Timing: This takes place AFTER "The Origin" and before Season One of BtVS. This is the first story arc in the "Buffy: Year One" series.
REVIEW: After reading the so-so "The Origin" comic, I was weary to get my hopes up that the other pre-Season One Buffy comics would be any good. But in this trade paperback "Viva Las Buffy", gone is Christopher Golden's disjointed storytelling and artist Joe Bennett's green vampires are no where in sight. Instead the infinitely more competent team of writers Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza and penciller Cliff Richards, with Paul Lee and Brian Horton tackling the covers.
In this miniseries, Buffy and Pike (who narrates this tale) take on a vampire-run casino in Las Vegas, while the other characters from the series (who Buffy, at this point in her life, has yet to meet) deal with their own demons. Angel's story arc is very true to the show, as in he pretty much does nothing but watch over Buffy. However, he gets into his own bit of trouble during this, which leads to a very interesting twist involving time travel and temporal folds. Perhaps the most interesting side story in this miniseries involves Giles, who finds himself in a spot of trouble while trying to stop a colleague from using black magic to take him out of the competition to become Buffy's watcher. There are many nods to the show there, including appearances by Quentin Travers, Wesley Wyndam-Price, and even soon-to-be-rogue watcher Gwendolyn Post.
Each story unfolds at a satisfying pace, very similarly to the show it's based off of. Buffy is especially entertaining, as she is one-hundred percent in character. Here, she is Season One Buffy, lacking the edge and the bitterness that the character later took on in seasons six and seven. Here she has excepted her destiny as the slayer, but is still very new to the world and hasn't developed the cynical outlook that she later does. It's refreshing to see Buffy like this. Another great aspect of this series is the villain, who is--to say the least--unique.
While ninety percent of what I have to say about "Viva Las Buffy" is complementary, this isn't a perfect volume. The inconsistency of Pike's character from "The Origin" to here is disturbing and, though the character is much more likable here, I sometimes felt like this Pike was a completely different character all together. Another thing that annoyed me, perhaps unreasonably, was how Wesley was portrayed. What he did (snitching on Giles) was perhaps in character at that point in his life, but I can't say it didn't annoy me, as I've become a very big fan of Wesley. My biggest problem, however, is Dawn's presence in this miniseries (as well as the other pre-Season One comics). Essentially, we are seeing these events as Buffy remembers them, not how they truly happened. I have to say I'd much rather know what actually happened in these stories, not the magically altered memories including Dawn.
Art: Stylish, bursting with color and action. The vampire-staking effect is also awesome.
Characters We Know: Buffy, Giles, Angel, Joyce and Hank Summers, Dawn, Gwendolyn Post, Wesley, Quentin Travers