Tag Archives: Doug Petrie

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: 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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Mini-Review: “Tales Of The Slayers: Broken Bottle Of Djinn” by Jane Espenson, Douglas Petrie, Jeff Matsuda & Gene Colan

Title: Broken Bottle Of Djinn
Writers: Jane Espenson & Douglas Petrie
Artists: Jeff Matsuda & Gene Colan
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer(Tales Of The Slayers one-shot)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse, 2002

This is a one-shot comic in the style of Dark Horse’s earlier graphic novel anthology Tales Of The Slayers and released under the same title. That earlier anthology is generally regarded as official canon due to the direct involvement of Joss Whedon, and while Whedon’s name isn’t on this book I extend it the same courtesy based on the fact that it’s obviously related, plus the fact that Espenson and Petrie were both writers for the show. Where it falls timeline-wise, however, is a slightly more awkward question due to a bit of sloppy work by the editor at Dark Horse, Mr. Scott Allie. The inside cover sets the Sunnydale portion as during Buffy’s second season, which fits with the dates given, but Willow’s witchcraft skills as displayed in the book place this into season three. An astute reader pointed this out to Allie in the letter column of the ongoing series (I think it was during the Slayer, Interrupted arc) and he acknowledged the mistake, unofficially revising the setting to season three. I doubt they’ll care enough to change the attribution in future printings, so I’m just making a note of it here and moving on.

The Buffy segment here really just serves to introduce the main story, set in 1937 New York, so I won’t worry about spoilers for that too much. Principal Snyder, in his ever-present battle to shrink the budget, has acquired a bunch of salvaged lockers from New York’s Penn Station.* One of the movers drops his locker, smashing a bottle inside and freeing an angry Djinn. Buffy and Willow take it on and manage to send it through a temporal portal to some other time, some other place…. In 1937 New York, impoverished slayer Rachel O’Connor is recruited by the OSS to intercept a Nazi agent carrying a powerful weapon. I’ll give you three guesses what it is, and the first two don’t count….

On the whole, I liked this little adventure. It was small, a short read, but definitely had the same flavor as the previous stuff in Tales Of The Slayers (which you’ll recall I greatly enjoyed.) Artistically, again, Gene Colan isn’t really my cup of tea, but his artwork complemented the setting very well. Jeff Matsuda I’m less familiar with, and I’m not always taken with the style he demonstrated here, but it worked and I enjoyed it. Jane Espenson didn’t really get much time to work here, but I enjoyed what there was. Doug (sorry, apparently he’s going by Douglas now…) Petrie’s work took up the majority of the book, and it was good, though I thought it wrapped up a bit abruptly. The whole thing forms a paradox, but I feel like that’s not actually looked down upon anymore. Certainly not by the kind of fans that Whedon has, who I feel also have a tendency to be Whovians as well.** And who enjoys a good paradox more than everyone’s favorite Doctor?

Like the one-shot I reviewed yesterday (Jonathan), Broken Bottle Of Djinn is a rare comic. The only place I know of that it’s reprinted is the new(ish) Dark Horse collection Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Tales. I think the purpose was to tap into the popularity of Whedon’s Buffy Season Eight comics and, depending on your level of cynicism, either harness that to sell more copies of the older anthologies Tales Of The Slayers and Tales Of The Vampires, or to give fans the chance to own those aforementioned books, plus the one-shots being collected for the first time, in one nice pretty volume.

CONTENT: No profanity. No explicit sexual content, but a man tells a girl she can make more money by following him into an alley than she will selling pencils all day. Vampire violence, consistent with Buffy materials, plus some other violence of about the same level. Occult-wise, we have Buffyverse vampires, plus some witchcraft.

*I can’t imagine the bargain he got offset the cost of transporting them across the country, but whatever.
**Perhaps that’s just me projecting my own fandoms onto other Whedonites. I don’t know, I could be wrong.

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Review: “Tales Of The Slayers” by Joss Whedon et al.

Title: Tales Of The Slayers
Writers: Joss Whedon, Amber Benson, Jane Espenson, David Fury, Rebecca Rand Kirshner, & Doug Petrie
Artists: Leinil Francis Yu, Tim Sale, Ted Naifeh, P. Craig Russell, Steve Lieber, Mira Friedmann, Gene Colan & Karl Moline
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Standalone Graphic Novel Anthology)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2002

I like anthologies. It’s fun to pick up a collection of works by different people, see how different writers handle a common theme or idea. In a graphic novel, that also translates into lots of different art styles, which is also cool. Some you’ll enjoy better than others, but that’s fine because the next person to pick up the book will probably have a whole different set of favorites. In the case of a media tie-in, an anthology has the added benefit of freeing an author from the bounds of what is happening in the show, allows them to explore character histories or even totally unrelated tales set in the same universe. In this particular anthology, the writers of the show Buffy The Vampire Slayer teamed up to write a series of short tales about different slayers down through history, from the first slayer all the way up to Fray living an undisclosed amount of time in the future.

Joss Whedon and Leinil Francis Yu start things off with the Prologue, visiting the first slayer as she is cast out of her village to fight the demons alone. Whedon then teams up with Tim Sale to bring us a tale (in verse!) of a medieval slayer defending her town in Righteous. Amber Benson and Ted Naifeh then take us to the bloody days of the French Revolution as a young slayer is pointed at an aristocratic accused-vampire in The Innocent. Jane Espenson and P. Craig Russell take us to Regency-era Britain, where a young slayer stalks her prey at a country ball in Presumption. We then whisk off to the American West with David Fury and Steve Lieber in The Glittering World as a young navajo slayer takes on the vampire who killed her Watcher, and witness the founding of Sunnydale. Rebecca Rand Kirshner and Mira Friedmann take us to Germany at the rise of Nazism, as a young slayer learns that not all evil is undead in Sonnenblume. Doug Petrie and Gene Colan take us to Harlem in the 1970s in Nikki Goes Down! as slayer Nikki Wood seeks to avenge the death of her cop boyfriend, dead at the hands of a vampire smuggling ring. Finally, Joss Whedon takes up the pen once again, this time teaming up with Karl Moline in Tales to bring us a story of a future slayer, Fray, as she discovers her heritage for the first time.

I really enjoyed this particular graphic novel. Writing-wise, I particularly enjoyed Jane Espenson’s Presumption, with it’s dialogue that paid obvious homage to Jane Austen’s characters and style and its killer twist just when you think you’ve figured out what’s what. I also tip my hat to Joss Whedon’s epic poem that serves as the narration for Righteous. From an artistic standpoint, the only tale I actively disliked was Mira Friedmann’s in Sonnenblume, but I admit freely that that is a matter of personal taste. I just hate that particular style, regardless of who is drawing it or what franchise it belongs to. Leinil Francis Yu’s artwork in the Prologue reminded me of Jan Duursema’s in certain Star Wars books, but that may have something to do with the character design of the first slayer resembling a more primitive Quinlan Vos. Tim Sale’s art in Righteous reminded me slightly of Mike Mignola’s, if slightly less stylized. Gene Colan’s take on Harlem in Nikki Goes Down wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I have to admit it fit the tale really well. It reminded me of something else I read a long time ago, but for the life of me I can’t place it. Lastly, the Karl Moline art in Tales is perhaps not my favorite style, but one that I’ve read quite a few excellent stories in and so have a certain fondness for….

CONTENT: Vampire violence, both biting people and being staked or otherwise killed. One is decapitated in a spectacular two-page spread. A girl is burned at the stake for witchcraft, and several other humans are killed as well as the vampires you would expect in a Buffyverse collection. Mild profanity. Brief sexual innuendos, pretty mild. Buffyverse vampires could be considered occult content, given their demonic nature.

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