Tag Archives: Cliff Richards

Review: “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Pale Reflections” by Andi Watson and Cliff Richards

Title: Pale Reflections
Writer: Andi Watson
Artist: Cliff Richards
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Buffy The Vampire Slayer #17-19)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2000

Here we go! The conclusion to the Bad Blood storyline began here and here. I have to say, despite a couple of rough patches in the middle there, it’s been a fun ride. It was mostly good to see the book get away from the “villain of the week” format and do a longer-running villain, even if it maybe stretched a bit in the middle unnecessarily. This conclusion, though, was absolutely top-notch. These three issues can be found collected either here or in Buffy The Vampire Slayer Omnibus Volume IV.

These three issues are titled as if they’re two separate stories, with the first two going under the title She’s No Lady and the last being entitled Old Friend, but that’s not really accurate. These three issues are clearly a single unit, and I’ll discuss them that way. The Scoobies have been tasked by Principal Snyder with preparing a float to represent the school during Mardi Gras, (Which apparently is also celebrated in Sunnydale? Who knew?) which is taking a good deal of time away from the search for the origin of the super-vamps. Meanwhile, Selke and her pet doctor have managed to magic together an evil doppelganger of Buffy. Yep, things are heading for a showdown….

On the whole, this was great. The writing was back on top, and mostly there were no loose threads left hanging around. Spike & Dru show up again at the very end, but I suspect that that’s a seed for a future story rather than sheer randomness. The art was likewise stellar, and I think Cliff Richards has finally hit his stride. Chronologically, this happens soon after the previous story/soon after Buffy S03E11: Gingerbread.

CONTENT: No profanity that I can recall. Vampire violence consistent with the Buffy television show. Some mild sexual innuendo…. Buffyverse vampires could be considered occultic due to their demonic nature, but it didn’t bug me.

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Review: “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Crash Test Demons” by Andi Watson & Cliff Richards

Title: Crash Test Demons
Writer: Andi Watson
Artist: Cliff Richards
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Buffy The Vampire Slayer #13-15)
Rating: **
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2000

The Buffy binge continues! This time we have the next three issues in the ongoing arc begun back in Bad BloodCrash Test Demons collects issues #13-15 of the ongoing Dark Horse series, which can also be found in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer Omnibus Volume IV.

We start out on a weird note in Love Sick Blues, with Cordelia deciding her image needs revamped and deciding to compete with Willow in the school’s “Quiz Bowl.” Yeah, you heard that right. Of course, to have a hope of succeeding Cordy’s going to need some supernatural help, and that comes with consequences….In the untitled following issue, things start to get serious as Buffy and Angel encounter several “super-vamps” that take a lot more killing than usual. Oh, and after Buffy saves his bacon, Todd (the creep from A Boy Named Sue) develops an unhealthy fascination with our favorite Slayer….Finally, Lost Highway sees Buffy attacked by a trio of super-vamps after a fortuitous (under the circumstances) hit-and-run. All the while, Selke and her pet doctor are trying to raise a new dark power in Sunnydale….

Meh. The art was great, with the briefly-confusing exception of a few moments where the super-vamp gang contains a member who looks just like Buffy. The writing though….not so great this time through. The first story was mostly okay, but the other two are plagued with unresolved subplots, like Spike & Dru showing up just long enough to work some mischief and (apparently, since they don’t appear again) disappear without so much as a how-you-do. The characters’ dialogue was all spot-on, but the plotting and pacing could use some work. I think they just tried to stretch this ongoing story a little too long, causing issues here in the middle of the tale. Timeline-wise, for lack of any other information this continues to follow the previous so many stories, in the slot between Buffy S03E10: Amends and Buffy S03E11: Gingerbread.

CONTENT: No profanity that I can recall. Vampire violence consistent with the Buffy television show. Some mild sexual innuendo…. Buffyverse vampires could be considered occultic due to their demonic nature, but it didn’t bug me.

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Mini-Review: “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Final Cut” by Andi Watson, Jason Pearson & Cliff Richards

Title: The Final Cut
Writer: Andi Watson
Artists: Jason Pearson & Cliff Richards
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Buffy The Vampire Slayer #8, extended re-release)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2000

Once again I find myself with a publishing oddity while reading the Buffy comics. Issue #8 of the ongoing series is the only issue never collected in a regular trade paperback. Instead, it was expanded and included as a special hardcover graphic novel in the “Supernatural Defense Kit” collector’s pack Dark Horse released in early 2000. The Supernatural Defense Kit contained the expanded hardcover, Buffy’s cross necklace, a ring, and the vial of “holy water” that Angel gives her in the comic. (I suspect that the pages concerning that vial of holy water were some of the additions made, but I could be wrong.) If you don’t have a time machine or a lot of money to use on eBay, however, the expanded comic is also collected in Dark Horse’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer Omnibus, Volume III.

You’d think that Sunnydale High School students would know better by now, wouldn’t you? Apparently not though. SHS student Marty is an aspiring filmmaker, so when he finds an old black and white film in a storage closet, he takes it home for a private viewing. This being Sunnydale, the character in the film stops mid-film and offers to make him a star…for a price….

This was decent, actually. In this format, anyway–I’m not sure how they got this to work in a shorter version, I only spotted a few pages that could have been cut without serious damage to the story. My only real issue with it is an intense mystification as to how the Scoobies avoided some serious police scrutiny at the end, but I’ll shut up about that in the interest of avoiding spoilers. The writing was pretty solid, and the art was some of the best I’ve seen from this early era of the series. With no real concrete clues as to it’s placement, I’m assuming it happens pretty soon after the events of New Kid On The Block, or just before Buffy S03E11: Gingerbread.

CONTENT: No profanity, some mild rude slang. Brief innuendo, but no real sexual content. Violence consistent with the Buffy TV show, both vampiric and the normal variety. Some brief appearances of Buffyverse vampires, as well as some unrelated sorcery.

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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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Mini-Review: “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Jonathan” by Jane Espenson & Cliff Richards

Title: Jonathan (Codename: Comrades)
Writer: Jane Espenson
Artist: Cliff Richards
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse, 2001

This is just a quick review of the one-shot Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Jonathan. There’s really no good place to group it, since it’s a rare issue and only reprinted in the Buffy omnibus series (Volume VI, in case you’re interested). EDIT: You can also read it online via the BBC! (Link here) You remember that one episode in season 4 of Buffy where the perennial background character Jonathan Levinson had cast that spell to make himself a superstar? This is a story set in that changed world, just before the events of that episode. The world loves Jonathan, and he can do anything and everything. He’s the star of The Matrix, a military genius consulting with The Initiative, scourge of the vampires of Sunnydale, lit professor at UC Sunnydale, Tony-winning performer, platinum-selling recording artist, sports star, you name it. But even Jonathan is going to need help when a cadre of vampires forged in the Soviet version of the Initiative come to town. He’s going to have to “re-form” the Scooby Gang (apparently they never got forged into a cohesive group in this reality, due to Jonathan taking care of all the problems that pulled them together before) if Sunnydale is going to survive the onslaught of these Soviet vampires….

Alternate realities are a fun playground, and I really enjoyed this one both in the episode and in this comic. The writing was great here, giving us more insight into Jonathan’s character and allowing us a greater exploration of the world created by his spell. My one issue is that Spike acts differently in the comic than he does in the episode–in the episode he acts sullenly terrified of Jonathan, a disgraced and unthreatening ex-arch-nemesis that would never be invited into their graces. In the comic he’s disdainful of Jonathan and the Scoobies, invited to join but too good for that. The feel was just off. The art was spot-on though, with all of the characters looking and acting like themselves even while Richards does his minimalist thing. I’m not sure how he does it….

Canon-wise, this is tricky because it technically never happens. This reality gets erased at the end of that episode and everything goes back to normal. Oh well, whatever. The only minor problem with it canonically (aside from the whole it-never-happens thing) is that Jonathan describes the Soviet program as the inspiration for the Initiative, while we learn later that the Initiative has been in existence since WWII.

CONTENT: No profanity. No overt sexual content, though the implication is that Jonathan is sleeping with the Swedish twins that share his bed. Some vampire violence, consistent with every other Buffy comic I’ve reviewed. Occult-wise, these are Buffyverse vampires, and there’s some minor witchcraft involved in the Scooby Gang’s preparations for battle.

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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: Slayer, Interupted” by Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, & Cliff Richards

Title: Slayer, Interrupted
Writers: Scott Lobdell & Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Cliff Richards
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1998 Dark Horse Series, Issues #56-59)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse, 2003

We’ve covered the fact that I’m on a Buffy binge, right? No need to repeat the same introduction over and over again….I’m finally watching the show, and since I’m a completist I’m going through the comics too. This particular volume picks up where Viva Las Buffy! left off, with Buffy finally returning home after her exploits in Las Vegas.

After they destroyed a particularly nasty nest of vampires in Vegas, Pike left Buffy because he was afraid he was going to get her killed if she kept having to look after him in a fight. Understandably crushed by this, Buffy returns home to a whole new set of problems: little sister Dawn has found her diary and been scared $#!^less by it, prompting an investigation by her parents. They conclude that she needs help, and Buffy goes to the asylum. In their defense, what would you conclude if your daughter started writing about slaying vampires in her diary? Anyway, Buffy’s problems don’t stop there, because there’s definitely something strange going on in that asylum….Meanwhile, Giles is forced to face the demons of his past if he is to be chosen as the next Watcher by the council, and is comedically horrified by the specifics of the posting.

So, you know how much griping I did about the art for the last set I reviewed? It’s all better here. I don’t know why, since Cliff Richards had been the lead artist since like issue #15, but I just wasn’t buying it in Viva Las Buffy! Whatever the reason, I have no real complaints on that score this time around. From a writing perspective, this was a great story to tell both because we’ve been told that she was briefly institutionalized (Buffy S06E17: Normal Again) and because it’s in this volume that we really see Buffy start to own her destiny, to understand that she needs to do this because she wants to, not because she has to, or she’s going to get herself killed real quick. It also sows the seeds of later events in how Buffy operates with regards to the Watchers’ Council. This one gets an A+ from me! My only minor complaint is that early in Buffy season 1 she is surprised to learn that she has to fight not only vampires but demons as well, but according to this she should already know that by the time she gets to Sunnydale.

As with the previous collection, you can read this either as it’s collected TPB I linked to, or it’s included in the first volume of Dark Horse’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer Omnibus series. EDIT: Apparently I was misinformed, and the Dawn And Hoopy The Bear issue I reviewed with Viva Las Buffy! is actually included in this TPB. I apologize for the confusion.

CONTENT: No profanity. A fair amount of violence; vampires and demons being slain, humans killed by said vampires and demons, a girl commits suicide as a result of said demons’ depredations. No explicit sexual content, but there is a demon recruiting “brides” from the asylum inmates. They dress skimpily, a couple panels avoid nudity only by conveniently-placed shadow, and the implications of the whole idea are creepily sexual. Occult content….I mentioned the demons, right? I’m not sure Whedon’s demons equate properly with the demons of Judeo-Christian mythology (that’s a discussion to be had, if anyone’s interested), but they are referred to as demons all the same.

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