Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Year With Buffy

I started this blog as a place strictly for reviews of Buffyverse comics. However, as exciting news of recent developments in BtVS/AtS/Joss Whedon projects came from pretty much all over the place, I had to report all that here as well. See, so many people—yes, even Internet savvy people—had no idea about what was going on in the ‘verse. Being that I often search the net for new bits of info about the Buffster as a means of procrastinating my term papers [pictured below], I decided to use this site as a review/news/blog place. Recently, what with the polls and funny pictures and all, it feels like it’s becoming more of a blog. Ironically, I’m going to kick it old school by giving you the year in review in the bloggiest entry this year.

2007: A Year With Buffy


When I picked up a BtVS/Angel magazine early this year, I found out that Joss Whedon would be writing the eighth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Dark Horse comics. Then, I wasn’t even sure if I’d read it. It was ironic, because that same day I’d picked up Nancy Holder’s continuation of Buffy (“Queen of the Slayers,” which turned out to be awful) which was a novel. Novels, I could do. Comics? Not so much. I’d never read a comic before. I mean, comics? I’d *just* gotten back into television because of Buffy. For years, I hadn’t watched the box. Writing my own novel about vampires is what lead me to, in Summer 2006, to check out other vampire stories. I read so much. Watched some vampy movies. Then one day, during a trip to Game Stop, I picked up a used copy of the first season of Buffy. I’d seen most of it before. During the first run of the series (I was in middle school) I watched up until about Season Three. Angel’s resurrection confused me (yuck it up), and I pretty much had other things to do on Tuesday nights. But that day in Game Stop, I remembered that I enjoyed the show, and since it was just research material for my novel, why not give it a try?

(My novel in its different stages)

Needless to say, I fell in love. BtVS not only re-opened the entire Buffyverse to me, it also made me fall in love with the medium of television again. So, getting back on topic, I figured that if Joss Whedon could reintroduce me to the art of serial television, why the hell shouldn’t I trust him to write a good comic book? So, from then on, I knew I’d buy into the series. “Buffy: Season Eight.” It sounded like a dream come true. I even warmed myself up for it by going to my local comic shop and buying some of IDW’s early Angel comics (the entire “Old Friends” miniseries). While I can’t say it was a good miniseries, seeing the characters again sure was something. Reading those issues helped me understand how to read comics and it also encouraged me. If I can even enjoy a non-canonical Angel comic with iffy art a little tiny bit, imagine how much I will love an in-continuity Buffy comic written Joss Whedon!

I waited for the day. It was to be released on March 7th, but—to my dismay—it was delayed a week. I’d ordered it from http://www.tfaw.com/, thinking it would ship on release date (the fourteenth), but I was sorely disappointed to realize that they wouldn’t ship me the book for another week. The 21st. Anger.

(Buffy: Season Eight 1-9, and "The Long Way Home" TPB. Cover art by Jo Chen)

But then, finally, I got it. And the rest was pretty much history. I really enjoyed #1, liked #2 a lot but was a bit confused until I read the issue over, loved #3, and liked #4. The first arc “The Long Way Home” was one of the best season premieres that BtVS has ever had, and I knew without a doubt that I was hooked. All of the major Scoobs were reintroduced over the course of these four issues, some of them in quite different situations than we last saw them in. Dawn has become a giant—literally—and is too embarrassed to tell Buffy what she feel may have caused her sudden transformation, though everyone around her has a nagging suspicion that it could have been a sexual encounter with a thricewise named Kenny, who we have yet to see. Xander is playing Dixon to Buffy’s Sidney Bristow at the BHC (Big Honkin’ Castle, a name for Buffy’s base that forumites have taken a liking to), and he’s still eye patchin’ it up. Willow, perhaps most mysteriously of all, can (1) fly, (2) chill with elemental spirits on different plains, and (3) instantly heal from mortal wounds. She is using major magic and still gets to the point where her hair goes dark, letting the audience know that she isn’t all pure yet. Though we haven’t seen Kennedy yet, we know through Willow’s dialogue that she died and was brought back. Andrew and Giles both had minor parts in the first arc, pretty much just watching over some slayers. Giles had a conference with a Slayer-hating Demon, but we didn’t see much from him (more on what Giles and Faith are up to later on). The most interesting development here is Buffy herself. For the first time since Season Five, I find myself liking this character. She is funny, sympathetic, and a much better character than the hardened and harsh Buffy Summers we saw in Seasons Six and Seven. Buffy, like many of the other Scoobies, is redeeming herself.

(Season Eight 1-9, the variant covers)

Also, we got a few new characters and some guest spots from some old villains. As far as newbies, “The Long Way Home” introduced Renee (who has a crush on Xander), Leah (awesome hair), Rowena (eek), Satsu (a slayer who often fights by Buffy’s side… oh yeah, and she is secretly in love with Buffy), and General Voll (a member of Twilight’s organization, which I will elaborate on later). Now, getting to the old baddies coming back for blood: We’re first reintroduced to Amy Madison, former rat, on the final page of the first issue. She and her boyfriend—a skinless Warren sustained by Amy’s magic—are pissed at Buffy, whose actions in Season Seven left them trapped them in the collapsed Hellmouth. So far, they provided some cool scenes, but amounted to nothing nearly as interesting as the next Buffy baddie ever did: Ethan Rayne. Rayne, worshipper of chaos, comes back in this arc, appearing in Buffy’s dreamscape to apparently help Buffy. Just when Buffy starts to follow his lead, she opens a door and finds out that General Voll has shot Rayne in the head.

(Unabashed shock)

And that was all only in the first four issues.
After a long wait with no comic (Dark Horse took a month off) it was time for “The Chain,” the first one-shot of the series. I have to be honest, I believe I gave the comic a higher mark than it deserved. It centered around one of Buffy’s doubles. Remember when Angel and Spike discovered in the fifth season of “Angel” that Buffy was dating the Immortal? Turns out, she wasn’t. The gang decided that Buffy was a target, so they set up two girls to pretend to be Buffy. One was the girl dating the Immortal in Rome and the other was the star of this issue. Joss tells a non-linear and awkward story here, aiming for artsy but landing on ineffectual. The last few pages packed a punch and the page with Andrew and Vi’s commercial was classic, but this comic wasn’t really worth of anything above a 4/10.

(The hulking Panel to Panel dwarfing a regular Buffy comic)

Comics fans rejoiced when Brian K. Vaughan signed on to write the next four issues in the series. The acclaimed writer of Runaways, Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, and Pride of Baghdad was going to change things up a bit and focus this arc (the second full-length “episode” of season eight) on Faith, the slayer gone bad gone good. I love Joss and his writing, but BKV really set the standard high with issues 6, 7, 8, and 9. While “The Long Way Home” was a great season premiere, it did have a few blunders… not so with “No Future for You.” It is by far the best Faith-centric episode of the Buffyverse canon, throwing Faith into a situation where she has to come face-to-face with another slayer gone bad. Giles, unbeknownst to Buffy, assigned Faith to this case. But Gigi Savidge, the slayer in question, is not going to be saved. Giles feels that it is too late to bring Gigi back to the good side, as she has been corrupted by the influence of Roden, an Irish wizard affiliated with Twilight.

(A novel I'm currently editing; I include this just as a nod to Joss and the other Buffy writers, who I have learned so much from by watching their shows and reading their comics.)

Faith is great here. Her dilemma with Gigi, who she actually grows to care for, is something that only Joss and Brian could have cooked up. At once, Faith copes with her issues with father figures as she compares her relationship with the Mayor to Gigi’s relationship with Roden and--more subtly--Faith’s newfound relationship with Giles. The arc ends with Gigi and Roden both dead, Faith heartbroken, and Giles on a new path. See, Giles did his best to keep Buffy out of the loop on this one, and when the Head Slayer inevitably found out, the rift between her and Giles that began in “Lies My Parents Told Me” widened tenfold. At the end of this arc, Giles and Faith set out together to locate slayers on the brink and pull them back to the side of good so that there would never be another Gigi situation.

(The continuation of the Buffyverse. The best Christmas gift a writer could give a fan.)

The ninth issue of Season Eight, the conclusion to “No Future For You,” was the last issue we’ll be getting in 2007, but I wouldn’t worry. We’re left with a lot more to ponder on. Robin Wood, the badass principal from Season Seven, was reintroduced here. He’s heading a squad of slayers much like Andrew and Buffy/Xander are. His relationship with Faith seems strained from the phone call they shared in Issue 6. From his “Are you still—” before Faith hangs up on him, it seems that the two of them may have had a baby scare or something like that. Also, most excitingly, the last few pages of #9 gave us a scene with the new Big Bad of the season.

(Buffy and Ethan going through Buffy's dreamscape)
The new Big Bad is a big hulking masked guy named Twilight. He has big plans, including the destruction of magic as well as all magic creatures (wizards, slayers, watchers, etc.) which he plans to execute by using his big group of followers like Roden (RIP) and General Voll (MIA?). This is odd, coming from a guy who can fly, but who are we to judge, right? He seems badass enough, but only time will tell if he’ll live up to the Big Bads of the past. I don’t doubt that Joss will deliver, seeing as he gave us a new and interesting Big Bad each season: The Master, Angelus, The Mayor, Adam, Glory, Dark Willow, and The First Evil.

(General Voll describing his interpretation of Twilight's plan)
Other than the blunder that was “The Chain,” Season Eight has been a solid story. The character interaction is great, ranging from hilarious to heart breaking. As far as the interior art of the series, I couldn’t be happier. Georges Jeanty started off as competent but every issue he vastly improves, getting closer and closer to “great.” There have been complaints that he draws the characters too child-like, but if he has, I truly haven’t noticed. From the script, to the pencils, to the vibrant colors, everything is going great with this season. It makes me sad that people are complaining about these comics, as it is truly a gift from Joss Whedon to us. He’s continuing our favorite series and, because of that, it’s been a great year for Buffy fans.

(Buffy vs. Twilight on the cover to Buffy #11)
What everyone always agrees on, however, is the cover art. Jo Chen is a phenomenal artist who also gets better with each issue. Her first cover featured Buffy and it was good enough, but from issues #3 and on, each of her covers have been perfection. Her talent in capturing the character’s likenesses is literally unrivalled. Counting the beautiful cover for the two trade paperbacks, we’ve seen twelve cover pieces from Chen this year (#1-10). We also got to see the covers for Buffy #11 and 12, which were done by Jon Foster, while Jo Chen is on a sort of break as she does other stuff. She’ll be back by the end of the #12-15 arc (Wolves at the Gate, by Drew Goddard), but Foster is doing a great job, especially on #12.

("Panel to Panel" was so big I couldn't fit it on any shelf. Here it is in my closet with a few other closeted books and my doubles of Buffy comics I ordered in case of a mishap)
Other than the canonical Season Eight comics this year, we also got a load of “companion” books from Dark Horse. This includes two omnibuses (omnibi?) that collect all of the old (non-canonical) Buffy comics in chronological order. Some of the stories were great but a lot of them sucked major, but it’s always decent to have all of the works compiled into one place. Most awesome of all, the latter quarter of this year saw the publication of “Panel to Panel” a ginormous book that reprinted all of the best art from the first run of Buffy, plus a little insight on the most interesting pieces.

(The first two Buffy Omnibus books)

This has been the biggest Buffy year since 2003. We’ve also got the new canonical Angel comics, which my next entry will be dedicated to. I’m truly glad to be a fan of this series, especially at this time, and I couldn’t be happier to add these comics to my collection. In the “CANON” section.

(My "Joss" shelf. First, there are two Buffy script books. Then is the "Canonical Comics" section: Tales of the Slayers, Talkes of the Vampires, Spike: Asylum, Buffy: The Long Way Home, Fray. Then is the non-canonical comics section. The four IDW Angel TPBs come first, followed by the "Spike" TPB and "Spike vs. Dracula" and the two Buffy omnibus books. In there somewhere is "Those Left Behind," only because it is the same size as the omnibuses. Then we're back to canon with Buffy Seasons 1-7 slim set and all five seasons of Angel. The full-set for season three has since been replaced by the slim set. Lastly, I have--of course--Firefly and Serenty: the Special Edition.)

Merry Christmas.

-Pat Shand

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Things Are Heating Up In Hell

What Is It?: Angel- After the Fall: Issue #2 (written by Brian Lynch, plotted by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch). It's canon.

Timing: Directly following After the Fall: Issue #1.
Warning: The bigger spoilers will be written in black text. Simply highlight to read. As this is a review, there will be some minor "spoilers" sprinkled throughout the text that don't warrant being hidden. If you have not read the issue and don't want to know anything about the plot, don't read this.

REVIEW: Get your "Live Fast, Die Never" soundtrack ready to play in the background. Go to youtube and pick your favorite "Angel: Season Six" opening credits to play after the sixth page reveal. This is an experience that fans will want to enjoy, because this comic maintains the momentum that Brian Lynch started in the flawlessly scripted first issue. Though this time around we get less pages (the five extra pages in the first issue was a gift, really), I didn't even notice it. This issue bursts with content: We've got awesome fight scenes, great character interaction, and the return of the other ensouled vamp that everyone's been asking about. Not to mention the return of (SPOILER:)the most interesting character that Joss Whedon never got the chance to dwell on. That's right baby. Enter- Blue Thunder.(/SPOILER)

I don't want to keep comparing this series to "Buffy-Season Eight," which is wonderful as it is, but there is something I'd like to address. A lot of people are taking issue with the fact that Joss Whedon is keeping us in the dark with many of his plots. There are still so many questions that, ten issues into the series, haven't been answered. Why is Dawn a giant? Where has Willow been, and what's up with her crazy new powers? When is this series set? Not to mention that we just found out who Floaty Boots from Issue #1 is at the end of #9. I find the slow discovery very exciting (I think Joss was inspired by slower movement of the arc from his favorite show, Veronica Mars) but I can also see why people are getting antsy to find out. Some even said that this takes away from their reading experience. This is not the case with After the Fall. In this issue, we get heaps of answers to the questions posed in issue #1 (What was that glowy orb that Gunn took from Kr'ph? (Kinda:) How was Gunn sired? What is Spike up to? What's up with Spike and all those babes? How is the Angel/Connor relationship going to be? How does Angel feel about Wesley's sitch? We also kind of get an answer to the questions about the canonicity of Spike: Asylum. That doesn't, and probably won't, get a definitive answer, but Betta George alludes to having spent time with a vampire.

Oh and... to those with a magnifying glass more powerful than mine, you'll known the name of the Dragon in this issue. I'm stickin' with Ramon.

Now that I've BSed enough, allow me to get down to the juicy center of this review. The character's dialogue is, again, great. Spike and Angel's exchanges are classic, but who would expect any less? I have to note though, that I kinda felt like Gwen was talking like she was Faith. Perhaps it's because I haven't seen a Gwen-centric episode in quite some time, but I'm not sold on her dialogue yet. Everyone else that speaks in this issue is spot on, particularly Connor (who didn't have much in the way of a speaking part last time). Lynch continues to shine in his depiction of Spike, introducing him with a scene sort of mirror the time where Angel tells tales of his brave, brave conquests in Pylea. And, for the first time in... ever, the character I was most excited to see is Gunn. If you thought his character arc in Season Five was his biggest and most interesting yet, just hold up a second. His dilemma (nah, it's not just 'grr I'm a vamp, Angel dies and women are eaten!') is something I could have never thought up in my wildest and most badass dreams. While other characters get more page time in this issue than in the first, but Angel is still very much the center of the action and the core of the story. Angel, the man and the series, are in very good hands.

A lot was riding on this issue. It had to keep pleasing those who loved Issue One and sell the series to those unconvinced by Issue One (we never speak of them). No doubt in my mind that people will still complain (see the ART section), but if they didn't this wouldn't be the Buffyverse. For those that aren't LOOKING for reasons to dislike the issue--there are many of these people out there--these twenty-two pages are another treat.

Art: The art from Issue One wasn't very popular with a number of Whedonesquers and other reviewers. People didn't like the dark "muddy" style, and--while I didn't 100% agree--I also thought that the colors could be better. Urru's style vibes much better with the new colorist in this issue, who makes the pages brighter and more vibrant without spoiling the very dark mood of the series. Those who didn't like the art of the first issue will be sold by this issue. However, those people that won't be happy are the ones complaining about the boobage in the comics. I'll break it down character by character. Nina... I'd risk castration by Whedonesquers by saying that her bust size isn't exaggerated by much. People seem to call "gratuitous!" about as quickly as they forget how the actress actually looked. Jenny Mollen isn't Sarah Michelle Gellar. Hell, she isn't even Charisma Carpenter. She has always had the biggest breasts in the series, and her new wardrobe (due to the sun/moon situation) just extenuate them. (RANT:)Her appearance in this issue is a LOT less gratuitous than the male nudity we got throughout the television run of the show and it doesn't even compare to the way that the people complaining about enhanced sexuality are the same ones writing erotic fanfic.(/RANT) *Sigh* Okay. Now about the other characters. Gwen does indeed have bigger boobs than she did in the series, by quite a long shot. She has always been a highly sexual character, but she was never half the size she is here. While it's certainly not a big deal, I think those people complaining about Nina would have more of a case if they brought up Gwen. She, so far, is the only character to be chestually enhanced. People will also take issue with the demon babes, but... that's their thing. Again, the show was highly sexual at times, often showing male nudity at a 4560:1 ratio to female nudity. I urge people to ease up and try to enjoy a story that is very much going places.

Rating: 10/10


Beyond this point, there be UNCOVERED spoilers. The following sections are the "Characters We Know" and "Speculation" sections, all of which are VERY spoilery. If you don't want spoilers, then don't read past here.


Characters We Know: Angel, Wesley, Nina, Connor, Gwen, Gunn, Spike, Illyria

Lynchverse Characters We Know (from the "Spike" series, newly introduced 'mightbemajors'): Betta George, Spider

Speculation: So Gunn still fancies himself a good guy. A good guy with a disease. I'm loving the idea, especially the "Don't call me a vampire" stuff, which brings to mind John Locke's heartbreaking "Don't tell me what I can't do!" cries. I'm not even going to begin to speculate on what Gunn has coming for him, because the reveal of his "motivations" shocked me enough to just sit back and let the comics tell his story. Last time, I said this about Spike: "My speculation is that Spike has somehow become one of the LA Lords." Well, it's true. Spike is indeed the Lord of Beverly Hills, and he's also Illyria's "pet." I don't know how he is both a Lord (high connotations) and a pet (low connotations), but I'm guessing that he and Illyria are both Lords of the area. Spike's dialogue ("I didn't rise from prisoner to prisoner with benefits to protector back to prisoner with benefits to Lord, just to have you come and muck it up") makes me think that the one who imprisoned him was Illyria herself, who subsequently decided that she liked him enough the "promote" him. Speaking of dynamic duos, I feel like Angel and Connor are going to have a LOT of screen time together. Their shared scene is one of the best in the comic and has further elevated Connor in my books. He was once the worst character of the series, brought up to 'tolerable, pretty cool' in Season Five, and now... You know the rest. I'm glad to have a name to put to the glowy orb (The Eye of Ramras) and a breakdown of what it can do. With Gunn in possession of the EoR, things are going to get hectic fast. And I'll be strapped in for every minute.

Now, I reiterate...

-------------END OF SPOILERS-----------

Rating: 10/10 Classic.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

And The Award Goes To...

So the first poll is closed. The best Buffyverse arc of the year, according to a whopping 38% of the voters, is "No Future For You." Congratulations, all of those who worked hard on this arc, as I am about to present you with the shittiest award you will ever, ever get. I wish I was able to give you a big shiny trophy like you deserve, but I am a lowly peasant, with limited paint skills and limited time.... skills. So I take pride in the shittiness of the award, because it was actually... really fun to make. Please, inform me if anyone is ever to present you with a shittiER award, as I will make it my life's purpose to outshit them. In a not stinky way.

Click and enjoy a larger version of this award that reeks of painted shittiness.

NOW. In other news.

The trade paperback for "Spike: Shadow Puppets" is out today. While I was unable to get it due to the fact that my LCS didn't order it, I do know that it is packed with extras, including the "Brian Lynch Commentary" stuff we got with "Asylum." It's pretty much what we wanted from the extras in the Buffy TPB and didn't get. Brian Lynch is to us as Aladdin is to those poor people he throws gold to in the scene where he sings about being a prince. He just keeps on giving and giving and giving. Hopefully, Dark Horse takes note of how COOL Lynch's extras are and gives us some Buffy extras next time.

Speaking of Lynch, we've got a release date for the next two "After the Fall" comics.

December 19th (only a week from today): #2

January 16th: #3

And apparently, we'll be able to see the cover to #5 once #2 is released. From the way Brian and (I believe) Ryall have been talking about it, it's going to make us squint because of the awesome radiating off of it. Perhaps we'll have to look at it through that bendy thing people look at eclipses through so we don't hurt our eyes. Hell, I'm just glad Franco is so awesome at covers, because the Robinson's cover to #4? Not so impressive:

On that note, I'm going to bow out with this...

TOMORROW: New poll. Please vote.

TOMORROW: Bad ass post concerning Season Eight. Tune in. Except... you know. Don't tune as much as click.

Size Matters

What Is It: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Panel to Panel." It's a TPB (well, more of a FHPB) that collects the best of the art from Dark Horse's original run on BtVS. Scott Allie provides commentary.

Timeline: We get stuff from pre-Season One to post-Season Seven.

REVIEW: My first thought when my comic book guy put this specially ordered book (they weren't stocking it, so I had to put in a personal order) was "Holy vampire lemon face, this is huge!" And when I say huge, I mean huge in every way. The pages are thick, so even though this book is only 190 pages, its about three times as thick as the "Long Way Home" TBP. And as far as height, this is the Yao Ming of trade paperbacks. I mean, it's an insult to this hulking book to call it a TPB. For fear of being bludgeoned to death by this tome, I'm going to officially refer to it as a FHPB. A F**king Huge Paperback. Or perhaps just "The Book That Must Not Be Named." I'm not going to go on and on about how big this thing is, but I have to add that I literally cannot fit it on ANY of my shelves. Not the large shelves that house my Buffy script books, and not even the bigger shelf that I keep my over sized Runaways hardcovers on. I had to put this big ol' sucker in my CLOSET, this thing is so huge.

But I digress. The SECOND thought I had when this came into my hands was "Shiny." That's in both senses. The figurative "shiny" (if you don't know what that means, you really shouldn't consider yourself a Whedon fan) as well as the literal "shiny." The cover has a sort of foily shine to it, making the metallic blue of the art look even cooler. The binding of the book, like all Dark Horse TPBs, is very strong and even has a little picture on it (Buffy's face from "Creatures of Habit."

Okay, now that I've bored you with my first reactions, let me get down to the nitty gritty. The book is pretty much made up of huge renditions of certain covers, panels, and promotional pics from the original Buffy run by Dark Horse. The art is of varying quality (see the "Art" section below), but the way it was put together was quite masterfully. Scott Allie takes us on a trip down (his) memory lane as he explains certain pieces, giving us all some pretty cool background info on the artists or what was the reason for each cover. Often, his commentary offers some really cool tidbits, but other times he leaves us wanting a bit more. Many pieces that I would have liked to know more about were left unexplained, which isn't really that cool in a book like this. However, that little flub is made up for by the sheer quality of this book, because when it comes down to it, we do get a lot of new factoids from the man with the plan.

By the way, this book is only $20. TWENTY DOLLARS. Having a rough idea that the book was large, I went to the ATM to get a little bit of extra cash before my trip to the comic shop. When I got there and got the book in my hands, I was afraid that my mere $50 wouldn't cut it. Nervous of my looming embarrassment (I'd hate to think of the look I'd get when I didn't have enough dough for a book I put on special order), I managed to squeak out a "How much is it?" He said "Twenty," and then even had to double check himself because the book was just so damn big (and shiny). But yeah, twenty.

Don't be a goon. Buy it.

Art: To truly get into the art, I'd pretty much have to review every page. There are many different styles in this book--some great, some good, some okay, some...not so much--from a long list of different artists who have contributed to the title. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is that it shows how the long term artists have evolved over the course of the series, often drastically changing their styles. The best part about this book is probably the painted covers from the later issues (post-Season Five and on), specifically the art taken from the wonderful illustrated prose novel "Creatures of Habit." Overall, this won't disappoint. Even if a lot of the art isn't good, it's amazing to see so many different takes on our favorite characters. Some day, I hope the art of Season Eight gets the "Panel to Panel" treatment because, let's face it, the best BtVS art that's ever been put out is what we're getting now from Chen, Foster, and sometimes Jeanty. I almost wish "The Long Way Home" was released in an over-sized version, as to truly appreciate the art, but it makes me wonder where I would put it.

Note: I unknowingly advertised the 'verse to some peeps. Apparently, when this book was delivered, another customer wanted to purchase it. It had been reserved for me, but the customer liked the book so much that they put in a special order for it. I was happy to have spread to word, even if I didn't know I was doing it.

Rating: 8/10*

*Gotta say though, it's a must have. Buy it, thine wankers!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Wolves At The Gate

That thing we've been calling the "Untitled Tokyo Arc" is no longer untitled. Issues 12-15 of "Buffy: Season Eight" will be called "Wolves at the Gate." Great title, and the artwork for both of the covers is great. The Jon Foster cover is far better than his #11 cover, and Jeanty's ain't bad either. It's one of Jeanty's best Buffy likenesses, though I'm not really sure about that Xander's cleavage in the background.

So #12 comes out on March 5th. The blurb is as follows:

"Acclaimed television series writer, Drew Goddard (Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Alias; Lost), takes the reins on Season Eight with his four-issue arc titled "Wolves at the Gate." The gang (yep, Dawn too) travels to Tokyo where they duel vampires with unusual, yet strangely familiar, powers.With Joss Whedon serving as executive producer, Georges Jeanty (The American Way) as series artist, and Jon Foster on covers, Buffy Season Eight continues to entertain longtime Buffy fans and newcomers alike."

Not much we didn't know in there already, except for the fact that Dawn is joining them. Move over Godzilla, the motherf***ing KEY is coming.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

BKV Brings It To a Close

What Is It?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Issue #9: No Future For You pt 4 (written by Brian K. Vaughan)

Timing: BtVS Season Eight, follows the events of "No Future For You Part 3"

REVIEW: Like Issue #7 (which followed the spectacular #6), this issue had a lot of expectations to live up to. As it is the climax of "No Future For You," it had to be more intense, more poignant, and overall better than the first three issues in this arc. It had to live up to Issue #4, the issue that ended "The Long Way Home" arc. This issue, despite how good the other three were, is the last statement that this arc is going to make, so it had to be the most powerful. Does it deliver?

Yeah, it does. Starting with a flashback to her days with the Mayor (who voice Vaughan nails), this issue makes a poignant parallel between his (the Mayor's) relationship with Faith and Roden's relationship with Gigi. What I like about this part of the issue is that Faith is shown to have recognized that the Mayor was wrong--and, yes, evil--but the relationship is never portrayed as anything but genuine. This sharply contrasts with Roden's relationship with his evil slayer, but Faith still relates to Gigi despite her mentor's true feelings about her. What it all comes down to here, though, is the unavoidable fight between the two rogue slayers. It's an emotional and bloody battle that Vaughan handles carefully, giving the characters some great one-liners, a few teary moments, and some really cool combat (especially when Roden comes into the picture).

While this plot comes to a startling finish, things are just starling to boil over back at Buffy's place. Her anger at Giles (shown in the last issues) for not informing her about the mission comes to a head here, spawning surprising results. This issue seems to focus on both endings and new beginnings, opening the door for many, many stories in the future. And, like the slightly inferior Issue #4, this arc closes with a bang: The Big Bad is revealed. His short little exchange with a minion of his "Lieutenant Molter" changes everything we knew about this arc. His motives put a new, disturbing spin on the events of the Faith vs. Gigi fight, and it is shown that there is a traitor within Buffy's ranks. Oh, and for everyone complaining that Joss is taking to long to give us answers to the mysteries in the first arc, one of the biggest questions gets answered in this issue: "Who is the person floating in Issue #1?"

Brian K. Vaughan did a wonderful job on both this issue and the entire arc. Introducing the theme of how slayers relate to their surrogate "watchers" (Faith to the Mayor, Gigi to Roden, Buffy to Giles) into this issue, he ends this issue with real emotional resonance. The ramifications of "No Future For You" will change the Buffyverse forever, and I can't wait to see what follows.

Art: When you compare this art to the art of Issue #1, Jeanty's improvement is astronomical. Those who--not entirely wrongly--state that he can't draw Faith will be convinced by this issue. The flashback sequence with Faith and the Mayor is a great example of how far he has come: He nails the Mayor's likeness right off the bat, and Faith is now looking much more like herself than she did in #6. The fight scene between Faith and Roden is also spectacular. I especially love the way that Jeanty showed Roden "going dark" by getting black eyes and veins like Willow did in Season Six. The person who I felt Jeanty was worst at drawing was Giles. My trepidation towards his rendition of everyone's favorite watcher has been dwindling issue by issue, but now it's entirely gone. Faith and Giles' exchange towards the end is perfect (he nails Giles' mannerisms), as is the panel where Giles says "Burst." As for the covers, Jo Chen is also--if possible--improving. Her "fiery Faith" cover is the best likeness that any Buffy artist has yet to produce. Just compare this to her depiction of Buffy in Issue #1 and you'll be amazed.

Characters We Know: The Mayor (flashback), Faith, Giles, Buffy, Willow, Xander

Season Eight Recurring Characters We Know: Gigi, Roden, Trafalgar

Speculation: To read the following, you have to highlight it. (SPOILERS:) Gigi and Roden have kicked their respective buckets. My speculation that Roden would end up being the Big Bad was proved to be wrong, and I'm not disappointed. These comics continue to surprise me. The Big Bad is a masked being named Twilight, who--though he can clearly fly--seems to despise magic. Whether the magic comes in the form of a warlock, a watcher, or--especially--a slayer, he plans to, as Roden says, "purge" it from the world. I'm not sure I like the way this character looks. I mean the clothes are awesome, as are the colors... I'm just not sure about the mask. Looks too Numero Cinco for me. But I'm sure I'll be convinced by Issue #11, where he is set to make an ass-kicking visit to see Buffy. And speaking of the Head Slayer... There has to be something more to her beef with Giles. It seems clear that their relationship must have already BEEN rocky by the start of this season, and that this is what pushed it over the edge. Giles and Buffy are no longer on speaking terms, and it looks as if Giles is about to leave on a mission to to "play social worker to slayers" and "bring bad girls back from the brink." I wonder if this could be the spin-off that Scott Allie/Joss Whedon said they had mentioned in passing. I surely hope Giles plays a role in the rest of the season, but there's not much I wouldn't give to get a Vaughan penned monthly Faith/Giles spin-off. This is just me hoping though, nothing else. And while we're speculating, the last pages of this issue revealed that Twilight has a "man on the inside," a double-agent operating against Buffy. While one can take "man" as literally meaning male, I think the term "man on the inside" was purposely used as a mislead. "Man on the inside" is simply a term that means "double agent," and I'm getting the feeling that it's a girl. Perhaps Simone, that pink-haired, gun loving slayer from Issue #2 and #5? (/END SPOILERS)

Rating: 9/10