Tag Archives: Angelus

Review: “Dark Horse Presents #141: Buffy The Vampire Slayer” by Dan Brereton, Christopher Golden, Andi Watson, Joe Bennett, Hector Gomez, & David Perrin

Oh look! More Buffy. This is a special issue of the anthology comic Dark Horse Presents, focusing on Buffy and her friends. These three stories have apparently never been reprinted anywhere except Buffy The Vampire Slayer Omnibus Volume IV, so they may be hard to find….

Hello Moon
Written by Daniel Brereton & Christopher Golden
Art by Joe Bennett
Rating: *****
Synopsis:
Buffy cuts her patrol short for the night to go for a moonlight stroll on the beach. So of course she meets a fish monster and a quartet of vampires….
Review:
This was great across the board, if a little predictable in its resolution. The art was superb, though I think the vampire designs were a bit recycled from some earlier comics, be they Buffy or Blade….
Continuity: This is supposedly set during Buffy’s third season, but otherwise there’s no clue as to when it happens. I arbitrarily set it after S03E03: Faith, Hope & Trick.

Cursed
Written by Christopher Golden
Art by Hector Gomez
Rating: ****
Synopsis:
Buffy and Angel run into one of Angelus’ old comrades, causing Angel to flash back to just after his transformation as he stalks and kills his former best friend.
Review:
Aside from the fact that this is inconsistent with what we’ve seen in the show, this was actually really good. Gomez’s art still isn’t my favorite, but it didn’t bug me this time. And the story? It was good, an excellent exploration of Angel’s character and his own personal Hell. I only wish it was consistent with the rest of the details we know about the same period.
Continuity:
Like I said, this doesn’t fit. It’s supposed to happen sometime during Season 3 though.

Dead Love
Written by Andi Watson
Art by David Perrin
Rating: ***
Synopsis:
Buffy goes snooping for some light reading, and finds an account of one of Giles’ solo adventures.
Review:
Meh. It wasn’t bad, and the art was okay. I just wasn’t a huge fan. Just….mediocre I guess.
Continuity: Set sometime during Season 3. I arbitrarily stuck it after Revelations, mostly just to keep it out of the insanely-busy later part of the season.

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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 of 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.

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Review: “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: A Stake To The Heart” by Fabian Nicieza & Cliff Richards

Title: A Stake To The Heart
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Cliff Richards
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1998 Dark Horse Series, Issues #60-63)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse, 2004

The Buffy binge continues! Today I bring you A Stake To The Heart, the final arc of the 1998 Dark Horse ongoing series.*

Buffy is out of the institution and back home, but her parents’ failing marriage has finally imploded for good. Watching from afar, Angel devises a plan to try and alleviate the emotional pain gripping Buffy and her family. Not too surprisingly, it backfires and a series of “malignancy demons” are released. Buffy is then forced to battle physical manifestations of the negative emotions she and her family are dealing with.

Plot-wise, this isn’t the most complex of tales. It is, however, very much like the show in that it uses Buffy’s Slayer status to deal with non-tangible issues metaphorically through slaying. It was well-written, with all of the characters ringing true, and pulled the audience full-circle back to where the show started. The art was also great, and whatever problems Richards had with the first “Year One” issues are long gone by this point. Everyone looks like themselves, with the occasional exception of Buffy’s mom. For some reason he has trouble with her…

As with earlier books, this arc can be found in it’s own dedicated TPB or it is included in Dark Horse’s Buffy omnibus series in Volume II.

CONTENT: No profanity to speak of. Vampire violence and slaying, as per the usual for Buffy. No explicit sexual content, but during one of the demons’ attacks we see a female junkie sitting in the bathtub. Nothing is explicitly seen, but she’s definitely naked. There’s also a sequence where Angel is naked as a requirement for a spell he’s working. Again, nothing is seen thanks to camera angle and conveniently-falling shadows, but Whistler makes a comment about him appearing “excitable” that I didn’t need. As mentioned before, Buffyverse vampires are demonic, and to boot this particular arc features both actual demons and magic being worked.

*Yes, the final arc. They went back and did a “Year One” thing after the show was cancelled, to buy time to figure out how to move forward. I decided to read the books in chronological order based on the events depicted as opposed to publishing order, which has a few weird effects but mostly I’m happy with.

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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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