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Review: “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Angel–The Hollower” by Christopher Golden & Hector Gomez

Title: Angel: The Hollower
Writer: Christopher Golden
Artist: Hector Gomez
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Angel miniseries)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2000

And so we come to Angel: The Hollower, Dark Horse’s first tale focused specially on everyone’s favorite vampire-with-a-soul. The Hollower was originally published as a three-issue miniseries, available either in its own collection or in Buffy The Vampire Slayer Omnibus Volume IV.

According the the mythology of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the process of conversion involves a person’s soul being banished from their body and replaced with a demon. The resulting creature retains the memories and some of the emotions of that person, but without any of the pity or morality that comes with having a soul–the original person you may have known is dead and gone, and the vampire left in their place would just love to eat your face. The demon is the only thing keeping the vampire’s dead body alive and moving, and were it to be destroyed or banished somehow the body would disappear in a cloud of dust just as effectively as if a certain spunky Slayer had rammed Mr. Pointy through their non-functioning heart.

Angel, however, is a special case. After becoming a vampire he cut a swath of destruction and cruelty across the world, taking a perverse joy in torturing his victims to their limits before feeding on them or turning them into vampires themselves. All that ended when a clan of gypsies laid a cruel curse on him in vengeance for his preying on one of their own–Angel’s human soul was returned to his body, existing alongside the demon in a constant struggle for control. Even more torturous, his conscience was returned along with his soul. For the past hundred years Angel has lived a solitary existence, attempting to atone for all the pain he has caused while never allowing himself a moment of perfect happiness lest the curse rear its ugly head once again and return him  to the soulless killer he once was….

As it turns out, besides the Slayer, vampires have only one natural predator: the Hollower, a tentacle beast that exists by sucking the demons from vampires and leaving their empty bodies to disappear in a puff of dust. Sounds like a potential ally, right? Guess again. Once it has ingested enough vampires, it spews forth those captive demons once again to inhabit whatever bodies they can find, forming an army of enslaved newly-turned vampires. Angel fought the thing once before, back before he was re-ensouled, and merely managed to chase it away to feed somewhere else. Now its shown up in Sunnydale, and Angel is forced to face the possibility that this could be his final redemption, his way to escape the demon forever….unless he plays the hero and kills it before it can possess the entire town, of course.

On the whole, this was an interesting tale. There were a few inconsistencies, such as Angel stating that he thought the Hollower destroyed forever, then in the flashback detailing their earlier encounter stating that it was only injured and would someday return, but oh well. Otherwise I enjoyed it, and I’m always happy to see Spike and Dru make an appearance. The good news is that Hector Gomez’s art was stellar this time around, from Buffy to Angel’s Errol Flynn ‘stache he sports in the flashbacks, everyone was definitely themselves. The dialogue was always spot-on, and I thought Golden and Gomez even managed to nail a number of the characters’ particular mannerisms. Timeline-wise, this is set soon after the sprawling Bad Blood arc (detailed here, here, and here), or in other words somewhere in the middle of Buffy‘s third season.

CONTENT: Mild profanity. No real sexual content, but some flirting and innuendo as well as a couple instances of scantily-clad females. Violence consistent with the Buffy television show, both vampiric and otherwise. Occult-wise, these are Buffyverse vampires. I leave it to you to decide whether that counts.

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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: Play With Fire” by Christopher Golden, Doug Petrie, Tom Sniegoski, Ryan Sook, Hector Gomez & Cliff Richards

Title: Play With Fire
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse, 2003

Play With Fire is a collection of shorter stories from all over the place–special issues, one-shots, annuals, even TV Guide. As such, its somewhat inconsistent, and I’ve chosen to handle each story as a separate mini-review within this post. A couple of these overlap with the later collection Food Chain for some incomprehensible reason. None of these are officially canon, since Whedon didn’t have any direct involvement, but they don’t contradict the official canon unless otherwise noted. I’ll make note of where they fall in the timeline, as well as where you can find them aside from this collection.

Stinger (Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Wizard #1/2)
Written by Christopher Golden
Art by Hector Gomez.
Rating: ****
Synopsis: Xander is forced to fight a local bully, but both are surprised by a nasty scorpionesque demon that feeds on those who enjoy inflicting fear and pain.
Review: Well-written, but with mediocre art. The characters sound like themselves, and I enjoyed the story, but the art kinda bugs me. Hector Gomez also did the art for The Dust Waltz, and I wasn’t a fan there either. Xander’s look is a little bit too “square-jawed handsome hero” for my taste–the draw of the character is that he doesn’t look like that, but is a hero when the chips are down nevertheless.
Continuity: Since Cordelia and Xander are dating but Faith is nowhere to be seen, this happens between the second and third episodes of the third season of Buffy.
Where to find it: This story is one of the harder ones to find. To my knowledge, it was only reprinted in this collection, Food Chain, and Buffy Omnibus Vol. IV.

Play With Fire (Dark Horse Extra #11-16)
Written by Christopher Golden
Art by Hector Gomez
Rating: ****
Synopsis: Buffy is out patrolling with Willow and Giles, who is growing concerned with Willow’s dabbling in the Dark Arts. Events soon provide them with even more material for this discussion….
Review: Not outstanding, but not bad. The characters all seemed like themselves, though Giles is a bit more clumsy here than he should be. Staid British librarian or no, Giles can kick @$$ when he wants to. The root of this story is particularly interesting since it was published long before the events of season 6, where Willow’s magical abilities grow out of control. The art was okay, and Xander was nowhere to be seen so Gomez’s art didn’t really annoy me as much this time. It’s still not up to the regular standard I expect from Dark Horse, but it’s consistent with his other Buffy material so I feel like harping on it is getting unfair.
Continuity: This is set sometime during Buffy Season 3, with no real way to be more specific. Since I think Faith would have come along if she were in the picture, I set this between the second and third episodes as well.
Where to find it: Again, this is rare. Looks like it’s only included here and in Buffy Omnibus Vol. III.

The Latest Craze (Buffy The Vampire Slayer Annual ’99)
Written by Christopher Golden & Tom Sniegoski
Art by Cliff Richards
Rating: *****
Synopsis: There’s a new craze sweeping Sunnydale High–Hooligans, little stuffed monsters in the vain of Furby but twice as creepy and a hundred times more kleptomaniacal.
Review: This was a fun tale in the vein of Gremlins. References to Furby were in evidence as well, which makes sense. The art was excellent, as should be expected from Cliff Richards.
Continuity: I put this one just after Buffy S03E11: Gingerbread, given the relationships in evidence, the presence of “Pez Witch,” and the lack of Wesley. It’s a bit close to Ethan Rayne’s last appearance (Buffy S03E06: Band Candy) but that really just makes the jokes about him being a glutton for punishment even funnier.
Where to find it: This story is reprinted here, in Food Chain, Buffy omnibus Vol. III, and online via the BBC (link).

Dance With Me (TV Guide Special)
Written by Christopher Golden
Art by Hector Gomez
Rating: ****
Synopsis: Buffy skips a school dance to go out patrolling, only to run into the student she turned down eight times. Seems he knew she was the slayer, and got himself vamped in order to force her to pay attention….
Review: Again, I have no problem with Christoper Golden’s writing. This was incredibly short at five pages, but nevertheless captured the characters and their interactions pretty well. The art wasn’t bad, although I’m still not a fan of how Hector Gomez draws Xander.
Continuity: The credits page places this during Buffy‘s third season. Based on Cordelia and Faith being absent, I place it late in the season, arbitrarily placing it between episodes 15 and 16. Honestly, though, there’s nothing in the story itself to say that this isn’t happening during the first or second seasons.
Where to find it:
This one is really rare. So far as I can tell, its only reprinted here and in Buffy Omnibus Vol. III.

Bad Dog (Buffy The Vampire Slayer Annual ’99)
Written by Doug Petrie
Art by Ryan Sook
Rating: *****
Synopsis: During the full moon, Buffy finds Oz’s cage smashed and both Oz and Willow missing. Fearing the worst, Buffy and Angel set out to track them down….but the real enemy may not be Oz after all.
Review: Doug Petrie’s work is always spot-on, probably a benefit of being one of the writers for the actual show. Ryan Sook’s work here shows some improvement over his Spike & Dru stuff, but is not yet up to the level of awesomeness he achieved on Ring Of Fire.
Continuity: I set this tale just after Buffy S03E18: Earshot for no good reason whatsoever. Wesley is nowhere to be seen, but he could just be conveniently absent for the day. Plus, at this point his character is so useless that I wouldn’t put it past Giles and the others to simply exclude him.
Where to find it: This story is reprinted here, in Food Chain, Buffy omnibus Vol. IV, and online via the BBC (link).

CONTENT: Vampire & Werewolf violence consistent with the show. Brief sexual innuendo and flirting, but nothing explicit. Mild profanity. Buffyverse vampires, which could be considered occultic if you wanted to go there.

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Review: “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Spike & Dru” by James Marsters, Christopher Golden, Ryan Sook & Eric Powell

Title: Spike & Dru
Writers: Christopher Golden & James Marsters
Artists: Ryan Sook & Eric Powell
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Tie-in Miniseries)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse, 2001

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Spike is one of my favorite characters from the Buffyverse. I hear that’s a common reaction, actually–he apparently became an instant fan favorite with everyone when the show first aired. Drusilla is cool too, of course, completely off her rocker and occasionally hilarious, but there’s something about Spike’s attitude and panache….They’re both very nuanced characters, more so than any other vampires in the Buffyverse.* Anyway, this being the case, I was very much looking forward to reading this set of stories featuring everyone’s favorite duo of co-dependent vampires.

This is usually labeled a miniseries, but it was more accurately a series of three one-shots with the same billing. Also included in the TPB reprint (and this review) is the Spike & Dru story from the Lover’s Walk one-shot for a total of four stories. (I arranged them chronologically, though they were actually published in a different order.)

  • All’s Fair(#3: Written by Golden, Drawn by Powell): Prologue set in China during the Boxer rebellion, with the main body focused on Spike and Drusilla in Chicago, 1933, as the  World’s Fair is in full swing. Very well written, to the point where I can hear the characters say their lines. I also liked the art better than any of the previous stories, which I again admit is a matter of taste.
  • The Queen Of Hearts(#2: Written by Golden, Drawn by Sook): Spike and Drusilla are on their way to Sunnydale, fresh from Prague (as seen in the story The Problem With Vampires, in Tales Of The Vampires) when they get sidetracked in St. Louis. This one was really well written, with everyone’s lines just flowing perfectly. I could hear James Marsters or Juliette Landau saying their lines as I read, it was great. The art was okay, as with Paint The Town Red I’m not a huge fan of that style, but that’s a matter of personal taste. I did kind of laugh at one point though, there’s a bouncer who looks exactly like Hellboy, so much so that I wondered if the writers decided on a crossover at the last minute. It can’t be accidental, and I appreciate the tip of the hat.
  • Paint The Town Red (#1: Written by Marsters & Golden, Drawn by Sook): After the events of the Buffy season 2 finale, we rejoin Spike and Drusilla on the western coast of Italy as they try to patch their relationship back together, hindered by Spike’s temper and Drusilla’s continuing obsession with Angel. This particular story was…decent. I can totally see the story unfolding this way, and Spike’s lines were spot-on for his character (as you would expect, given that Marsters himself was one of the writers), but Drusilla’s lines only sounded like her about half the time. I also wasn’t a fan of the artwork, but that’s just my stylistic taste. That style works for Mignola on Hellboy books, but I’ve never really warmed to it elsewhere.
  • Who Made Who (From the Lover’s Walk OS: Written by Golden, Drawn by Powell): Set soon after the Buffy season 3 episode Lover’s Walk, we revisit Spike and Drusilla in Rio. The good news is that Spike’s plan to “torture her until she likes me again” actually worked. The bad news is that she’s up to her old tricks again, cheating on him with a fungus demon of all things….As with All’s Fair, I preferred Powell’s art to that of Ryan Sook. Again, a matter of taste. The writing was pretty good, as I’m coming to expect from Christopher Golden.

Obviously you could track down the TPB that collects these four stories, and that would be that. If you’re reading the Buffy omnibuses (Omnibi?), All’s Fair is featured in Volume 1, Queen Of Hearts and Paint The Town Red in Volume 2, and Who Made Who is in Volume 4. EDIT: Guess what? All four of these stories are also available to read online via the BBC! (Link here)

CONTENT: Mild language. Vampire violence, as you would expect from a book of this nature. In The Queen Of Hearts and Who Made Who characters visit a strip club, in both cases the dancers are wearing panties, in one case they have star-shaped stickers (I assume they’re stickers, anyway…) over their breasts and in the second case they are facing away from the reader. So not too explicit, but still a factor. Occult-wise, these are Buffyverse vampires (and so possessed by a demon), and there are actual demon characters to boot. There’s also a sorcerer who can command dead flesh. There’s a case to be made that Buffyverse demons are not the same as those of Judeo-Christian mythology, but that’s a whole post to itself. Maybe I’ll do that someday, maybe I won’t. We’ll see….

*Except Angel, of course, but he doesn’t count since he’s got his soul. Spike & Dru are both soulless, and yet still demonstrate a depth of human emotion that is rare for the vampires in the Buffyverse.

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Review: “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Origin” by Joss Whedon, Daniel Brereton, Christopher Golden, & Joe Bennet

Title: Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Origin
Creator/Original Screenplay: Joss Whedon
Adapted by: Daniel Brereton & Christopher Golden
Artist: Joe Bennet
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Miniseries)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 1999

So, my wife and I have been watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer recently. We’re basically on a Joss Whedon kick, to be honest, but that’s not a problem by any means! Aside from all the premature cancellation going on, at least…. Anyway, you may or may not know that before the show there was a movie. Whedon wrote the screenplay, but there were a lot of changes made during the production process that he felt detracted from the overall quality and tone of the work. When he got the chance to revisit that universe with the show, he wrote the pilot as a sequel to his original screenplay, not what eventually made it to the screen, which rendered the show inconsistent with what had come before. For example, the repeated comments that Buffy burned down her old school–in the film, it didn’t burn down. So in an effort to present to fans Whedon’s original vision, Dark Horse comics commissioned a three-issue miniseries based on Whedon’s original screenplay, using the likenesses of the characters as they appear in the show. The result mostly pleased Whedon, who declared that while he still had a few issues with it, he was glad that fans could now see his original vision for the story. For some reason, he also went out of his way to insult Donald Sutherland, who played Merrick in the film. Not sure why–I haven’t seen the movie, but Donald Sutherland is an incredible actor. Possibly just because his take on the character was so different from what Whedon had conceived….Anyway, moving on.

For Buffy Summers, life couldn’t be more normal. She’s on the cheerleading squad, she’s helping plan the fall dance, and is dating the captain of the Basketball team. Sure, she’s been having strange dreams about fighting vampires in different eras throughout history, but that’s normal…right? Then some guy shows up claiming that she’s The Slayer, the one girl empowered to fight the forces of Darkness and defend the world from the vampires and demons that lurk in the shadows. Needless to say, this somewhat puts a crimp in her social calendar….

My first contact with the Buffyverse was actually the novelization of the film, so I was somewhat familiar with this story when I started the show. Still, that was years ago and, as I mentioned above, not totally consistent with Whedon’s vision. So from that perspective, it was nice to see how it all was supposed to get started. The writing was good, not sure how much of that was Whedon and how much was Brereton and Golden. We actually got a flashback to one of these scenes recently in the show (by which I mean the end of Season 2), and I was pleased to see it was nearly word for word both places. The art was…serviceable. Not as good as I’ve come to expect from Dark Horse, but good enough that it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book. Buffy did actually look like Sarah Michelle Gellar, so that was well done at least.

If you’re interested in reading this, you can either track down the TPB collection or just grab the first volume of Dark Horse’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer omnibus collections.

CONTENT: Vampire violence consistent with the show, with people getting bit and vampires getting staked. Not too gory, since Buffyverse vampires disintegrate into a cloud of dust when they die. No language, though Lothos uses rude language which is censored (it gets stylized “b—-,” if you must know). Sexual innuendos, including Buffy finding her ex-boyfriend in the backseat of a car with another girl, being begged to “make her a woman.” There are vampires, which debatably counts as occult content. Normally I would say they don’t, but the way vampirism in the Buffyverse works is that when you are turned your soul is replaced with a demon, so….

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