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There’s been some ongoing buzz about the current Buffyverse ongoing, Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight, but Buffy comics have been running for some time at Dark Horse, starting after season three of the tv show.
At first it was hard to get into the collected editions, with a variety of thin trades collecting different story arcs, none without numbers on the spine.
Luckily, Dark Horse started releasing Buffy comics in their slightly undersized (but fat) omnibus format, this time collected in a sort of chronological story order.
So this book actually collects the last comics in the BtVS 1998 run – issues 51-59, which, along with BvTS: The Origin (a three issue mini released in 1999) retell the movie plot, and two stories connecting the original movie script to the TV Show.
Altogether the book weighs in at 264 pages including some covers and a brief introduction by editor Scott Allie.
The book was a pleasant surprise. Instead of simply retelling plots from the show, a huge amount of the work here is original and nicely fills in some gaps.
The first story, All’s Fair, featuring Spike and Dru at the 1933 World’s Fair, doesn’t really tie into existing continuity much, but is a lot of fun.
It’s very lighthearted for a story with no real heroes and lets the reader know that this book will fit in well with the rest of the Buffyverse they know from the show. The fanged couple start out in a familiar scene in the orient and work their way into some very Lovecraftian hijinks in Chicago.
The characters seem the same (even if they don’t always have that same snap-wit that Joss and his writing crew championed.)
Produced after the Buffy character was well fleshed out, we get the Sarah Michelle Gellar Buffy Anne Summers right from the start.
Some things take a little getting used to (like how many of the vampires are solid tones of green and vamp out differently from in the show) but I found it vastly superior to the film.
Pike, the kid who ends up helping the slayer, is fleshed out and a bit less annoying, even though he’s still got a goatee.
Buffy’s first watcher, Merrick, is also a lot more badass, and I actually cared about the guy. Surprise!
The whole story is framed by some amusing gossip from Buffy’s prior girl clique.
Turns out she ran away and ended up in Vegas.
There’s plenty of badness going on there, though, and this storyline entangles Angel in behind the scenes as Buffy and Pike try to take down a vampire infested casino.
There’s some true weirdness in this book and a lot of laugh out loud moments – Buffy has always had some very inventive ways of taking down vamps.
Also a bonus, we’re allowed a peak at Giles’ trials as he works towards becoming Buffy’s new watcher.
Dawn shows up in the previous tale, Viva Las Buffy, and while she is probably the most complained about character in the tv series, all is forgiven, because the next story, Dawn and Hoopy The Bear, is one of my all time Buffyverse favorites – absolutely hilarious in a sort of disturbing way, just the way we like it.
Childhood innocence and extremely powerful black magic are always a good match. I don’t want to say too much about this story and spoil any of it, but it’s worth buying this volume for this one alone.
The last story – Slayer, Interrupted – finally shows what happened during Buffy’s first visit to a mental hospital.
As you can expect, this one is packed with family drama and self doubt, culminating with a rollicking round of demon butt kicking.
By the end, Buffy is all set to carry on where the TV show picks up.
Rupert Giles also continues having his story told, a few pages at a time throughout the end of the volume, and it’s an enjoyable subplot lending a little more texture to his “Ripper” past.
There are many other subtle references and cameos throughout the book, all very enjoyable. It is probably obvious by this point, but this book is really directed at existing fans. Like a lot of superhero comics, if you’re not familiar with the characters it’s just not as fun.
I think that because there are origins here, and early stories, you could still enjoy this without having seen the show, but I’d say it would be worth your time to let Joss introduce you to his own creations, and then explore the offshoots.
The art, while a bit different in each story, is fitting and well rendered. Unlike some licensed comics, nothing seems traced or awkwardly copied from existing poses. The action is dynamic and each artist works to their own styles. They aren’t extremely varied – no one is getting really experimental here – but the Spike and Dru story looks very different from the Dawn story, and they both benefit from this.
I could write a large review on each story (and I’d love to) but what you really need to know is that this is a great book.
My only real complaint is that my binding fell apart after the third reading and one lending, but I got it used so I couldn’t say if it’s a manufacturing issue.
It’s a must have for a serious Buffy fan and a welcome contribution to the mythos, whether you consider it canon or not.
A lot of enjoyable original story wrapped around a much needed revamp of the BtVS film.
There is a lot of debate about whether these early Dark Horse comics are canon. It’s not written by Joss, but I’d say every fan should read this book and decide for yourself.
There are some references in the latter “officially” canon dark horse and IDW books, so I think that ties this in well enough.
If you’ve already seen the show and are preparing to watch it through a second time, reading this book first can make the first season a little more fun.
If you haven’t seen Buffy The Vampire Slayer Seasons 1 – 7, oh my lord – GET ON IT!
Then read the comics.
I’ve added descriptions after you click on each book in the Buffyverse reading order, so you can see what season (if any) they take place during. This book takes place before the first season, and if you’re heading into an obsessive re-watch, it might be enjoyable to read the comics around or during their companion seasons.
Personally I think it’s fine to just watch the whole show then read all the comics, in which case your next stop would be Buffy The Vampire Slayer Omnibus Vol. 2 – there, that’s easy enough, right?