Buffy Season 8 Spoilers
I'm practically wetting myself. (I'd actually wet myself if these were the first five pages from the Issue 1 of the Firefly Season 2 comic. Hopefully, that's in the pipeline... but if it is, I haven't heard.)
In interviews, Whedon has gone on about how comics afford the opportunity to broaden the scope--they're no longer shackled to the TV series' relatively low budget--but I don't think that's the biggest advantage. (It may not be an advantage at all. The final season of Angel, with the budget severely cut back, was the best written and acted season they ever did. The writers made up for lack of money with ingenuity.)
The biggest advantage, in my opinion, is that they can bring back good characters they lost when the actors left the show. First and foremost -- Tara.
Sure, she died, but the intention was to bring her back. In the Buffyverse, death is just a phase--like streaking. (Oh, like you've never done it.)
I'm still not sure why Amber Benson (Tara) decided not to come back for the final year (she was asked). Maybe because if she had, the plan was to have her play the season's heavy.
Or, rather, the heavy--which could only appear as dead people--would've played her.
To me, there's something appealingly sinister about the idea of saintly Tara reincarnated as a moustache twirling devil. I think it would've given the final season some bite (pardon the pun)--and it was sorely lacking in that department. An Evil Tara hanging over the season--and the inevitable resurreection of the real deal--would also have given Willow a more satisfying final arc. (Unlike Angel, Buffy's final season is undoubtedly the worst season they ever did.)
Ultimately, the heavy appeared primarily as Buffy--who had, after all, died on the show... twice. *snore*
The comic could also bring back Oz (Willow's other... hetero... love interest), and Riley, Buffy's similarly unorthodox one-time love interest (unorthodox 'cause, y'know, he was human... which, in the end, was why it didn't work out. Buffy only likes the bad boys.)
Both were interesting characters in their own right, particularly Oz, who's the least explored Buffy regular (having been written out early in season 4 after Seth Green appeared in some big movie, can't remember what).
Interesting character-oriented things would happen if Oz returned to the fold now. With Riley, it'd be more plot-based. If Buffy is fielding a private Slayer army all over the world to take down vampires and monsters of all stripes, how could she not butt heads with The Initiative, Riley's US army black ops division, which is running around the world doing the same thing?
Obviously, Angel & Spike could come back, too--and Whedon has indicated that they will, though apparently not in large doses. IDW holds the license to publish comics based on the spin-off, but the Buffy comics are published by Dark Horse. Presumably, that puts characters original to the spin-off (e.g., fan-favorite Illyria) completely off the menu.
Which kinda blows, 'cause that's another thing comics can do well that TV shows can't do at all: the big crossover. Not like Arnold and Willis Jackson visiting their former housekeeper Mrs Garrett at an all-girl prep school in Peakskill, or one of The Golden Girls popping up on Empty Nest to drool over Richard Mulligan, but a real, fully integrated merger of two casts. Maybe Dark Horse & IDW can work something out. Even DC & Marvel have been known to do it from time to time.
Anyway, Buffy Season 8 debuts the first week of March with a 4 issue mini-series written by Whedon. Subsequent mini-series will be written by vets from the show--Jane Espenson, Drew Goddard, Drew Greenberg, and Stephen DeKnight--and two of the best writers in comics, Brian K Vaughan (who has just made the jump to TV, joining the writing staff at Lost), and Brad Meltzer--whose new Justice League is very good.
The Season 8 project is slated to run about 25-30 issues, or about two and a half years.
Oh, and here's the cover for Issue 2. Note increased Xander hotness factor, and prepare for many snarky Nick Fury references.