Books

Books : reviews

Joss Whedon, Brian Lynch, Franco Urru.
Angel: After the Fall volume 1.
IDW. 2008

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 19 April 2009

This is "season 6" of Angel, following on from the climactic last battle that ended season 5 on TV. Here we get to find out what happened next (four years later in my case, so my memory of the end-of-season cliffhanger details is a bit faded). It's not good. In fact, it's Hell.

It takes most of the first four "episodes" to figure out what has happened to all the gang, in the usual condensed elliptical comic style. Then the fifth "episode" is a giant battle against demons (not much changed there, then), ending on a massive cliffhanger. So I had a quick peek at Amazon to see what Volume 2 has to offer --but it appears to be a flashback, to explain what happened immediately after that season 5 battle, before the volume 1 events. Ho hum.

Joss Whedon, ed.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus volume 1.
Dark Horse Books. 2007

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 26 January 2008

The is a reprint of the Buffy comic series that ran in parallel with the TV show. In this first volume, we get a Spike and Dru story, but it's mainly setting up the Buffy-verse: how Buffy became a Slayer, and what she did before she arrived at Sunnydale. Interestingly, it features Dawn in these stories, although she didn't exist then. But, as the editor says, Buffy later remembered her as having existed then, and many of these stories appear to be narrated by that later Buffy. The editor also says this is useful, in that it allows stories just about Dawn. But, since Buffy wasn't there, she wouldn't remember them, so how could they have happened? My head hurts!

Anyway, definitely good stuff, capturing the whole kick-ass, smart-mouth, shoe-shopping style, and I'll be getting further omnibuses.

Contents

Christopher Golden. All's Fair. 2000
Spike and Dru at the 1933 World Fair have to battle a Slayer's vengeful family, and an incursion of Old Ones.
Dan Brereton, Christopher Golden. The Origin. 1999
Adapted from Joss Whedon's film script as written, not as realised in the film. Buffy discovers she is the Slayer. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar!
Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza. Viva Las Buffy!. 2002
Buffy is expelled for burning down her school gym, so goes off with new boyfriend Pike to Las Vegas to hunt down some vampires. Angel has a part to play, too.
Paul Lee. Dawn and Hoopy the Bear. 2003
A demon's minion mistakenly gives Dawn a cursed teddy bear intended for Buffy.
Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza. Slayer, Interrupted. 2003
Buffy finds herself in a mental institution, where some surprising people seem to believe she really is the Slayer. Rupert Giles competes for the position of her Watcher, having to face down what he used to be.

Joss Whedon, ed.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus volume 2.
Dark Horse Books. 2007

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 5 February 2008

More Slayer adventures, some with some rather curious artwork. There are a couple of Spike and Dru stories, too, which I'm not really into. The best is probably "A Stake to the Heart", a long story set during the time of Buffy's parents breakup, and her move to Sunnydale. Her reaction to the events demonstrate her strength as a Slayer isn't only physical.

[Caveat: I read this in one sitting under the influence of a heavy cold, while eating pizza. These things have probably skewed my judgement, but in which direction I can't tell!]

Contents

Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza. Angels We have Seen On High. 2002
Angel saves Dawn from a vampire security guard atr a funfair [pre Sunnydale]
Fabian Nicieza. A Stake to the Heart. 2003
Attempting to protect Buffy, Angel instead unleashes demons of deceit, guilt, abandonment, and trepidation on her: she shows why she is the Slayer [includes move to Sunnydale]
Jen Van Meter. MacGuffins. 1998
Giles tests Buffy with two chaotic gremlins
Christopher Golden. Queen of Hearts. 1999
Spike and Dru have an adventure on a riverboat casino on their way to Sunnydale
Doug Petrie. Ring of Fire. 2000
Buffy has to stop an ancient Samurai demon from being summoned [Angelus and Kendra]
James Marsters, Christopher Golden. Paint the Town Red. 1999
Spike and Dru find a town of zombies
Dan Brereton. The Dust Waltz. 1998
Sister demons play out their sibling rivalry contest in Sunnydale. Buffy isn't helped by Giles' visiting neice.

Joss Whedon, ed.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus volume 3.
Dark Horse Books. 2008

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 6 February 2008

Further adventures of our favourite Slayer. The stories are fine, with lots of smart-mouthed action. But these ones don't have quite the same depth as, say, "A Stake to the Heart" in the previous Omnibus volume, and certainly not of the "season 8" Long Way Home episodes.

[Caveat: I was under the influence of the second day of a heavy cold, and more junk food, while reading this, and so my judgement is probably still skewed!]

Contents

Andi Watson. Wu-Tang Fang. 2008
Buffy encounters a Chinese martial arts demon; Xander is useful
Andi Watson. Halloween. 2008
Buffy saves Willow from a vampire Halloween feast. One vampire escapes.
Andi Watson. Cold Turkey. 2008
Buffy has to do the Thanksgiving shopping, and finds a use for a frozen turkey when the escaped Haloween vampire turns up wanting revenge.
Christopher Golden. Dance with Me. 2008
Buffy didn't want to go to the dance with Gary: will she dance now he's a vampire?
Andi Watson. White Christmas. 2008
Buffy gets a job in the mall, selling popsicles, but then discovers her boss is summoning an ice demon.
Andi Watson. Happy New Year. 2008
Someone is raiding Giles' library, followed by a demon dog bent on revenge.
Andi Watson. New Kid on the Block. 2008
Buffy rescues a girl from a vampire attack, and is invited to her slumber party. It's a trap, of course.
Christopher Golden. Food Chain, part I. 2008
Sandy seems nice, but is hanging with Brad and his gang, a bad crowd. Buffy suspects they may have some demonic influence over her. She's almost right...
Christopher Golden. Play with Fire. 2003
Vampires running from the Slayer end up in a haunted house. Which side will the ghost help?
Christopher Golden. Food Chain, part II. 2008
Brad has another go at summoning.
Andi Watson. The Final Cut. 2008
A movie actor specialising in vampires needs some sacrifices to complete his pact.
Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski. The Latest Craze. 2008
The craze for hooligan toys is having a strange effect of the residents of Sunnydale.

Joss Whedon, ed.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus volume 4.
Dark Horse Books. 2008

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 21 May 2008

More stories of the Slayer, mostly taking part around season 3 of the TV series -- so lots of brooding with Angel, leading to the final split. The first story, Bad Blood, is a long one, occupying about half the volume. The intent was to have the same kind of multiple-episode arc as happened in the TV series. Well, it's certainly long, but it's not particularly deep, and with few twists. The Hollower, the second longest story, has a better structure from this point of view. The remaining shorter stories are mostly lightweight

Contents

Andi Watson. Bad Blood. 2008
The vampire Selke returns, with a blood potion that makes stronger vampires, and even a dark copy of Buffy
Doug Petrie. Bad Dog. 1999
Werewolf Oz helps track down an abducted Willow
Dan Brereton, Christopher Golden. Hello Moon. 1999
Buffy encourages a despondent sea-creature to complete the task it was Chosen for
Christopher Golden. Cursed. 1999
Angel backstory of when he first became a vampire and killed his best friend
Andi Watson. Dead Love. 1999
Giles backstory: someone is reanimating their dead lover into decaying flesh
Christopher Golden. Stinger. 1999
A bully challenges Xander to a fight, but runs away when a monster joins the party
Andi Watson. Mall Rats. 2002
Cordy uses a platimum credit card to flee monster rats at the mall
Christopher Golden. Who Made Who. 2001
Spike and Dru break up, badly
Christopher Golden. The Hollower. 2008
A monster from Angel's past reappears, devouring vampires
Doug Petrie. Graduation Day. 2008
A monster tries to use Buffy and Angel's breakup to destroy them both

Joss Whedon, ed.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus volume 5.
Dark Horse Books. 2008

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 27 September 2008

Yet further tales of the Slayer, filling in around the TV series. There are some long stories, and some shorter, slighter ones. The longer ones definitely work better, as they can have more depth and complexity, like a season's arc. "Haunted" tells a post-Graduation Day story of the Mayor haunting Buffy. "The Blood of Carthage" is a long complicated story of how Buffy nearly destroys the world by being a little bit too hasty -- with some interesting Xander-Willow backstory. And "Oz" fills in what happened after the werewolf left Sunnydale. The short ones work like separate stand-alone episodes -- okay now and again, but not what it's all about.

Contents

Jane Espenson. Haunted. 2001
Tom Fassbender, Jim Pascoe. Take Back the Night. 2000
Doug Petrie. Killing Time. 2000
Christopher Golden. The Blood of Carthage. 2008
Chris Boal. The Heart of a Slayer. 2008
Tom Fassbender, Jim Pascoe. Cemetery of Lost Love. 2008
Christopher Golden. Oz. 2008

Joss Whedon, ed.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus volume 6.
Dark Horse Books. 2009

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 13 February 2009

More tales filling in some backstory (and side-story) elements. I've decided why I don't like these quite as much as the "season 8" episodes: it does provide added depth, but there is less opportunity for surprise. Clearly, major characters can't undergo any arc-altering changes (like death, say). However, the added depth is certainly intriguing in places, particularly the Jonathan episode "Codename: Comrades", and the mocking self-aware revelation about Giles' new girlfriend in "Out of the Woodwork".

Contents

Tom Fassbender, Jim Pascoe. City of Despair. 2000
Angel and Buffy are captured by demons, and forced to fight in a gladiator-style arena
Jane Espenson. Jonathan--Codename: Comrades. 2001
An episode from Jonathan's "Superstar" life (season 4, episode 17)
Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski. Giles: Beyond the Pale. 2000
Giles' old mentor dies, and on investigating, Giles discovers the Old Ones are about to break through
Tom Fassbender, Jim Pascoe. One Small Promise. 2009
Buffy and Riley
Jamie S. Rich, Chynna Clugston. Punish Me with Kisses. 2009
Willow and Tara exorcise a ghostly couple
Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski. Past Lives. 2009
An event from Angel's past comes back to punish him
Tom Fassbender, Jim Pascoe. Out of the Woodwork. 2009
Giant bugs threaten Sunnydale; Giles gets a new girlfriend
Amber Benson, Christopher Golden. Wannablessedbe. 2001
Willow and Tara have to cope with a wanna-be witch who is more powerful than she realises
Tom Fassbender, Jim Pascoe. False Memories. 2009
Memories of Dawn before she existed plague Buffy

Joss Whedon, ed.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus volume 7.
Dark Horse Books. 2009

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 24 June 2009

This seems to hit the mark more often than some of the previous volumes, possibly because it does more gap filling, with good explanations, rather than simply being all side-stories. And one of those side stories is rather clever, as three characters each tell a story, and the graphic style changes for each telling.

Contents

Tom Fassbender, Jim Pascoe. Night of a Thousand Vampires. 2002
Set just after Joyce Summers dies, a grieving mother sets loose a 1000 unformed vampires on Buffy for revenge
Tom Fassbender, Jim Pascoe. Ugly Little Monsters. 2002
The gang are still upset by Joyce's death, when a trio of jeaslousy demons has them all acting crazy
Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski. Chaos Bleeds. 2003
Vampires are bleeding through from another dimension
Tom Fassbender, Jim Pascoe, Fabian Nicieza. Lost and Found. 2002
The gang is alone after Buffy's death, when a trapped demon is relesed from its imprisonment
Jamie S. Rich, Chynna Clugston. Spike in "Rock 'n' Roll all Night (and Sleep Every Day)". 2002
Spike meets a rock'n'roll vampire he used to hang with
Christopher Golden, Amber Benson. Willow and Tara: Wilderness. 2002
Willow, Tara and Dawn find something strange going on in the woods
Tom Fassbender, Jim Pascoe, Fabian Nicieza. The Death of Buffy. 2002
Fills in the gap between Buffy's death, and the gang's ressurection of her
Jane Espenon. Reunion. 2002
Anya, Xander and Dawn speculate on what happened at Buffy and Angel's reunion, but a fire demon keeps taking over their tales
Tom Fassbender, Jim Pascoe. Withdrawal. 2002
A vampire discovers the secret of Buffy and Spike, and plots to reveal it to the gang
Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza. Notes from the Underground. 2002
Demons have captured the Slayer and force her to fight in constant gladitorial battles: she must remember who she is before she can break free

Joss Whedon, Georges Jeanty.
The Long Way Home (#1-5).
Dark Horse Books. 2007

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 10 December 2007

This is subtitled "Season 8, volume 1", because the events follow on directly from the end of the final season 7 of the TV show, when the world became full of Slayers. So, what did all those Slayers do next? Episodes #1-4 give a clue: they join together to form an army of Slayers battling evil, and not everyone is happy about that. Episode #5 is essentially stand-alone, the story of one of those Slayers.

This is fun stuff, full of the usual smart-mouth jokes, dark events, fighting, underexplained plot twists, and foreshadowing. It progresses the story off in an interesting direction, and I'm looking forward to the next few episodes of season 8.

Brian K. Vaughan, Georges Jeanty, Joss Whedon.
No Future for You (#6-10).
Dark Horse Books. 2008

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 15 June 2008

The world has moved from having 2000 "potentials" to 2000 full-blown Slayers. And not all of those are good. What do you do with them? Giles discovers one who has turned bad, and calls in Faith for help. Episodes #6-9 tell the story of Faith and the rogue Slayer. Then in Episode #10 we learn why Willow is keeping Buffy and Kennedy apart.

This continues to be a great "8th season" of Buffy, with the smart mouth dialogue, dark corners of the mind, and a fair bit of action. The writers have a strange view of England, though.

Drew Goddard, Georges Jeanty, Joss Whedon.
Wolves at the Gate (#11-15).
Dark Horse Books. 2008

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 6 December 2008

Buffy season 8, episodes #11-15, continues to tell the story of what happens in a world with 2000 full-strength Slayers. Here we have a single episode where the sinister secret organisation tries to dent Buffy's moral certitude. But the main story is a four-parter where a bunch of super-powerful Japanese vamps discover a way to wipe out all the Slayers. Buffy has to send Xander off to get some very powerful help indeed.

This does the usual mix of clever use of continuity, smart-mouthed one-liners, hilariously funny scenes, and heart-wrenching tragedy, in the way we have come to expect. And it moves the plot forward in significant directions.

Joss Whedon, Karl Moline, Jeph Loeb.
Time of Your Life (#16-20).
Dark Horse Books. 2009

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 2 June 2009

Buffy season 8 continues, with episodes #16-#20. In the usual way, we have a four-parter followed by a stand alone episode. The four-parter is a "crossover" tale, as Buffy finds herself 200 years in the future, with Slayer Fray (apparently Fray's story is told in another comics series, but I had never come across her before). Buffy is dismayed to learn that Fray is once again a lone Slayer, and that the bad guys are running rampant. But that's nothing compared to when she meets an old friend. Meanwhile, back in the present, Dawn has transformed into something less gigantic but much weirder, and the Slayer HQ has to fight off a devastating magical attack. The stand-alone episode, by contrast, has Buffy going back in time, if only in a dream, to when things weren't as much simpler as she remembers.

A good addition to the season, with its smart-mouthed dialogue and complex plotting, although I suspect some of the Fray elements were lost on me.

Joss Whedon, Jane Espenson, Steven S. DeKnight, Drew Z. Greenberg, Jim Krueger, Doug Petrie.
Predators and Prey (#21-25).
Dark Horse Books. 2009

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 30 March 2010

Harmony Bites is the latest reality TV show, and when a rogue Slayer tries to stake Harmony on live TV, the show becomes a ratings hit, and Slayers become the bad guys. The sinister Twilight starts attacking, and suddenly Buffy and the rest of the Slayers have to lie low, victims of a PR disaster. But that doesn't stop Satsu tackling a monster stuffed-toy demon, Faith finding a Slayer hideaway with a hideous secret, or Dawn ending up in a third weird bodyform. Just another typical day in Slayer-ville, then.

Joss Whedon, Jane Espenson, Georges Jeanty.
Retreat (#26-30).
Dark Horse Books. 2010

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 9 January 2011

The band of Slayers are still in full retreat, desperately fighting off Twilight. Eventually they discover that twilight is tracking them through the magic they are using to hide themselves. So they all retreat to the Himalayas, and Oz's own spiritual retreat, where they are taught how to lose their magic. But then Twilight finds them when they are defenceless...

I've marked this down slightly because it's a bit of a filler, between the beginnings of the retreat and (what I hope is to be) their fight back. Fine, but few added twists (that I spotted, at least).

Joss Whedon, Brad Meltzer, Georges Jeanty.
Twilight (#31-35).
Dark Horse Books. 2010

rating : 4.5 : passes the time
review : 20 July 2013

This is fight back against Twilight, as the Slayers discover who Twilight actually is. Buffy’s role in the battle might destroy the whole planet.

Despite the gravity of the situation, the battle was over rather too easily, I felt, and the artwork seemed a little rushed to me. There were times I couldn’t tell who some of the characters were supposed to be! Now the battle is over, I wonder what the final volume of season 8 will be about?

Joss Whedon, Georges Jeanty, Scott Allie.
Last Gleaming (#36-40).
Dark Horse Books. 2011

rating : 5 : waste of time
review : 10 January 2014

The battle to save humanity comes to a boiling point in the finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8!

War. It’s messy, and Buffy knows it. As the Slaver army crumbles against an endless swarm of demons, Buffy joins forces with the US military to put an end to her greatest enemy to date—the mysterious Twilight, who will see this world end to give birth to another.

Spike and Buffy reunite and take the fight closer to home, where everything and everyone will change.

Okay, maybe the battle wasn’t as over as I had thought. There’s lots of complicated stuff going on, with alien-like tentacled and blobby demons, and lots of fighting. It all seems to get a bit out of control, and the coda from Whedon suggests he thought so too, given that Season 9 will return more to its roots.

Joss Whedon, Andrew Chambliss, Georges Jeanty.
Freefall (#1-5).
Dark Horse Books. 2012

Joss Whedon, Andrew Chambliss, Scott Allie, Georges Jeanty, Cliff Richards.
On Your Own (#6-10).
Dark Horse Books. 2012

Joss Whedon, Andrew Chambliss, Jane Espenson, Drew Z. Greenberg, Jim Krueger, Doug Petrie.
Guarded (#11-15).
Dark Horse Books. 2013

Joss Whedon, Andrew Chambliss, Georges Jeanty, Karl Moline.
Welcome to the Team (#16-20).
Dark Horse Books. 2013

Rededicated to the Slayer mission, Buffy is reducing the zompire population one by one—until she is ripped from a battle and transported to Los Angeles. The demon Illyria and a mystical council make the Slayer an unwilling recruit in a team formed to take down an increasingly powerful enemy—the Siphon. Having regained his strength after a showdown with Buffy, he’s back in action, gathering power and endangering whatever remnants of magic linger in the world. Meanwhile, in San Francisco—unbeknownst to Buffy—the loss of magic is hitting closer to home than ever…

Joss Whedon, Andrew Chambliss, Georges Jeanty, Jane Espenson, Karl Moline.
The Core (#21-25).
Dark Horse Books. 2014

When Dawn falls mysteriously ill, Buffy, Xander, and Willow set out to find a supernatural cure in a world sorely lacking magic. As they traverse the center of the earth, this trio of friends will confront new enemies—a super being bent on revenge, a Slayer gone rogue, and the ancient god who created vampires—in a battle that will change the shape of the world. Buffy, with a little help from her friends, will rediscover what it truly means to be a Slayer in a story of self-discovery and heroics.

Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad.
Serenity: Those Left Behind.
Dark Horse Books. 2006

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 25 February 2007

This graphic novel fills in the gap between the end of the TV series Firefly, and the spin-off film Serenity, explaining how and why some of the characters ended up where they did by the beginning of the film. It manages to pack a lot of plot, and some backstory, into a few pages, using the usual comic book highly abbreviated style, leaving more implied than said. The artwork is also very good, blending the actual characters' features into the comic book style, with a few more detailed pictures interleaving the story.

Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad.
Serenity: Better Days.
Dark Horse Books. 2008

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 23 December 2008

A further episode in the lives of the crew of Serenity, before the events of the film. Here, as the result of a payoff for a heist, they discover that they are all super-rich. This is not necessarily a good thing. And, of course, it cannot last.

Again, the comic-book style manages to pack a lot into a few pages -- here, rather too much, leaving the several converging plot strands and back-stories rather under-written in places.