Tag Archives: Fabian Nicieza

Mini-Review: “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Angels We Have Seen On High” by Fabian Nicieza, Scott Lobdell, & Jeff Matsuda

Angels We Have Seen On HighTitle: Angels We Have Seen On High
Writers: Fabian Nicieza & Scott Lobdell
Artists: Jeff Matsuda (Characters), Hakjoon Kang & Nolan Obena (Backgrounds)
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse, 2002

So, once more I’m faced with a short Buffy comic that really doesn’t fit well into any other review. Angels We Have Seen On High is a short story published in the 2002 Dark Horse anthology one-shot Reveal. So far as I can find, it was only ever collected as part of Buffy Omnibus Volume II, which is a shame because it’s a fun little interlude.

This is set before season one of Buffy, so far as I can tell falling between Slayer, Interrupted and A Stake To The Heart. It’s Friday night and Buffy’s been tasked with keeping an eye on Dawn as they hang out on the Santa Monica Pier. Of course, her Slayer duties get in the way, placing Dawn in danger and requiring a save from the unseen Angel.

The writing for this was spot-on, down to the humor and character voices, and the art was interesting. As you can see from the cover, it was done in a very stylized…style…that usually isn’t my cup of tea, but I really enjoyed it here. It worked really well, and everyone was still recognizable as themselves despite the stylization–not something to be taken for granted, I can assure you! Even some of the early Buffy comics that aren’t shooting for an odd style don’t manage this level of character-recognition, though admittedly this one has it easy due to its small cast of characters. If you can find a way to get your hands on this story, I would highly recommend it….

CONTENT: Vampire violence, though significantly milder in this tale than in most episodes of the series. Mild language. Mild innuendo, but no real sexual content. Buffyverse vampires.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

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

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.

Leave a comment

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

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.

Leave a comment

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

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.

Leave a comment

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