This review comes from the perspective of an a) Buffy/Angel fan and b) a non-comic reader-- except for the Angel: After the Fall (aka Angel: Season 6) run.
I bought this set because I wanted to know what became of the characters I spent 7 (12 if you count 'Angel') seasons with. Which is the same reason I bought the printed Angel: After the Fall volumes. Unfortunetly, I just couldn't get into those volumes all that much. The artwork was interesting, the writing is Whedon-esque and all but the story just didn't hit me. And that's probably mostly due to my hang ups/weaknesses as a comic reader. The non-sequential nature of comics leave me wondering how what I'm reading fits into the overall story. There are side stories, spin-offs, one-offs and time jumps that make the plot hard to follow. I had hoped to avoid some of that confusion with Buffy: Season 8 by going the motion comic route.
The most important thing you need to know about this product is that it only features 19 motion comic "issues." Season 8's printed comic run is 40+ issues. Why this is being promoted as "Season 8" when it's really less than 1/2 of Season 8 is beyond me. There's no reason FOX couldn't have slapped a "Volume One" below the title. Fans and nerds would get it. I mean, it's not like they're ripping us on the content. Each motion comic "issue" runs between 10 and 15 minutes. That's A LOT of Buffy. Nerds have waited months between seasons, years between movies... They can take being told what they're about to buy is only "Volume One."
Once you've swallowed that pill...
The voice actors--Faith being an exception--don't sound anything like the real actors. Worse than that, often they don't try to read the lines the way I believe the writer intended. If even 50% of the cast tried as hard as the actress who played Faith did then I would've been happy. The Xander comes in at a far second. Willow and Andrew miss the mark the most. The Whedon voice, which is on the page, just doesn't shine through. I've found myself rethinking most of the lines as if the actor I know would have said them. It's a bit frustrating and takes an "issue" or two to get used to but rethinking and interpreting how lines should sound is actually a perfect re-creation of reading a comic, right? Not so sure that's a plus to a motion comic with voice actors.
When it comes down to it though, would I rather have the actors from the series or the writers? I'd go writers. And you get `em. These 19 motion issues were written by staff writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. Comic writer and "LOST" alumni Brian K. Vaughn makes his first visit to the Buffyverse in this motion comic. Unfortunately, issues by Buffy/Angel writers Jane Espenson, Steven S. DeKnight, Drew Greenberg and Doug Petrie were not produced or included here as they are from the second half of Season 8. Joss and Co. haven't forgotten the voice and soul of the show--even if the limitations of a comic, a MOTION comic and "fake" versions of our characters don't always allow it to come through.
"'Limitations of a comic?' What are those?" It's tough to tell who's talking sometimes. This is due to both the actors AND the images. While it's a stylistic choice, the artwork is not always detailed enough to figure out who's talking when you don't recognize the voice. It's quite easy to mix up Willow, Dawn, Buffy and random slayer soldiers.
Now, in some ways "limitations" was a poor word choice since there are NO limitations in comics. But some people may not like that. This isn't exactly like the show you know and love. The monsters and situations are bigger and odder. Because we never saw creatures/situations like that on broadcast television, they seem a bit out of place here. It's a different world than the one we knew before. And some of that is actually due to the events in the series finale. So, while it works for the comic medium, you should not expect to see something exactly like you're used to.
In my opinion there are two really involving and satisfying arcs. Arcs where I was able to ignore all the negatives and just get into the story. Oddly, they each contain one of my favorite and least favorite characters from all the Buffy-verse. Character appearance SPOILER ONLY... Those two arcs are Faith's "No Future For You" and "Wolves at the Gate," which features the return of Dracula. He's the character I never liked. I love the last moment of his episode but otherwise found it to be disposable and a wasted opportunity. Here he is funnier and just all-around more interesting than in Season Five's "Buffy vs. Dracula."
EDIT: Since first writing this review, I've read the rest of Buffy: Season 8-- issues 20-40 and 2 one-offs.
It's really a shame they haven't committed to producing the other issues in this format. While the story only gets odder and more divisive among fans, there are 2 or 3 more arcs I'd love to see done this way. But this release does what it's supposed to do. It tells you half(-ish)the story of Buffy: Season 8. The actors aren't perfect, the story/action doesn't always make the most sense-- and for that matter neither does the source material-- but it's an entertaining story starring great characters whose lives didn't stop just because production did.
FOX has done something very stupid with the packaging on this release. Something which I believe was done on the Dollhouse: Season One sets. There is a fairly nice quality artwork slip on the front of the packaging. NOT the Blu-Ray case. The PACKAGING. It's on top of and glued to the shrink wrap. I guess maybe this was a last minute addition? And oh, yeah... the artwork DOES NOT fit inside the Blu-Ray case. The all-around inclusion, placement and size of that artwork is just another nonsensical choice from FOX on this release. A mini version of Buffy: Season 8, Issue #1 is included, though. I'm unsure if it will be included with every release of this set or just the first printing.
If you haven't read the comics, can put up with different voices and want to catch up with characters you loved for seven seasons then this is for you. Just have realistic expectations about what you're getting and think of this as a radio play with pictures-- which, by the way, look great in HD despite the lack of detail provided by the artist. Unfortunately, you must be willing to accept an incomplete release. Had it contained all 40+ issues on 2 or 3 Blu-Rays, then it would be a no-brainer of a "yes." Sadly, the story is incomplete and purchasers should be prepared for a re-release or Volume 2 in the future.