Monday, March 24, 2008

Serenity: Better Days #1

Non-Buffyverse Related

What Is It?: Serenity: Better Days #1 (Written by Brett Matthews and Joss Whedon)

Timing: After "Firefly," before "Those Left Behind."

REVIEW: Serenity- Those Left Behind was a good idea. It bridged the series and the movie, filling in a gap that really did need filling in. It was a bit bland, though, and came off as a mediocre 'lost episode' of "Firefly," but it was definitely worth a read. So, when this comic was announced, I figured it would also take place between the series and the movie, but also AFTER "Those Left Behind," as that ground has already been covered.
However, it wasn't. This comic is set between the series and "Those Left Behind." Why? This what I think:
1. Joss doesn't want to write a Serenity comic that takes place after the movie, because he still has hope that a sequel will be green lit. Fair enough, but that leads to boring comics that have little to no impact on the story line or the characters. We get that Mal and Inara secretly love/lust after each other, but how long can that be written about? We get the whole Simon/Kaylee cute flirtation hesitant thing, but come on. It's been going on forever. How long will the same plot threads be stamped over?

2. Joss doesn't want to write a Serenity comic that takes place after "Those Left Behind" because he won't have Inara and Book to play with. Well, sorry, but that's just a bad excuse. As interesting as those characters are, this SHOULD have been set after "Those Left Behind."
As far as the substance of the actual comic, it's average. The whole idea of the gang actually carrying out a successful heist is interesting, and Inara's little dilemma with her client was entertaining. However, none of this really seemed to stick with me. Not to mention, the 'heist' scene (with Mal, Zoe, Jayne, and Simon being chased and then the stuff that follows) was one of the most awkward comic scenes I've read. I'm disappointed, because the first few pages read really well, but things just teetered off towards the end. Unlike the new Buffy and Angel comics, "Serenity: Better Days" didn't do it for me.
All in all, I'm left with a feeling of "eh, so what?" When Joss is ready to take these characters on a journey that actually has an impact on them and the 'verse, I'll be happy, but until then, it looks like I'll be bored.
Art: Insides, good. A bit boring, but good enough. The cover, though? Horrible. Horrible in an incredibly creepy way. The bodies are very comicy, but the faces are photo-realistic. However, all of the faces are also twisted into creepy, pervy smiles. No, not "I'm happy, the heist went well," but nasty looking smiles. Zoe looks like she's a smirking supervillain and Mal looks like he's about to sneak into little Jimmy's room. And Wash? Wash looks like Wash.

Rating: 4/10

Non-Buffyverse Related

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Brian Lynch Breaks Away From the Buffyverse

My review for Angel #5 was posted earlier today. Click to read.

Non-Buffyverse Related

What Is It?: Everybody's Dead #1 (Written by Brian Lynch, part one of a five issue mini-series)

Timing: It's the first installment.

REVIEW: You might ask why I'm reviewing this at all. It's not Buffyverse-related, and the whole "Non-Buffyverse Week" event is over. Well, it's by Brian Lynch. If that wasn't enough, it's by Brian Lynch and it's good. If that ain't enough, you... you... you!

But yeah, this comic is definitely one I'm going to be picking up every time it comes out. The basic premise is that a B-team frat called Beta Eta Delta live in a really bad ass frat house--that a more "real" frat named the Omegas want back--and throw a party. Zombies eventually take over the world and all that, but this issue pretty much deals with the nautral and leaves the super- for the last two pages. What makes up this issue is a lot of college-comedy (which me, being a college student and all, loved), many introductions, a romance subplot, and a pretty basic frat vs. frat fight with a little funny/nerdy twist in the end. It's a lot of build-up, and it's really, really promising.

Gotta say, though, when I first opened up the issue and saw the flipside of the cover--a list of the cast--I pretty much said, "Shit." Last time I read a comic that had so many characters it needed a cast list was Umbrella Academy, which sucksuckSUCKED. So my weariness was less due to Brian and IDW and more due to friggin' Gerard Way. But eff "Umbrella," we're talking about "Everybody's Dead," and my reservations for a huge cast were pretty much wrong. I've only read the issue once through, and I already remember most of the character's names. Each personality is distinctive, and the main character--Westerburg--is very relatable, while being both a funny, interesting, and unique character.

All in all, I can't give this comic an amazing score, because it's pretty much just good for what it does, and for that I know I'll be rating it with a very good score. It introduces the situation and the characters, intigues the reader with the romantic subplot and the zombieriffic events of the final pages, and makes us laugh a lot. Also, puts me in the mood for a party. Spring break, anyone?

Overall, I can't wait for Issue #2. Which, by the way, comes out April 2nd. Along with Buffy #13. And Angel #6. Talk about an amazing week.

Art: I'm on the fence. I didn't at all expect realistic art, and I like most of the character designs. From page 10 and on, I noticed, there was an increase in quality. Thing is, sometimes--in the earlier pages--I pretty much had no idea what was going on in some of the panels. I had to do about five double-takes before I realized that the vomit-green puffy-meatloaf lookin' thing over Nuk's head was a cloud of smoke, and I only put 2+2 together for that one because the dialogue referenced him being a pothead. A lot of the earlier pages seemed sloppy and took a considerable amount of work to 'figure out' at times. As I said before, it really improved as it went on, so I hope #2 will be more consistent. As for the style, I don't love it but I'm liking it more than I thought it would. It's more Ren and Stimpy (the newer version, from SPIKE!TV) than realistic, which--coming from someone who tuned into Ren and Stimpy--isn't bad at all. The paneling just takes a little getting used to.

Characters We Know: Well, seeing as it's the first issue, we're just getting introduced to everyone. Everyone will surely return for the next installment.

Rating: 7/10

Non-Buffyverse Related

Ain't None Better

What Is It?: Angel- After the Fall: Issue #5 (written by Brian Lynch, plotted by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch.)

Timing: Directly after "After the Fall #4"

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. Spoilers for previous issues will obviously not be covered.

REVIEW: Wow... That was... That was... Wow. Yeah... "That was wow" pretty much covers it.

And since I didn't just have sex with Satsu, you can assume I'm talking about the fifth issue of "Angel: After the Fall," which just blew away expectations (along with the entire Wolfram and Hart building, mind). The story is fast-paced but well balanced, and the fights--oh there are fights--are action-packed, banter-heavy, and also "internal-dialogue" heavy. As far as the internal dialogue, Brian handles it much, much better in this issue than he did in #3. Every single character except Betta George on Franco's awesome cover (which I'll get into later) is featured in this issue and takes part in the overall awesome spread out over these twenty-two pages.

What makes this issue so awesome? I'll get into that. If you remember, I gave Issues #1 and #2 the "10/10 Classic" rating, which is pretty much the highest I'll give. But then, when #3 and #4 came out, I gave each of those one point lower than the first two issues of the series. They were still awesome and highly deserving of the damn-good 9/10 mark, but when you compared them to the way the series started, they were a bit lacking. #3 was mostly a fight and had way too much internal dialogue (especially in the time-slip scenes, which had PRESENT-Angel thinking, TIMESLIP-Angel thinking, and also Illyria talking) and #4 had some awkwardly written dialogue from Wesley and the Spike/Spider scene read strange the first time around. Everything else in both issues were great, but for an issue to score a 10/10, everything--especially the writing--has to be perfect. And, in short, #5 is a perfect comic.

The pacing is like that of an Angel episode. Quick cuts, all the important stuff happening off screen, all the non-important stuff happening off-screen. If you read Brian's blog, you can see how much thought he put into just that. He talks about how Spike was originally supposed to be wearing a white outfit (as shown on Andrew Robinson's retailer incentive cover), but it was cut for time. Great choice. This issue is packed as it is, and something extra like that would disrupt the balance. Also, Groosalug was originally intended to cut his hair so that people would mistake him for Angel (as shown on Urru's #5 cover), but that was also cut for time. Again, great choice. Really shows the intricacy of the writing process, and how many great ideas may pop up when you're writing something, but--in order to keep something tight--the writer has to only choose what makes sense for the story. I was thrilled to see that Brian had done just that, because I felt his Spike comic "Shadow Puppets #4" suffered from the fact that there were so many good ideas, but they were all there, so everything was kinda a huge onslaught of waytoomuch. But this, this epic story (Angel and co. vs. the champions of the Lords in Hell) is tightly written, the dialogue is fantastic (Gwen and Wesley are once again in character), and the plot developments look to be promising.

My only problem with the comic was that it ended. I wish I was still reading!

Art: Interiors are great. Franco pays much more attention to facial details than he had been doing of late, and his action panels continue to be the best in the biz. The likenesses have improved and he manages to make a panel burst with action without being cluttered. Knowing this is his last Angel issue makes me very, very sad. I've loved what I've seen of Nick Runge (his replacement, starting with #9), but I'm a bit weary. Runge's interior work on Angel #7 (the Wesley panels we've seen) are great, but his cover to #9 is just a reproduction of a picture of David Boreanaz standing in front of the Hell-A landscape. I hope--and trust--that the interiors won't be traced from promotion images. But back to this issue. Franco's interiors are great, though I think the problem with the cover should have been fixed. Andrew Robinson's cover is only a retailer incentive, so it doesn't really matter that Spike is wearing white on it. Plus, it could be taken to the symbolic place easily (and Robinson's cover reflects NOTHING in the issue, so if anything about it would be changed, it wouldn't be Spike's clothing; it would be everything else... I mean, it has absolutely nothing to do with the issue). However, Franco's cover, while it is great, poster/desktop worthy, and all that... should have been edited to reflect Groo's actual appearance. But speaking of covers... I was so glad that Brian didn't reveal that actual B Cover to us. Wrigley's Illyria/Wesley cover is beautiful, and perfectly captures everything I love about Wesley/Illyria, Wesley/Fred. My favorite cover by far and away.

Characters We Know: Wesley, Lorne, Angel, Illyria, Spike, Connor, Gwen, Nina, Gunn, Dragon, Groosalug, and (HUGE, HUGE SPOILER:) Fred

Lynchverse Characters We Know: Lorne's Messengers, Spider, DemonJay & DemonSilent Bob, Timothy, Burge, Loan Shark, all the other LA Lords,

Speculation: Will post in a separate entry

Rating: 10/10 Classic

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Remember how you felt when you first heard that IDW was going to launch a canonical Angel series? How about when you learned it'd be written by Brian Lynch and plotted by both Lynch and Whedon? Great, right? How about when you found out Franco Urru would take on pencil duties?

Well... prepare to feel that way again.

I love spin-offs.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Astonishing X-Men: Kitty Pryde - Shadow & Flame

Non-Buffyverse Related

What Is It?: Astonishing X-Men: Kitty Pryde - Shadow & Flame (NOT written by Joss, written by Akira Yoshida)

Timing: After "Astonishing X-Men: Gifted" but before "Astonishing X-Men: Torn." Probably some time between "Gifted" and "Torn."

REVIEW (and Art): I wasn't sure what to expect with this trade paperback, because I've found Marvel comics to be extremely hit and miss. However, Kitty Pryde is my favorite Marvel character, and since she so rarely gets the spotlight, I knew I had to at least give this a chance.

It wasn't bad. It wasn't great or really that good either, but it definitely isn't even close to being one of those Marvel comics I start and don't even bother to finish, and eventually wind up selling. The story was thin as tracing paper and had some fairly big plot holes, but Kitty's characterization was strong enough to make this an enjoyable read. I had to put up with a lot of cliched, Anime-influenced dialogue from the villains, but hearing Kitty's trademark sarcastic wit made it worthwhile.

The art is good. The fight scenes were good for the most part--you have to like those to remotely enjoy this series, as two of the five issues are almost COMPLETELY made up of fight scenes--but I do wish artist Paul Smith hadn't used the cheesy, Anime-style "background-turns-into-a-liney-blur-of-color-during-intense-moments-of-fighting." Other than that, I can't really complain about the art. It was far, far better than the overrated New X-Men stuff.

Overall, nothing to get excited over, but this will leave you entertained enough that you might--maybe--go back for a second read.


Rating: 5/10

Non-Buffyverse Related

Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men

Non-Buffyverse Related

What Is It?: Astonishing X-Men Volume One-Gifted TPB

Timing: No idea. Frankly, Marvel's continuity is too convoluted and haphazard for me to care about in the slightest.

REVIEW (and Art): Most of the people checking out this review will be Buffy/Angel/Firefly fans. People who follow Joss Whedon, but find themselves weary about getting into an X-Men series. That's pretty much how I felt, and I'm very glad I got over my skepticism and bought this trade paperback.

I can't speak for X-Men fans, as this ("Astonishing X-Men: Gifted") is the only item in the series I've ever read as of yet. However, the story is great and the characters are interesting and, though they are mutants, each one of them is very human. Kitty Pryde is particularly done well, which is not surprising as she was one of the characters who inspired Whedon to create Buffy Summers. The villain, Ord from Breakworld, is interesting in enough, though his appearance is a lot cooler than his personality.

Everything you can expect from a Whedon story (plot twists, complexities, humor, crisp character banter) is all here, and it's all very clearly in his style. One minor problem that I did come across is that there is most certainly an extensive X-Men background story, and the references to certain events from previous story lines is a little confusing, though not to the point where it messes the story up. WARNING: Reading this Astonishing X-Men series will make you want to check out other X-Men volumes written by other writers, so if you just want to read Whedon and that's it, you'll have a bit of trouble with that.

I wouldn't recommend this to someone who has never read a comic before, but Cassaday's beautiful art makes it an easy read. It's just that there is so much going on, that I'd recommend a simpler story to pop your comic cherry. Perhaps one of the older non-canonical ANGEL comics from IDW? Again, I can't speak for the die hard X-Men fans, but I can for the Buffyverse lovers. Get this trade paperback, it's a great story and--if you like Whedon--you'll like this.

Rating: 8/10


What Is It?: Astonishing X-Men Volume Two- Dangerous TPB

Timing: Short while after "Gifted."

REVIEW (and Art): While I had nothing but praise for mastermind Joss Whedon's first X-Men trade paperback (Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1: Gifted), I found the second arc of the series ("Dangerous") to be problematic. The story threads started and unfinished in "Gifted" were hardly touched at all in this arc, and a whole new, very confusing story starts. Those unfamiliar to pre-Whedon X-Men are going to find themselves lost when the mythology of "the Danger Room", Professor Xavier, and Genosha come into play, as they were hardly even mentioned in "Gifted."

This trade paperback collects the entire "Dangerous" arc, made up of six issues, and there are certainly many good points to be spoken of. The first and some of the sixth issue read very well, and--as with any Joss Whedon work--the character interactions are done perfectly. The character of Wing and his situation had a lot of potential for a great story, but what was done with him was convoluted at best. The baddie in this issue (a personification of the Danger Room itself) spends more than half the issue explaining itself, and I'm simply left saying "Huh?" Whedon even admitted his mistakes in this arc, saying that he was "so fascinated with the idea of new intelligence that (he) neglected the action and thus prevented the story from flowing well."

Overall, don't let this trade paperback change your view of Whedon. He was the best writer television has ever seen, and he's making a crater sized dent in the world of comics with this Astonishing X-Men, his arc of Runaways, and his Buffy: Season Eight series. Every writer has a bit of a slip up. This is Joss's. (NOTE: This was written before I read "Sugarshock," which was considerably worse than this. So allow the man two slip-ups. It's less than most writers have, I promise)

RATING: 5/10


What Is It?: Astonishing X-Men Volume Three-Torn TPB

Timing: Short while after "Dangerous."

REVIEW (and Art): Let me preface this by letting everyone know what kind of review this is going to be. Joss Whedon is my favorite writer. His television series (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly) are what I consider to be some of the best stories ever told. He's captivated me in ways that no other storyteller has. Before Joss started on this series, I've never read any X-Men, so the only back story I had while reading this was the first two volumes of "Astonishing" which were, as this one is, written by Joss.

Now about this book. There are really great things going on here. The comedy is great (Wolverine is hilarious when he... 'reverts'), and there were a few very powerful emotional scenes. Joss is at his best when he's handling Kitty Pryde, who was not only the focal point of this arc... she was also the driving force. If I took anything away from reading this trade paperback, it's that I would do anything to have a Joss scripted "Kitty Pryde" ongoing series.

Now... the not-so-good things: The plot, especially to someone unfamiliar with the complicated X-Men back story and mythology, has a lot of very confusing elements. While it's certainly an improvement over Astonishing X-Men Vol. 2: Dangerous, which had me confused nearly 100% of the time, there were some plot lines that really bugged me out, and the reveal at the end... exposition heavy and ultimately unsatisfying. It added some new depth, but it also sacrificed a bit of the coherency of the story. Joss Whedon's fan base is large enough that I feel 50% of the readers will be Joss-fans unfamiliar with Marvel back story and the other will be X-Men fans. Sometimes, I felt like this was trying to please those who intimately know the Marvel mythology, because a newcomer just wouldn't get some of this stuff. Joss should have made it a bit easier to grasp.

Rating: 6/10

Non-Buffyverse Related

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Walking Dead, Issues 1-18


What Is It?: The Walking Dead Volume One (TPB, Collects Issues 1-6)

Timing: It's the first thing in "The Walking Dead timeline.

REVIEW (and Art): I'm not really "into" zombie-flicks. I would watch one and likely enjoy it, but I never had the need to go out and watch a zombie movie. What attracted me to this book was the author's note in the beginning pages. He referred to this comic series as a "character driven" tale that will span years and "sprawling epic." To a fan of Joss Whedon, J. K. Rowling, Brian K. Vaughan, and Stephen King, those are the key phrases. I bought it.

The first quarter of the book was entertaining, but I wasn't sold. There were some great moments (Rick going back to put a zombie out of its misery, for instance), but I was very put off by the unique paneling of the book. The panels have very dark edges and are often very spaced out. It, at first, killed the flow of the story and made me feel like I was just looking at some pictures taped onto a page.

However, when Rick made it to the campsite and met all the other survivors, the strange paneling was the last thing on my mind. The story almost instantly became captivating once our protagonist started to interact with others, all of whom are reacting very differently to the world overrun by zombies. This is a very serious story and is indeed "character driven" and will surely end up being a "sprawling epic" as many of the catastrophic events in this book will have repercussions down the line.

Rating: 8/10


What Is It?: The Walking Dead Volume Two (TPB, Collects Issues 7-12)

Timing: Directly following "The Walking Dead Volume One" TPB.

REVIEW (and Art): My review for the first volume of "The Walking Dead" was pretty much glowing. The review was even titled "A Character Driven, Sprawling Epic." That's pretty much a stamp of approval. The writing which ranged from bland to good to exceptional was balanced out by Tony Moore's art, which really gave life to Kirkman's characters.

Well, Moore is no longer the series artist, starting with this volume. He still does the covers, but the new penciller for each issue of "The Walking Dead" is Charlie Adlard, and to compare his art to Moore's is like comparing the scrawlings of an elementary level child to the prose of a published author. Adlard isn't horrible, but his panels are often ugly. The action scenes fall flat because the details blend together, leaving you guessing at what is going on some of the time. A lot of the characters are drawn to look quite similar, and it leaves you forgetting who is who.

Another bad thing about losing Moore was that Charlie Adlard's art isn't good enough to mask the flaws in Robert Kirkman's writing. As far as where Kirkman is taking the story and the plots he has going on, he's doing a fine job. However, he is pretty bad at dialogue. Every character speaks the same, and no one ever seems to be casual. To keep this exposition-heavy prose "light," he throws in words like "ain't" and "man" a lot, but that isn't enough to make these forced words seem like a person would really speak them. He needs to work on giving each character a voice. Also, he needs to tone down the sexism a tad. A few of the reviewers noticed it in the first volume, but it wasn't quite as blatant as it is here. In this story, men do the tough work and women watch the children and nag the men. That needs to change. Fast.

I was convinced I was reading a great story after volume one, but now I'm less sure. I'll probably keep reading until the end (if there ever is an end), but I'm hoping that things get a lot better than this. And yeah, I really wouldn't mind a new penciller.

Rating: 6/10


What Is It?: The Walking Dead Volume Three (TPB, Collects Issues 13-18)

Timing: Directly following "The Walking Dead Volume Two" TPB.

REVIEW (and Art): Story gets more interesting. Art stays bad. Sexism gets worse.

The more morally grey something is, the more interesting it is to me. Hell, my favorite season of Angel is the fifth, when he becomes the CEO of the evil company he'd been fighting for the previous four seasons. I love seeing characters in a bad situation, forced to develop and do things that will up the drama-ante and push them in ambiguous directions. It's just plain interesting.

So I'm glad Kirkman filled this third volume to the top with moral ambiguity, because the whole idea is really seeing how these characters deal with a world taken over by the dead. The problem is, as I stated in the last issue, the characters aren't really distinguishable from each other. Rick develops nicely and so does Tyreese, but everyone else seems like cardboard cutouts. That, plus every time they open their mouths, they become exposition machines. The dialogue in this sucks. There is absolutely no way around that. Unlike the mediocre second volume, the story makes up for it a little, but it still leaves me a bit dry.

And there are also much worse problems. For one, the art--no long Moore, who illustrated Volume One which was the only really GOOD volume so far--is not getting much better than what we saw in Volume Two, which--to say the least--wasn't so good. But that doesn't even register when you compare it to the NEXT problem:

I just can't get over the overt sexism in this comic, and how it seems to be getting worse and worse with every issue. The character Andrea, who is known as the best shooter of the entire gang, has to convince the men to let her come along to kill zombies. They agree, but she is only allowed to get the ones they don't kill. Rick's wife Lori is pregnant, so every time she offers up a complaint--despite its validity--the characters blame it on hormones. Similarly, when Lori is arguing with Rick and calls him on trying to act like a patriarch, he tells her to "Shut the FUCK up!" Of course, no one comes to her defense, because in the world Robert Kirkman has created, women are submissive to men. It brings my enjoyment of this series down considerably, and I'm getting to the point where I'm not sure if I'll continue with this book or not, no matter how good the story gets, if it even does get better.

Rating: 5/10



Friday, March 7, 2008

New Covers

First, we've got the cover to the Director's Cut of "Angel: After the Fall" #1. Cover by Alex Garner, includes Brian Lynch's script and a full commentary.
Next cover is the fifth Buffy omnibus. "Volume Five of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus series begins immediately after Season Three, after Sunnydale High has gone up in flames. Buffy is plagued by dreams of fellow Slayer Faith, who now lies in a comma. Jane Espenson, the celebrated writer from the Buffy TV show, writes the powerful Faith story Haunted. And as summer comes to an end, Buffy and Willow begin their first year of college in The Blood of Carthage, in a story written by acclaimed Buffy novelist Christopher Golden. Meanwhile Buffy embarks on a new romance with Riley Finn, and Willow and Oz's relationship comes to an end in Golden's Oz: Into the Wild. This volume also features work by Buffy Season Eight contributors Cliff Richards and Paul Lee and Brian Horton.* Collects Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Haunted, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Blood of Carthage, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Autumnal, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Oz "Into the Wild," DHP 2000: Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Take Back the Night," DHP #150: Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Killing Time"" Sounds like some pretty good stuff. I've been wondering if that Oz book is any good.
The next cover you've seen before. It's the variant to Buffy #15, which I threw up again to prepare you guys for the NEXT cover...
Foster's Buffy #15. And guess what? Not big on his #13 or 14 covers, but this one I like. The blurb for the issue is as follows: "Having traveled from her base in Scotland, Buffy ventures to the heart of Japan in order to reclaim her stolen scythe, in Drew Goddard's conclusion to Wolves at the Gate. Along the way, Buffy and the legion of Slayers join forces with the irresistible Dracula to defeat a tight-nit group of nefarious vampires, in which the Slayers suffer a massive hit." And it's out June 4th.
Preview for #13 is up here.

Runaways- Volume One


What Is It?: Runaways- Volume One (Oversized Hardcover, collects the entire first "season" of Runaways, written by Brian K. Vaughan)

Timing: It's the first thing in the Runaways timeline, and--though it fits into Marvel continuity--isn't dependent on any other Marvel book.

REVIEW (and Art): I'll break it down into categories....

For Runaways Fans: This is THE way to read Runaways. Under the attractive dust jacket, the cover is made up of a soft black vinyl material that is extremely durable. The book itself is huge, letting you appreciate the art in a way that it may not have been able to be appreciated in the original comics and the infinitely smaller digest trade paperbacks. Plus, the book is loaded with extras. We've got an introduction, sketches, a letter from Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, and the man who eventually takes over the writing duties of Runaways himself), and the actual proposal for the series by Brian K. Vaughan. Whether you're buying this because you want to get the most you can out of the series or because you're a fan wanting to own a true collectors item, this is more than worth the $[...]. Forget those tiny, manga-looking digests. THIS is the way to go.

For New Comers: Not too long ago, I was one of you. I'll help you make your decision. Have you read any of Brian K. Vaughan's previous work? Do you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Veronica Mars, Heroes, Supernatural, YA lit, or comics in general? Do you like quirk? How about a bit of geekery? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, give this book a try. It's a comic series worth getting into.

For Nay Sayers: The biggest complaint I'm hearing is that "Runaways" is 'too young' or 'too immature' for them. I say unto thee: the first issue left that impression on me as well. But read past it. Read between the lines, and a complex story will emerge through what seems simplistic. The mythology of the story (and the villainous "Pride") will grow, and the characters will have a sort of endearing depth to them. Give it another try, will you?

For Me: I loved this book. Eighteen issues of quirky, Young Adult, fantasy-drama written, pencilled, and colored beautifully is precisely what I was looking for when I purchased this book. My reviews for the individual six-issue arcs found in this book can be found HERE (Runaways Vol. 1: Pride and Joy and Runaways Vol. 3: The Good Die Young). The only problem I had with this book was finding a shelf big enough for it to fit in!

Rating: 9/10


Angel Kicks It Old School

What Is It?: Angel- Long Night's Journey TPB (Script by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews, from Dark Horse's Angel run)

Timing: Season Two of Angel. Between "First Impressions" and "Untouched."

Canon?: Joss had a hand in it, so those who consider it to be canonical have a solid point. However, one must also take into account that Joss came onto the project to revamp Dark Horse's take on ANGEL, to make it more action oriented. This was to be the first four issues of a larger Angel series. The final page of the comic sets up something that never happens, so those who consider it canon will have to deal with that. Also, huge, huge things happen. Lava monsters half the size of Cloverfield walking through LA, a hole being blown through Hyperion, the entire "Angel's soul" mythology being tinkered with... I'm on the fence about canon status, but both positions (canonical, non-canonical) have great points of argument. Oh, new category, by the way. Like?

REVIEW: Joss Whedon helped plot the script, so it's a given that it can't be bad. It's just essential that, before you read, you know what you're getting into. It's an obvious attempt at making Angel a more traditional superhero by including epic fights, big two-page action spreads, and action oriented plots. It was risky, seeing how Angel is character--not action--driven, but I do think it worked well.

The dialogue is the best you'll get out of an Angel comic (other than "After the Fall," which is in a whole different league), so Whedonites will be glad to know that Cordy's snappy sarcasm and Angel's stoic-yet-badass banter is alive and well in this book. The pace is too fast and they could have easily stretched the story to five issues, but I'm confident that fans of Angel--especially the early years--will love this comic. That's if they can get their hands on it, as it is very difficult to come across these days.

I liked that the themes of the series remains in tact, but I didn't like how much tinkering was done with the mythology. The whole concept of how Angel got cursed with his soul was changed, and that would be fine--if it was elaborated on. It's kind of introduced and then dropped before Angel--or readers--can even give it another thought. Another few minor things that bothered me was that (1) I didn't buy the idea that Gunn would carjack someone just because they were honking at him, (2) the "snake lady" twist at the end was really contrived and not built up to at all, and (3) this isn't the fault of the story at all, but the last page gives the idea that there's going to be a continuation, but... the comic was cancelled by Dark Horse after this series.

Thank God IDW picked it up.

Art: Eh. There was some stuff I loved, some I liked, some I didn't like, some I hated. Hated the inconsistency of Cordy's face. The "extras" section says that Brett and Joss told penciller Mel Rubi to ease up on the likeness (why?), and it makes for a very inconsistent looking Cordy, as she has a different face from issue to issue. Wes looks about fifty, which is really strange. Also, the colorist really messed up in the last issue. The Big Bad of the comic, an ancient vampire named Perfect Zheng, had a fang knocked out by Angel in the 1920s. In the first issues, he's depicted as wearing a really cool metal fang. Then, in the final issue, both fangs are colored white again as if the whole "metal fang" thing never happened. Onto the positives. The whole "make it more action oriented?" It works. The art is really dynamic, and makes it feel like I'm literally watching Angel: The Animated Series. That's also because it reminds me of the Batman Animated Series art, but I digress. Loved the way the demons look, like the way most everything else looks. One thing I really noticed was how penciller Mel Rubi draws female. If people are complaining about Franco Urru drawing busty women, they should see this guy. It's a bit distracting from the story, but the saving grace is that with Charisma Carpenter, he's really not exaggerating that much. Only thing is, Cordy wouldn't wear those skimpy ass clothes. She dresses sexy, not Rubi-skanky.

Characters We Know: Angel, Wesley, Cordelia, Gunn

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Serenity- Those Left Behind


What Is It?: Serenity- Behind TPB (Written by Brett Matthews and Joss Whedon, meant to bridge "Firefly" and "Serenity.")

Timing: Between "Firefly" and "Serenity."

REVIEW (and Art): While the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight" comics make me feel like I'm hanging out with old buddies, this trade paperback feels more like a phone call from an old friend. Not that I was ever as big a Firefly/Serenity fan as I am of Buffy/Angel, that's a given, but I won't say I didn't expect a little more from this. Here, I'll break it down with an old fashioned list of + and -

+ All of the characters are written and drawn pretty well, and each is given the amount of screen time they deserve.

+ The comics (there are only three of them) collected in this book tell interesting stories, and the end is particularly poignant.

+It reads like a lost episode of Firefly, bridging the series and the movie, and--ask any fan--there's nothing wrong with a new Firefly episode.

- I don't know if it's just me on this, but it irks me that the size of this book is different than that of normal trade paperbacks. I'm not talking thickness, I'm talking height. This is a short book, closer to the size of a DVD than a trade paperback collection. It looks kind of out of place next to my other trades, and I find myself wishing it was bigger. But, I digress. (NOTE: The hardcover has now been released, so this problem is void. You'd be senseless not to by the hardcover. It comes complete with new art and a mess load of extras.

- It's kinda boring. No new ground is really covered.

- The only real complaint I can think of is also something I mentioned in the positives: "It reads like a lost episode of Firefly, bridging the series and the movie." While that is good and all, the fact is that it reads like an OKAY episode of Firefly. It reads like "The Train Job," expect even still, not as interesting.

I love Joss Whedon and I (with perhaps a bit of a bias) believe he is the best writer of our age, but I am not as enthusiastic about Firefly/Serenity as the Browncoats (super F/S fans) tend to be. The show was great, the movie was great, but I just think that Buffy and Angel were leagues better. I liked this trade, and I'll read the next one if there ever is a next one. However, I'd be lying if I didn't say that I wish Joss would just concentrate on the getting "Buffy Season Eight"--and now "Ripper" and "Dollhouse."

Characters We Know: Book, Mal, Jayne, Zoe, Wash, Kaylee, Simon, River, Inara, and (SPOILERS:) Lawrence Dobson, The Hands of Blue, Badger, and The Operative

Rating: 7/10


Non-Buffyverse Week (and change)

Starting tomorrow afternoon and until Angel #5 is released (likely 3/19), I'm going to be posting reviews for non-Buffyverse comics and--gasp--maybe even a few books! Why? Kinda goes against the whole name, purpose, and mission statement about the site, right? Well, yes and no.

See, I thought it would be cool to post reviews for things that I think other Buffyverse fans might like. Also, you'll see some reviews for things Buffyverse fans might THINK they'll like.... until they see me rip it to shreds and talk about how much Dick (Casablancas, of course) it sucks. Tomorrow, we'll be starting with... RUNAWAYS!!!

Oh yeah, but... there will be--as always--some Buffyverse stuff going on. I'll be reviewing "Angel: Long Night's Journey" in a few days, as well as writing a reaction post to some big news we're getting... And I ain't talkin' about Satsu taking Buffy to the Candy Shop, mind.

But yeah, "RUNAWAYS" tomorrow, "The Walking Dead" on Saturday, and "X-Men" (both Joss stuff and not!) for Sunday. Some other stuff you can expect to either be praised or pissed on over this next week and change are... SUPERNATURAL (both the series and the comics), THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW, Y: THE LAST MAN, VERONICA MARS, THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY, and... a lotta stuff.

Check back.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"Something We'll Be Talking About For Years To Come"

What Is It?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Issue #12: Wolves at the Gate Part I (written by Drew Goddard)

Timing: BTVS, Season Eight. Short while after "A Beautiful Sunset."

REVIEW: Talk about hype. Comic shops were told to double their orders. People debated "What's going to happen in Issue 12?" online since before #10 came out. It's the first comic we get from one of the series vets (other than Whedon, of course). Damn. Talk. About. Hype.

Well, I'm obviously not going to spoil the big event here, but... Yeah. It's big. Something we'll be talking about for years? Probably not. But it's huge enough for the hype, methinks, and it's leads to even huger comedy. Yeah, it looks like "Wolves At the Gate" is going to be a comedy-centric episode, sort of like "Something Blue" and "Tabula Rasa." What I mean is, it doesn't compromise the integrity of the series like episodes similar to "Beer Bad" and "Doublemeat Palace" did, but it still focuses heavily on comedy. We've got Andrew. We've got Xander dealing with his whole "Dracula's Manservant" issue. We've got a sexually awkward situation. We've got some pretty funny stuff.

Most of this issue deals with the personal relationships between the residents of the castle, but there is also a lot of action at the end. While the issue didn't flow as well as #11 did, the transitions are quite a bit smoother than those of "The Long Way Home." I went in expecting something at the same level as the last two issues we've got, which was an error on my part. Everything can't be "A Beautiful Sunset" quality. What we've got here is a solid introduction to the arc with hilarious--and in-character--moments that all push forward all of the character arcs.

After the serious beatdown of #11, this is just what we needed to lighten the mood. And can I express how great it is to have vampires taken as a threat again? I felt that the show lost something in the latter seasons when vampires stopped being serious enemies and became more of a joke. Especially when that vampire wanted help getting out of his grave. C'mon now. THIS, these vampires from Issue #12, are just what we need to show that vamps are still vamps are still vamps.

Art: Ain't as good as usual. I'm missing Dave Stewart as colorist more than I expected. While Michele Madsen is competent and really makes the starry sky beautiful, I miss the quirky colors of Dave Stewart, which really give Season Eight a unique and consistent look. Also, Jeanty seemed to have pulled a switch. He used to be best at drawing NEW characters and iffy at drawing those who've appeared on screen. Well, this time he rocks Buffy and Xander (though he's struggling with Willow more than ever) but really messes up on one of the villains, the one who seems to be in charge. He's a male, Japanese vampire, and in some panels... his face only has a nose on his left. Now if this character was SUPPOSED to be missing half of his nose, awesome, but.... he's not. Not so good. But as far as drawing Buffy, Jeanty's never been better. I thought the female vampire was cool looking, and I also really liked his depiction of Dracula. For those who gasped at that spoiler, get real. You've seen him in two variant covers for this arc so far, we knew he was coming. But yeah, back to the art. This is our second issue without Jo Chen as cover artist, and Foster's cover is a huge improvement over his #11. Out of his covers for this arc that we've seen, it's literally his only passable one, so enjoy this while you can. However, Dark Horse chose to place the Buffy logo in the most inconvenient place, so it kinda ruins the image. Otherwise, it's one of my favorite covers. Oh, and about Buffy's clothes. Loving them. Her PJs rock,an I loved the little UC Sunnydale shirt she had later on. Much more awesome that the SuperSpy gear she's tended to wear this season.

Characters We Know: Xander, Buffy, Willow, Andrew, Dawn, Dracula

Season Eight Recurring Characters We Know: Renee, Satsu, Rowena, Leah

SPECULATION (highlight to read): Okay, so the surprise. Not what I expected. I hoped for Oz, but I didn't think even that could live up to the "talk about for years to come" thing. Well, I liked the surprise. Buffy sleeping with Satsu is cool, as long as he doesn't turn Buffy gay. Been there, Willow'd that. His interview, which I'll post later, pretty much implied that this wouldn't be a serious "Buffy Is No Longer Hetero" thang. It was a shock, it made for a great scene, and will probably make things very, very awkward between certain characters. But that's it. But as far as REAL speculation, I don't really have any. I'm thinking maybe these bad vamps were.... apprentices, students of Dracula? T'is all for now.

Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

TOMORROW... when Buffy #12 comes out. And something big is supposed to happen. Ahhhhh man.