What Is It?: Tales of the Vampires, the trade paperback. This collects the entire "Tales of the Vampires" mini-series.
Timing: The main story (entitled "Tales of the Vampires) that ties each of the little tales together, takes place before BtVS. It shows (SPOILER:) Giles' grandmother training to be a Watcher. A few of the stories are ambiguous as to when they take place, but a few are not. "The Problem With Vampires" leads into "School Hard (Season Two of BtVS)", "Antique" takes place between Season 7 and Season 8 of BtVS, and "Numb" takes place DURING "Amends (Season Three of BtVS)."
REVIEW: Where "Tales of the Slayers" was entertaining, "Tales of the Vampires" is, to say the least, a spectacular collection of stories tied together by a first-rate tale which gives insight into the mythology of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." It's the best Buffyverse comic that I've read (other than Season Eight and Spike: Asylum, of course), and that's saying a lot. This collection simply has so much to offer. There's stories with drama, stories with depth, stories that explore and expand the mythology, and a few simply funny tales. It's clear to see that this was penned by people who loved writing for the show (Whedon, Espenson, Goddard) and others who loved watching the show (anyone with eyes/ears, basically).
While "Tales of the Vampires" can be described as a collection of short graphic stories about vampires, it also tells a cohesive story about one vampire named Roche telling tales of the undead to a group of young watchers. As the stories unfold, it is simply a pleasure to see the young watcher named Edna realize what Roche's true reason for telling these tales is. The Roche/Edna plot that unfolds over the length of this book is written by Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy and Angel.
Some of the most interesting stories in this edition are about vampires we've never met before, but what fans will surely be most interested in is the stories about characters who have already been established in the Buffyverse. There are plenty of those. Spike and Drusilla's love story in "The Problem With Vampires" is touching, classic, and leads right up to their first appearance in the show. "Antique" is the first we hear of Buffy since the end of the series (this is pre-season eight) and it has her battling with Dracula for Xander's freedom. The closing story is one about Angel called "Numb" which takes place during the Season Three episode "Amends." It expands on the dreams that are tormenting Angel about his past, and has some of the most beautiful comic art I've ever seen. It really fits with the snowy mood of the episode.
The writing, as I mentioned above, is top-notch. The art, different for each story, is almost always great--except for, perhaps, the depiction of Buffy, Xander, and Dracula in "Antique." A bit to blagh for me. But all else is well. If you're interested in vampires, Buffy, comics, or are currently reading "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight", then this is the book for you.
Art: **All mentioned above**
Characters We Know: Buffy, Xander, Angel, Spike, Drusilla, Dracula, and Jenny Calendar.