Tag Archives: Paul Lee

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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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.

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