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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: Uninvited Guests” by Andi Watson, Dan Brereton & Hector Gomez

Title: Uninvited Guests
Writers: Andi Watson & Dan Brereton
Artist: Hector Gomez
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Buffy The Vampire Slayer #4-7)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 1999

Uninvited Guests collects issues #4-7 of Dark Horse Comics’ ongoing Buffy The Vampire Slayer series. Andi Watson stayed on as writer for these issues, getting an assist on issues #6-7 from Dan Brereton, while Joe Bennett moved on to draw The Origin and Hector Gomez stepped in to draw the four issues collected here. These four issues are available either in this collection or in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer Omnibus Volume III.

In White Christmas (issue #4) we follow Buffy as she get’s a job selling popsicles at the mall to earn money for a dress for the big dance. Of course, there are supernatural hijinks afoot, and Buffy soon finds herself up to her neck in danger….Based on the fact that the Scoobies’ relationships don’t show any evidence of the train wreck that was Buffy S03E07: Lover’s Walk, I place this issue just before that episode (and by extension almost immediately after the events of issue #3, Cold Turkey). The difficulty with this placement is that we have to then assume it’s just after Thanksgiving and that it’s not quite as close to Christmas as Buffy implies. We could also place it just after Buffy S03E10: Amends, given that Oz and Willow make up again in that episode, but here Cordy and Xander seem to still be a couple, and that will never again be the case after Lover’s Walk. (Yeah, I know. I’m ridiculous like that. You should see the Word document where I tried to make the Star Wars EU canon make sense before they hit the reset button….) Happy New Year (issue #5) sees a rift in the ranks of the Scoobies in wake of one of Oz’s “episodes.” He got out of his cage, and Buffy was forced to subdue him, putting his arm in a sling. Thus, Willow is pissed. Oh, and there’s a cursed Puritan rifling through Giles’ library. Based on the broadcast dates, this is soon after Buffy S03E10: Amends, with supporting evidence being that Willow and Oz are (back) together. New Kid On The Block (issues #6-7) sees the Scooby gang with a new friend. There’s a new girl in school, Cynthia, and a teacher work day means that the Scoobies have time for actual fun for a change! Thus, they decide on a sleepover, which of course excludes Xander and Oz. Oz is cool with it. Xander resolves to crash the party anyway….but it looks like his hijinks are far from the biggest issue the Scoobies are going to have to face tonight. With no really relevant markers to help place this, I’m going to assume it occurs soon after the previous story–mostly in an attempt to leave room in the timeline for the large number of comics that still need shoehorned into this season.

I’ve complained a lot about Hector Gomez and his art in previous Buffy posts, but in this case he actually did a pretty good job. Xander’s still a bit “square-jawed hero,” but oh well. I’m afraid that will never change. Everyone was at least recognizable, even Oz, which was definitely not the case in the earlier issues. The writing was good for White Christmas, and it was interesting to see the comic foreshadow later events in the show as Buffy gets a job in fast food and muses on the impact being the Slayer will most likely have on her career prospects. Happy New Year, however, was much spottier. The first page was a mess, there are multiple places where I actually went back to the original file to make sure I wasn’t missing a page, and in fact the fate of one of the newly introduced characters is left completely ignored. He was last seen plunging over a railing with Willow. Buffy caught her, but what happened to him? We don’t know–I assume he’s dead, but you’d think that would put a damper on their holiday celebrations. Plus, there’s the cursed Puritan. Are we to take his longevity as part of the curse? “I curse you to be chased by this Hellhound until it catches you and rips you to shreds! As an unfortunate side effect, until he manages that you’re immortal. Oh well.” I’m just not feeling it. This could have been really good if it had either a.) had a throwaway villain that could be easily dealt with in the scant page-space leftover from the relationship drama they highlighted, or b.) saved that drama for another issue and focused on the cursed Puritan. Instead, they tried to do too much and failed. New Kid On The Block was back up to snuff, although you could pretty easily surmise that a certain character was not all she seemed.

CONTENT: No profanity. Some violence, consistent with Buffy. Some mild sexual innuendo, from the girls at the slumber party in flimsy pajamas to Buffy and Angel doing their best not to make out, but kind of failing. These are Buffyverse vampires, which means there’s demons involved, so take that as you will.

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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: The Dust Waltz” by Dan Brereton & Hector Gomez

Title: The Dust Waltz
Writer: Dan Brereton
Artist: Hector Gomez
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Standalone Graphic Novel)
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 1998

More of the Buffy binge! This particular installment is a standalone graphic novel, ostensibly set during Season 2. This is actually the first Buffy comic ever produced, and that shows to some degree. There are a couple rough patches overall, which I’ll of course discuss below, but I did enjoy it.

Here’s the plot: two of the oldest vampires on the planet–possibly the oldest, depending on who you ask–arrive in Sunnydale for an ancient contest: The Dust Waltz. As with most things vampires get up to in Sunnydale, it will be better for the world if they don’t succeed. Of course, this is also exactly when Giles’ niece decides to visit on her vacation from Oxford. Plot-wise, that’s basically all there is to say.

Across the board, the writing was pretty great here. Characters definitely sounded exactly like themselves. The only real issue I have with the writing is that Mr. Brereton seems to not know exactly when in the second season he wants this to be set. In the first chapter, Xander seems repulsed by Cordelia. In the second chapter, they seem to have started dating, and it’s not a part of that phase where they secretly can’t keep their hands off of each other but won’t admit it to their friends. I eventually placed it right before S02E13: Surprise if anybody’s interested. There are also a couple parts where the book really seems rushed, as in I went back to make sure I didn’t miss a page or two. Artistically, the only big issue is that it’s hard to tell Cordelia and Willow apart. On a slightly less frustrating note, the villains look less like Buffy characters and more like refugees from Witchblade. Not completely unexpected, since this is the first Buffy comic they ever produced, but annoying nevertheless.

CONTENT: Brief language. Vampire violence, consistent with the show. No overt sexual material, but Lamia’s costumes are somewhat skimpy. Occult-wise, these are Buffyverse vampires.

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