Tag Archives: Ryan Sook

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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Review: “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Spike & Dru” by James Marsters, Christopher Golden, Ryan Sook & Eric Powell

Title: Spike & Dru
Writers: Christopher Golden & James Marsters
Artists: Ryan Sook & Eric Powell
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Tie-in Miniseries)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse, 2001

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Spike is one of my favorite characters from the Buffyverse. I hear that’s a common reaction, actually–he apparently became an instant fan favorite with everyone when the show first aired. Drusilla is cool too, of course, completely off her rocker and occasionally hilarious, but there’s something about Spike’s attitude and panache….They’re both very nuanced characters, more so than any other vampires in the Buffyverse.* Anyway, this being the case, I was very much looking forward to reading this set of stories featuring everyone’s favorite duo of co-dependent vampires.

This is usually labeled a miniseries, but it was more accurately a series of three one-shots with the same billing. Also included in the TPB reprint (and this review) is the Spike & Dru story from the Lover’s Walk one-shot for a total of four stories. (I arranged them chronologically, though they were actually published in a different order.)

  • All’s Fair(#3: Written by Golden, Drawn by Powell): Prologue set in China during the Boxer rebellion, with the main body focused on Spike and Drusilla in Chicago, 1933, as the  World’s Fair is in full swing. Very well written, to the point where I can hear the characters say their lines. I also liked the art better than any of the previous stories, which I again admit is a matter of taste.
  • The Queen Of Hearts(#2: Written by Golden, Drawn by Sook): Spike and Drusilla are on their way to Sunnydale, fresh from Prague (as seen in the story The Problem With Vampires, in Tales Of The Vampires) when they get sidetracked in St. Louis. This one was really well written, with everyone’s lines just flowing perfectly. I could hear James Marsters or Juliette Landau saying their lines as I read, it was great. The art was okay, as with Paint The Town Red I’m not a huge fan of that style, but that’s a matter of personal taste. I did kind of laugh at one point though, there’s a bouncer who looks exactly like Hellboy, so much so that I wondered if the writers decided on a crossover at the last minute. It can’t be accidental, and I appreciate the tip of the hat.
  • Paint The Town Red (#1: Written by Marsters & Golden, Drawn by Sook): After the events of the Buffy season 2 finale, we rejoin Spike and Drusilla on the western coast of Italy as they try to patch their relationship back together, hindered by Spike’s temper and Drusilla’s continuing obsession with Angel. This particular story was…decent. I can totally see the story unfolding this way, and Spike’s lines were spot-on for his character (as you would expect, given that Marsters himself was one of the writers), but Drusilla’s lines only sounded like her about half the time. I also wasn’t a fan of the artwork, but that’s just my stylistic taste. That style works for Mignola on Hellboy books, but I’ve never really warmed to it elsewhere.
  • Who Made Who (From the Lover’s Walk OS: Written by Golden, Drawn by Powell): Set soon after the Buffy season 3 episode Lover’s Walk, we revisit Spike and Drusilla in Rio. The good news is that Spike’s plan to “torture her until she likes me again” actually worked. The bad news is that she’s up to her old tricks again, cheating on him with a fungus demon of all things….As with All’s Fair, I preferred Powell’s art to that of Ryan Sook. Again, a matter of taste. The writing was pretty good, as I’m coming to expect from Christopher Golden.

Obviously you could track down the TPB that collects these four stories, and that would be that. If you’re reading the Buffy omnibuses (Omnibi?), All’s Fair is featured in Volume 1, Queen Of Hearts and Paint The Town Red in Volume 2, and Who Made Who is in Volume 4. EDIT: Guess what? All four of these stories are also available to read online via the BBC! (Link here)

CONTENT: Mild language. Vampire violence, as you would expect from a book of this nature. In The Queen Of Hearts and Who Made Who characters visit a strip club, in both cases the dancers are wearing panties, in one case they have star-shaped stickers (I assume they’re stickers, anyway…) over their breasts and in the second case they are facing away from the reader. So not too explicit, but still a factor. Occult-wise, these are Buffyverse vampires (and so possessed by a demon), and there are actual demon characters to boot. There’s also a sorcerer who can command dead flesh. There’s a case to be made that Buffyverse demons are not the same as those of Judeo-Christian mythology, but that’s a whole post to itself. Maybe I’ll do that someday, maybe I won’t. We’ll see….

*Except Angel, of course, but he doesn’t count since he’s got his soul. Spike & Dru are both soulless, and yet still demonstrate a depth of human emotion that is rare for the vampires in the Buffyverse.

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