Or – “Waitaminnit!  That Ain’t Kristy Swanson!  I Call Shenanigans!”

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I can tell you right now where the real difficulty lies with each and every Buffy comic I’ve ever read.  Sure, that Joss Whedon dialogue is rough to reproduce, and the exact personalities of the various Scooby gang members can be a little amorphous (especially Willow), but the real difficulty, the thing that’s torpedoed my enjoyment of some previous Buffy comics is simple:  Sarah Michelle Gellar’s face defies any attempt to draw it.  There is some strange aspect of the way her features coalesce that makes Buffy look not-so-much like Buffy when drawn on paper.  The same problem with Gillian Anderson killed the X-Files comic, in my opinion.  But, that said, Georges Jeanty and Andy Owens have minimized, if not entirely overcome this problem, and there’s some interesting (and occasionally awesome) stuff going on here…

Buffy fans are an interesting breed, just as intense and detail-oriented as any comic fan can be, and they love “their characters” as much as you might dig Wolverine or Batman buffy1.jpg(and as much as I love me some 3-D Man or Omega The Unknown).  I have a close friend who is one of the Buffaholics, and she will disabuse me of my incorrect notions (“No, Adam was the big bad of season FOUR, not season five”), and so I am hesitant to give you the what’s gone before…  But, being your ever intrepid recapper, here’s Buffy in a nutshell:  Buffy is the chosen one, a girl given the power, once per generation, to destroy evil (generally speaking, vampires, demons, etc).  Over the course of her show, she accumulated friends, lovers, associates, and family, lost many of the same, her friends grew up, as did she, and finally she was able to destroy the hellmouth, source of evil in her hometown of Sunnydale.  Since that happened, in the last episode of her show, she’s appeared in reams of fan fiction (some of it good, some of it frightening), some non-canonical novels, and made a cameo on “Angel,” a show that featured her former lover (a vampire, one of two she fell for, which makes me wonder if she misunderstood the whole “slayer” bit).  This, per Joss Whedon, is…  The REST Of The Story.

This issue starts with one of my favorite bits of Joss Whedon writing, the Buffy-ism…

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It’s simple, it’s pithy, it’s almost profound.  The dialogue is one of the great joys of the Buffy series, and it’s always nice when someone gets it right, or at least right enough.  This is straight on perfect (although, what’s with the strange ‘sunburst over the horizon’ thing in pop culture lately…  Heroes used it, New Avengers used it, Doctor Who used it.  It’s like the new equivalent of ‘bullet time.’) and the story is off like a shot.  Buffy and three other Slayers (one of the plot points of the last episode was that the power of the Slayer was dispersed among all the women who had Slayer potential in the world, changing Buffy from ‘Chosen One’ to ‘First Among Equals’) leap from a black helicopter (Heh.) into the fray, landing on an abandoned church (or possibly castle), as Buffy muses on her new status.  1800 Slayers worldwide, nearly 500 working for her, in 10 battalions.  She even laughingly mentions that there are three of her…

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‘The Immortal’ that one of the Buffy doppelgangers is dating cracks me up, a man so mysterious and powerful that nobody really knows a thing about him, save his legend.  I wondered for a while if it was an in-joke, perhaps name-checking a non-Buffy character (Connor MacLeod was the name that came to mind), but it turns out it doesn’t really matter, as it’s not the real Buffy anyway.  Which is fitting, as the whole silly party-girl facade didn’t really fit her, in my mind anyway.  And as for Buffy still having her watcher, he’s no longer a remote, professorial figure who helps her with oblique hints and ancient weapons training (no offense to Giles, mind you), her new watcher is a contemporary, a  peer…  Moreover, he’s the one man in Buffy’s life who managed to not run out on her.  “I used to be in construction,” muses Xander, as he monitors the telemetry from the Slayers cameras.  “Pay was good.  Hours were better than this.  They even ended, occasionally.”  Xander’s voice is distinctive and difficult to capture, and in the hands of his creator, bordering on poetry.

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It’s good to see Xander in an expanded version of his role throughout the series, as Buffy’s support staff.  As the one character who never actually gained super-powers (which is kinda cruel for the makeshift comic geek), Xander’s function is to act as sounding board, emotional dampener, and to catch the threats that his magical mystery friends are above seeing.  He’s also the only member of Buffy’s crew to have a “real job,” unless you count the ritual slinging of the burgers.  Buffy and da Slayerettes crash into the suspected haven of evil, to find that it’s really…  a confirmed and quite disgusting haven of evil, complete with the half-eaten bodies of the latest victims.  The first salvo ends with Buffy on her ass and her minions being menaced, but one of the perks of not being the only one is backup.  Three more Slayer bust through the stained-glass, riddling two of the monsters with what look like crossbow bolts, as the third advances on Buffy.

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Right here is where I realized how much I missed her…  Buffy remarks about how she feels bad, using a crucifix to kill someone.  A slayerette (apparently Irish) responsds with “Yeh dinno much about religion, do yeh?”  Heh.  They notice that the creatures victims’ all have a strange sigil carved in their chests, making Buffy wonder if they weren’t chosen at random.  She suspects that they went looking for a fight, a suspicion that is intensified when they discover a forcefield generator, implying that the victims WANTED to be trapped in the castle with the creatures.  Buffy wonders what they were a part of, as we see only the feet of a mysterious hovering figure, watching it all from a distance.  Back in California, the military is examining the Sunnydale crater (the destruction of the entire town was part of what closed the Hellmouth), concerned about the presence of a superhuman army with a charismatic and driven leadership.  They find no evidence of life, but suddenly, there’s a scream as a figure leaps out of the darkness….

…and then we cut away.  ARRRGH!  Buffy and Xander are looking at the symbol from the bodies, and working the angles.

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See what I mean about emotional support and noticing the details?  Dawn, of course, is Buffy’s little sister, sort of.  It’s rather complicated, and even at my typing speed, we’d be here all day, so let’s just say “OVERVIEW!”  Dawny has been through a lot of changes throughout her seasons on the show, and some very outre things have happened to her.  For a while, she was essentially “Robin The Boy Victim” with a better wardrobe, but these days she’s grown up…  WAAAY up.

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With resident witch Willow off the radar, and Dawn refusing to talk to her sister about what exactly happened (I suspect this has something to do with the S-word.  No, not “skating.”), Dawn is pretty much stuck at approximately 40-ish feet tall and snarking at her sibling.  Buffy is saddened to say that she and her sister haven’t really gotten along since the end of Sunnydale, “since we changed the world.”  Buffy thinks about all the things she’s given up, how she misses home, and more…

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There’s another example of how hard it is to capture Sarah Michelle in pencil and ink, but at least it’s not overwhelmingly wrong, or bad enough to throw me out of the story.  The first panel is actually a pretty good rendition (although I still don’t know about the nose).  Back in Sunnydale, the government has, miraculously, found two survivors in the ruins of Sunnydale,  one of which scares them all, the other of whom is somewhat more together, though just as scary in her own way.  Her first words (after scaring the surveyor half to death) were “I’m gonna help you kill her.”  Uh oh.  When told that they survived by magic, and probably ATE whoever else was left with them, the hard-as-nails general remarks “At least tell me they had the decency to go insane.”  Happy to oblige, general…

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Insanity is not so much a problem here, though I’d argue that Amy Madison was crazy as a football bat long before the collapse of Sunnydale.  The stage is set for a big dust-’em-up, and we’re out of the gate with this “season’s” plotlines and an indication of the overarching theme (the “big bad” in the parlance) with Xander & Buffy’s mystery.  Still up in the air, though, is the status of old friends Giles & Willow, as well as the question of how, when, or whether Spike and Angel will be made aware that their dream girl is still around.  Also important:  whether the little idiot will finally realize that Xander is the man who never dropped her on her ass like a hot plate a Carlos O’Kelly’s.

Overall, this is a very good effort, though I’m not sure how a non-Buffy fan would deal with the continuation of plot threads (some of them nearly a decade old, now) from the television show.  Of course, I don’t think that a lot of non-fans are going to start their Buffy experience here.  I am an aficionado of both Buffy and Joss Whedon in general, and find the writing here to be absolutely top-notch.  The art doesn’t suffer, either, with realistic battle sequences, good expressions, and faces that show emotion while still maintaining the likeness of the actors (kind of a make or break in books like this).  It’s going to be an interesting season, and Episode Issue 1 rates 4 outta 5 stars.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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4 Comments

  1. Aexia
    March 23, 2007 at 9:37 am — Reply

    The Immortal reference is from an episode in Angel’s 5th Season (which is, more or less, contemporous with this series).

    Angel and Spike go to Italy to “save” Buffy from the Immortal, who’s really really horrible and evil… mainly because he effortlessly outwitted and humiliated the two of them in the past. We never actually see him and they only get a glimpse of “Buffy” leaving a night club.

  2. March 23, 2007 at 10:58 am — Reply

    He’s always ahead of the game, too… He’s the best, the smartest, the coolest, and he’s never seen. Which is why I thought he was a reference to another character. My friend, the Buffyholic, always thought he was Methos, likewise from Highlander. It’s still a nice gag, and Spike and Angel’s discomfort proved that Andrew was right in thinking that pretending Buffy was with him would be hilarious.

  3. March 23, 2007 at 11:09 am — Reply

    “A slayerette (apparently Irish) responsds with “Yeh dinno much about religion, do yeh?”. . .”
    More likely Scottish, it’s hard to convey in print.
    Loved this first issue, but the monthly wait between episo. . . erm I mean Issues, is gonna slay me!

  4. March 23, 2007 at 11:34 am — Reply

    Mmm… could be. My touchstone for Scottish dialogue is Morrison’s Mirror Master (“Howzitagaun?”) whereas my Irish is Ellis’ Cassidy the Vampire (“How’re ye, ye great pillock!”). The dinno made me think Irish, for some reason my mind would think Scottish was “dinna.” :)

    Your mileage may vary.

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