Review: “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Viva Las Buffy!” by Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Cliff Richards & Paul Lee

Title: Viva Las Buffy!/Dawn And Hoopy The Bear
Writers: Scott Lobdell & Fabian Nicieza/Paul Lee
Artist: Cliff Richards/Paul Lee
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1998 Dark Horse Series, Issues #51-55)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2003

Like I mentioned in a previous review, my wife and I are watching through Buffy The Vampire Slayer for the first time. Since this is me we’re talking about, I of course had to go out and track down the tie-in comics to go with the show, despite their questionable canonical status…. (I decided to include the one-off issue Dawn And Hoopy The Bear in this review because it fits better with this arc than with the next, and isn’t included with either in the individual TPBs)(EDIT: I was misinformed. It actually is included with Slayer, Interrupted. My bad….)

This particular comic is set between the The Origin/the original screenplay* and the start of the TV series. As we open, Buffy’s in trouble. Her Watcher is dead, her parents are fighting, everyone thinks she’s a nutcase, and to top it off, there’s still slaying to be done. Even without a Watcher to guide her, Buffy hits the streets nightly with Pike to try and keep LA’s bloodsucker population down to a manageable level…and to get out of the house, where her unexplainable antics as the Slayer are proving a great excuse for her parents to fight on an ever-increasing basis. As much to escape this environment as because she feels it’s her duty, Buffy convinces Pike to run away with her to Las Vegas in pursuit of a lead on a nasty nest of vampires. Angel follows, watching Buffy’s back from the shadows unseen. In England, Giles faces a bit more than standard “office politics” in his efforts to be chosen as Buffy’s next Watcher. Meanwhile, little sister Dawn intercepts a stuffed doll intended for Buffy that is far more than it seems, and finds Buffy’s diary…

My reactions to this comic were a little bit mixed. It was well-written, all the characters that I knew sounded and acted like themselves, and it was nice to go back and fill in some of the gaps in the story. This particular installment provided some much-needed closure to the character of Pike, given the fact that he and Buffy are dating at the end of The Origin/the movie but he’s nowhere to be seen once the show starts. So writing-wise, kudos. The art for Viva Las Buffy, however, was just OK. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as I’m used to seeing from Dark Horse. Buffy looked like Buffy, but the rest of the characters weren’t usually recognizable by their appearance as compared to the show (though my unfamiliarity with Pike from anything that wasn’t this comic series did help a bit on that count. He at least looked better than in The Origin.)** A minor complaint, I suppose, but one that pulled down my enjoyment slightly. I also hated the cover to the collection, so I rebelled and used the cover to one of the individual issues for this review. In Dawn And Hoopy The Bear, on the other hand, everyone (who appeared, so basically just Buffy’s mom now that I think of it) actually looked recognizably like their characters.

Despite being official Buffy merchandise, this particularly Dark Horse series isn’t usually considered to be technically canon by fans unless Whedon himself was involved in a particular book, but they try to at least not contradict the series if they can help it. My philosophy is to consider it canon unless it directly contradicts the show, and even there years of reading Star Wars stuff that can be partially retconned at any time has given me a certain…flexibility with regards to how I regard multi-media series. For example, at one point in his own show Angel apparently makes a comment about only having turned one particular person after having his soul returned to him. In this book (and prior to making this statement,) he’s forced to turn another. I integrate this by pointing out that just because a character says something it doesn’t make it true (“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” Really?) and pretending that there’s no conflict. If that doesn’t work for you, find your own rationalization. The parallel universe theory is popular with fans of this series, I hear….Another note, not a contradiction (well, kind of, but…it’s complicated) is that this book does feature Dawn Summers in a small role. If you’re reading this prior to watching the show, you may get confused since Buffy is an only child until late in the series. I’ll let you watch the show to figure out how that all goes down, but just be aware of it here.

If you want to read this, there’s the TPB collection I linked to on Goodreads. That should give you the information you need to track it down. However, that reprint doesn’t include the Dawn And Hoopy The Bear story. (EDIT: It’s included in the next TPB, actually.) Alternatively, like The Origin, Viva Las Buffy and Dawn And Hoopy are both included in Volume I of Dark Horse’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer Omnibus collection.

CONTENT: No profanity. A fair bit of violence, mostly non-bloody since Buffyverse vampires disappear in a cloud of dust when they die. No explicit sexual content, but this is Vegas and they make Buffy wear a fairly skimpy outfit for her cover job as a coat-check girl at the casino. There are vampires, obviously, as well as a bit of occult magic being worked by the Watchers vying to be assigned to Buffy.

*Long story. Check out the linked review for the details there.
**Granted, doing a comic using the likeness of a real person can be challenging, but I’ve seen it done really well by Dark Horse before, so this was a bit of a disappointment.

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Filed under Books, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Comics/Graphic Novels, Reviews

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