to even make the wrong decision of their own intellectual merits, or as cackling witch-like creatures doing evil (usually to men) just because it’s fun. Here, Faith finally gets to just be a person who maybe made some bad decisions for very human reasons.
I’ve also always liked the Buffyverse theme that uses their overall struggle as a broad metaphor for “fighting” the forces of darkness in the real world, and this story arc wraps up in a way that highlights some really important elements of that. Giles and Faith, feeling wearied by being on the front lines of the battle, start talking about the ways that they might be able to use their experience to help in more grassroots, behind-the-scenes ways. It’s a beautiful moment of character strength for both of them, and it includes a note of remorse at the way their decisions on how to fight that fight have led to divisions between them and Buffy.
But the final two pages of the comic reveal that whatever they do, the bad guys are a step ahead of them. The forces pulling the strings in this world have goals that are bigger and worse than even those right in the thick of it can imagine, and the decisions our heroes make can do good on a small, direct level, but haven’t even scratched the surface of the big picture. It’s this part that, to me, really made the story get at the metaphor so well, and brings out the best of what Buffy is for.