Tag Archives: Jeff Parker

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

Title: Tales Of The Vampires
Writers: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard, Jane Espenson, Brett Matthews, Ben Edlund, & Sam Loeb
Artists: Alex Sanchez, Paul Lee, Cameron Stewart, Scott Morse, Vatche Mavlian, Jason Alexander, Ben Stenbeck, Jeff Parker, Ben Edlund, Tim Sale, Cliff Richards & Sean Phillips
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Miniseries)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2004

I’ve mentioned my fondness for anthologies before, right? Good, no need to retread that. I mentioned that I like how they free writers to explore background characters and the worlds created by popular franchises? Ok, no need to say that again either. Did I mention how I enjoy the wide variety of artistic styles in a comic anthology? I did? Oh. Well, looks like this introduction is almost entirely redundant then….In that case, without further ado, let me introduce Tales Of The Vampires. As with the previously-reviewed Tales Of The Slayers, the writers of the show Buffy The Vampire Slayer team up to tell a wide variety of tales from the Buffyverse. This time, instead of focusing on the Slayer end of things, we are treated to a slate of tales about particularly interesting vampires throughout history. Some are familiar, like Spike & Drusilla or Angel. Others we have never met before now, but are destined to leave their mark on the Buffyverse nevertheless.

Joss Whedon and Alex Sanchez start us out this time with the frame story for the anthology, Tales Of The Vampiresabout a group of young Watcher trainees being taught not to underestimate their foes by listening to a captive vampire tell tales of his fellows. This tale is told in starts and stops in between the other tales of the miniseries. We then travel to Prague in The Problem With Vampires by Drew Goddard and Paul Lee to discover just what happened to Drusilla prior to her arrival with Spike in Sunnydale at the beginning of Buffy Season 2. Whedon then teams up with Cameron Stewart to tell the story of Stacy, a young girl who is attacked by a vampire only to find everything she ever wanted in the darkness. Jane Espenson and Scott Morse bring us Spot The Vampire, a fun little rhyming puzzler in the classic seek-and-find genre. Brett Matthews and Vatche Mavlian take us to 1888 Whitechapel, as a detective with a secret attempts to track down the infamous Jack the Ripper. Jane Espenson then teams up with Jason Alexander to tell the tale of a young man raised by his vampire Father. Drew Goddard and Ben Stenbeck then take us to just before the start of the Buffy Season 8 comic series, as Buffy confronts the legendary Dracula in an attempt to reclaim Xander from his entranced servitude in Antique. Jane Espenson and Jeff Parker transport us to 1933 Kansas, at the start of the Dust Bowl, for the tale of a young farmboy trying to figure out the rules of his new condition. Ben Edlund handles both writing and artistic duties for Taking Care Of Business, chronicling the meeting of a vampiric ex-Inquisitor priest who believes he’s still doing God’s work with a pudgy young man claiming to be God himself! Sam Loeb and Tim Sale then give us Some Like It Hot, about a vampire who finds a way to walk once more in the sunlight. Brett Matthews and Cliff Richards then take us back to flesh out the Buffy Season 3 episode Amends as Angel battles his personal demons in Numb.  I’m also including here a story from the Dark Horse one-shot Drawing On Your Nightmares, because there’s really nowhere else it fits. Not sure where you can find it reprinted, honestly. Dames is written by Brett Matthews and drawn by Sean Phillips, and tells the noirish tale of a gambling vampire and his encounter with a damsel in distress.

From a writing perspective, I enjoyed Joss Whedon’s frame story Tales Of The Vampires even if it happened long before all but like two of the stories it was supposedly framing. I admit the ending too me somewhat by surprise, too. The Problem With Vampires deserves mention both for Drew Goddard’s writing, which was excellent enough that I could actually hear Spike and Drusilla saying their lines, and for the art. But I’ll get to that in a minute. He also actually made me feel sorry for Dracula in Antique, which was an unexpected bonus. I also very much liked Stacy (again by Whedon) and identified strongly with the character as a confirmed sci-fi/fantasy geek myself. At least, you know, until she turned vampire….The pseudo-children’s poem Spot The Vampire was very well done, so kudos to Jane Espenson. Speaking of Espenson, both her other tales here were stellar. Father was poignant, and Dust Bowl was a great story of a young vampire figuring out the rules of his new existence without any help from anyone else. Brett Matthews failed to surprise me with Jack, but I have a stubborn weakness for Jack The Ripper stories for some reason. Only, I thought Jack the Ripper was supposed to have been Lothos, the Big Bad from the movie/The Origin? Merrick definitely implied as much. His writing on the Angel-centric story Numb was spot-on though, and I enjoyed Dames as well. Ben Edlund’s Taking Care Of Business proved to be a delightfully quirky tale, one I greatly enjoyed. Artistically, Paul Lee’s work on The Problem With Vampires deserves mention for managing to capture Spike and Drusilla so perfectly. The style Vatche Mavlian adopts for Jack isn’t exactly my favorite, but I must say that it fit the tale perfectly. Cliff Richards perfectly captured Angel for Numb, which isn’t to be taken for granted.

CONTENT: Violence, as you would expect from this series. Vampires drink from victims, sometimes with graphically-depicted results. Others are turned. Some are staked, which isn’t as gory given their tendency to crumble to dust. Mild profanity. Some sexual innuendo, but nothing too explicit. You can decide for yourself whether Buffyverse vampires are occultic, but you shouldn’t be surprised that they show up here. They’re in the bloody title, after all….

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Mini-Reviews: Marvel 1602 Sequels

I reviewed the original miniseries on here several months ago (see that here). These are the sequel miniseries, which I reviewed separately on Goodreads but thought I would post here as well. The obvious lack of Neil Gaiman proves to be their undoing, unfortunately…..perhaps it is unfair—though perfectly natural—to compare these to his stellar foundation to the 1602 universe, but I can’t help it. Nevertheless, I found them worth the read.


Title: MARVEL 1602: THE NEW WORLD
Writer: Greg Pak
Illustrator: Greg Tocchini
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2006

The saga began by Neil Gaiman in his stellar book 1602 continues! Except that he’s no longer writing it….He did serve as “creative consultant” for this book though, so I can only assume that’s why it was just “meh” as opposed to being a total suckfest.

Okay, so when 1602 left off Steve Rogers was returned to the future along with Sir Nicholas Fury, the Witchbreed left on a quest of their own as did the Fantastick Four, David Banner was hit with all the gamma energy of the closing space/time rift, as was a spider that bit young Peter Parquah. The colony of Roanoke declared its independence from Britain, and that was that. Now King James wants to know why Banner isn’t back with Fury’s head, so he sends Captain Ross and Antonio Stark, Lord Iron to the New World to reclaim him. In other news, Norman Osborne is stirring up trouble with the natives for the colony in a bid to find the source of all the strangeness that has plagued the New World recently, hoping to exploit it to his own ends….

The resulting battle feels like it should be epic, but doesn’t quite make it. If you were left unsatisfied at the end of 1602, you probably would do well to read this and get a little more closure at least. But be forewarned, it has nowhere near the awesomeness of Gaiman’s original.


Title: MARVEL 1602: FANTASTICK FOUR
Writer: Peter David
Illustrator: Pascal Alixe
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2007

The phenomenal 1602 saga Neil Gaiman created continues! It just doesn’t have Neil Gaiman attached to it anymore. In any capacity. The result isn’t terrible, its just not terribly good…..

At the end of 1602 the Fantastick Four quietly exited stage right. Apparently King James was uncharacteristically (at least for this fictional version) merciful, allowing them to go their separate ways and go adventuring no more on pain of execution for being Witchbreed. When last seen, Otto “The Handsome” Von Doom had been horrifically scarred in the FF’s escape from his Latverian fortress. But now travellers’ tales begin to spread of a city beyond the edge of the world whose science is far advanced beyond the abilities of those in the outside world….Atlantis! When Doom kidnaps William Shakespeare to chronicle his quest and sets out for Atlantis with the intent of seizing this power himself, the King forces Reed Richards and his fantastick crew to follow on pain of death. But Atlantis will prove more than a match for any who would seize it by force, as even Doom has not counted on Prince Numenor….

Again, I wanted to like this a lot. Instead, I liked it a little. But then, perhaps it is unfair to compare it to Gaiman’s foundational work in this universe….although I would argue it’s perfectly natural. At any rate, this miniseries offers little closure and while there is one more focused on Peter Parquah, I don’t see their paths crossing. So for that, I would like to see at least one more to wrap up some of the plot threads left hanging here. If you enjoyed the original, this is worth your time. If you haven’t read the original, go do it NOW and then come back. But if you disliked the original miniseries, I doubt you’ll find much here to engage you.

Title: SPIDER-MAN: 1602
Writer: Jeff Parker,
Illustrator: Ramon Rosanas
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2010

And so we come to the end (at least for now) of the Marvel 1602 saga. And this time, I feel the product we are given at least comes close to matching Neil Gaiman’s excellent foundation for this world.

Despite the title of the book, it is actually several years after the events in 1602–I have the impression the year was 1608, but I can’t put my finger on why. This miniseries picks up the story threads laid down at the end of 1602: New World, with Peter Parquah still in the colony at Roanoke, now a young man and very much in love with the daughter of the governor, Virginia Dare. Norman Osborn has been on his best behavior since the events of 1602:NW and has managed to insinuate himself into the position of Harbor Master, but Peter and Virginia don’t believe he has reformed. When their suspicions are proved correct with tragic consequences, Peter is sent to escort Norman as a prisoner to England where he will answer for his crimes. Meanwhile, back in the Old World, Baron Octavius has imprisoned both Henri Le Pym and Henry McCoy, forcing them to work in his laboratory. They were able to save him from the plague, but the side effects of the treatment were…unexpected. Now he wants them to find a way to restore his humanity. Throw in the pirate King’s Pin and his sidekick Bull’s Eye, the result of Curtis Connors’ own experiments, the travelling Watsonnes’ entertainment troupe and you have this delightful close to the Marvel 1602 saga.

There are still a few loose ends hanging in the wind–mostly ones left by the previous Fantastick Four miniseries, which doesn’t get touched by this entry in the series–but on the whole this offered a good close. Nothing says they CAN’T follow this up, but I get the impression the series is not making them money or garnering critical acclaim anymore, so I kinda doubt it will happen.

Content-wise this is pretty PG across the board. A little language, nothing you won’t hear on primetime TV. An occasional innuendo or unclothed character obscured by shadows or foreground objects. Some violence, a little blood, but nothing too horrific. Pretty standard comic book fare, on the whole.

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