What Is It?: "Ring of Fire" is a graphic novel, written by Doug Petrie who has written notable episodes for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", such as the fan-favorite "Fool for Love."
Timing: This story takes place in Season Two of Buffy, right after "Passion."
REVIEW: I was surprised by "Ring of Fire." When I began to read it, I was under the false assumption that Christopher Golden (a writer for the comics and books, who hasn't convinced me of his talent yet) had written it. I was immediately blown away by how the dialogue captured the personalities of each character as well as the tone of the show perfectly. Wondering how Christopher Golden had suddenly become such a good writer, I flipped to the index and saw that he, of course, hadn't written it. Doug Petrie, a writer for the actual television series, had. Well, let me say this: If this is his first venture into comics, he is a natural. The pacing is perfect, and the writing truly brings me back to what I feel was the best period of the show: The Angelus arc.
The story is a simple "stop demon from killing people" kind of thing, but the dialogue and the twists in the plot, such as the introduction of Kendra into the mix, are what sustains the story. However, speaking of Kendra, I couldn't help but note how jarringly out of character she is. She's speaking like Faith, which is very non-Kendra-esque. No matter; it doesn't take away from my enjoyment of the story. Petrie manages to insert this tale into a tight spot in the Second Season that craftily manages to develop the characters without contradicting anything that happened subsequent to the events of the story. This graphic novel is actually better than a few of the actual television episodes that followed "Passion" (ex. "Go Fish", "Killed By Death"), as it dealt with certain aspects that weren't explicitly addressed on the television show.
Art: "Ryan Sook." The name of this artist, when said to a fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," either causes sneering or smiling. After seeing his art in the "Spike and Dru" one-shots, I found myself more among the sneering crowd. His depiction of the characters in the SPIKE AND DRU comics was crude and often made their faces look hideous, though I did note that he had a knack for complex backgrounds. However, his art in "Ring of Fire" wasn't nearly as bad as in the aforementioned one-shots. He often got dead-on likenesses of all the major characters. There were a few major slip-ups (he can't draw vamped out faces at all), but for the most part the art ranged from satisfactory to good. His art never got in the way of the storytelling, but actually complimented it this time around.
Characters We Know: Buffy, Willow, Xander, Oz, Giles, Angelus, Spike, Drusilla, Kendra, Jenny Calendar
*NOTE: Hold out on buying this. It's much more practical just to pick up the Buffy Omnibus Volume 2, which reprints this as well as six other Buffy comic stories in one volume*