Review: “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Ring Of Fire” by Doug Petrie & Ryan Sook

Title: Ring Of Fire
Writer: Doug Petrie
Artist: Ryan Sook
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Standalone Graphic Novel)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse, 2000

So. You may have noticed that some of these comics I’ve enjoyed, and others I’ve given mediocre to poor reviews. If your memory is exceptionally good, you may remember that I was….not so much a fan of Ryan Sook’s work on a couple of the Spike & Dru stories. There, his style evoked Mike Mignola without ever rising to that level of genius and sophistication. I thought it was too minimalist, I think. Here? Here, I loved it. Sook has improved his craft and tweaked his style a bit, not forsaking his roots but adding to them a previously-unseen degree of sophistication. Here his work still evokes Mignola at times, but has enough detail to truly be called beautiful. I really liked it. The writing was spot-on too, of course, which you would expect from Petrie as one of the show’s stable of writers. The best part? You can read this comic for free online via the BBC! (Link here) I’m going to go back and see if other comics I’ve reviewed are similarly available, post links to that in the relevant reviews. Alternatively, you could find an original edition of it, possibly a reprint (not sure if it’s still being printed or not), or you could find it in the second Buffy omnibus from Dark Horse Comics.

This particular graphic novel is set towards the end of Buffy season 2, after Angel loses his soul and reverts to his Angelus persona but before the explosive season finale. Buffy is reeling from Angel’s betrayal. Giles is nearly out of his mind with grief over the death of Jenny Calendar, dead at Angelus’ hands. Angelus? He’s happy to be back and ready to unleash Hell on Earth. Teamed up with Spike and Drusilla, his current plan involves resurrecting an ancient Samurai demon who once terrorized feudal Japan. Because that’s how this works, he happens to be buried in Sunnydale. And unless Buffy and Giles can get their heads back in the game, Sunnydale may find itself with a new diabolical overlord….

Like I said, this was good stuff all around. I compare the art to Mignola’s….favorably this time! Everyone was recognizable, which isn’t to be taken for granted in early Buffy comics. And as I mentioned before, the writing and characters’ voices were spot on, from dialogue to pacing. It was superb, and I really don’t know how much more I can say without repeating myself. So, I’ll settle for this: this story feels like an episode of the show that never aired. There’s nothing new, nothing earth-shattering here, but it feels like it should be just one more episode as the story moves forward.

In terms of canon this is, as always, a bit tricky. Beyond the fact that none of the comics Whedon had nothing to do with are officially canon, this particular graphic novel has a tightrope to walk. It obviously happens after Angel loses his soul in Buffy S02E14: Innocence, but before the events of the finale. Willow performs some magic in this story, which she really only becomes interested in after S02E19: I Only Have Eyes For You. She needs some assistance from Giles, so I don’t necessarily think this is incompatible with her development on the show, but it does strain credibility that she could do so much so quickly. In an episode ofΒ Angel she quips that re-ensouling Angel was the first spell she ever learned, but that doesn’t have to be taken as gospel. Given these factors, I place this story just before the tw0-part finale to Buffy Season 2.

CONTENT: Some violence, consistent with media from the Buffyverse. Mild language. No real sexual content, aside from mild flirting. Buffyverse vampires, which are debatably occultic, plus some working of magic for the purposes of resurrection. Not to mention that Kelgor is a demon.


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

10 responses to “Review: “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Ring Of Fire” by Doug Petrie & Ryan Sook

  1. Nice review! I’ve been thinking for a while of getting into the Buffy comics, sounds like this could be an easy jumping-on point! Thanks!

    • It is a good starting point, at least in terms of making your first encounter with the franchise in this medium a good one. It is a standalone, though, so there’s no obvious place to go from there. You’ve got options.
      -Cherry-pick! “This one looks good!” “Think I’ll skip that one.” Of the few I’ve read so far, I definitely recommend the “Tales Of The Vampires/Tales Of The Slayers” collections, and the “Spike & Dru” collection was worth reading in spite of the spotty art. (Also, you can read that one for free online!)
      -Chronological order! The Wikipedia page I linked to in the “Series” slot has all the comics in chronological order. Hypothetically, at least. It’s a little spotty on the newer ones. Or you could use the list in my Review Index, but it’s so far from complete it’s not even funny. Also, Dark Horse Comics’ “Buffy The Vampire Slayer Omnibus” series is a more or less chronological collection of all of the older comics.
      -Straight to “Season 8” & “After The Fall!” These previous comics don’t officially count. You could just jump to the “Buffy Season 8” and “Angel: After The Fall” canonical continuations. I’m not, but then I’m a completist.

      • Season 8 was where I was initially thinking, yeah – I actually hadn’t really thought about there being more! Will definitely check out Ring of Fire though, as it sounds like it should be marvellous. Thanks for taking the time for such an in-depth reply, by the way, that was really appreciated!

      • No problem! I don’t usually get comments, so I like to respond to them when I do. πŸ™‚

        A lot of the older comics I’ve read so far have been mediocre to decent, mostly because I started pretty much at the beginning. They haven’t really hit their groove yet. There are a few gems, though, like Ring of Fire. Season 8 and After The Fall are supposed to be incredible, and I can’t wait to get that far….

      • Well based on all that, I’ve decided to invest in Ring of Fire, and while I was there I also picked up the first three volumes from Season 8, looking forward to seeing how this all pans out, and no doubt I’ll feature them in my own blog once I’ve made my way through!

        But keep up the good work! I’ve been enjoying your posts!

      • Happy reading! Have you considered also reading “Angel: After The Fall?” It does the same thing for that show that Season 8 does for Buffy. Supposed to be good, from what I hear.

        Glad you’re enjoying it πŸ™‚

      • I’ve heard of After the Fall, yeah – will probably give that a look once I’ve investigated some of the Buffy stuff!

      • Cool. I know they’re both official canon, but I don’t know exactly how they fit together. My impression is that since “After The Fall” resolves the cliffhanger left by the series finale, and since Angel shows up in Season 8 at some point, that After The Fall happens first. Or maybe it doesn’t. Season 8 was published first, not that that means anything….trying to research the proper timeline there is fraught with spoilers. πŸ˜›

      • That’s kinda why I don’t want to look too far into things! When in doubt, I’ll stick with the publication order! πŸ™‚

      • Usually a good course of action πŸ˜‰

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