Comic: "Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home"
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Written by: Joss Whedon
Artist: Georges Jeanty
Reviewer: Max Burbank
Plot: Picking up where the TV series left off, Buffy leads an army of Slayers in an on going battle against the forces of evil. A secret society called ‘Twilight’ is determined to wipe the slayers out, believing that if Buffy and her army succeed in ridding earth of evil, their essential demon nature won’t allow them to stop slaying. ‘Twilight’ is either allied with or has infiltrated the U.S. military, and has sent Amy, the former rat, current Witch after Buffy, and her boyfriend (whose identity I won’t reveal, ‘cause it’s kind of a surprise.) Meanwhile, Dawn is a giant, Xander has become totally competent, someone’s in love with Buffy and Willow is moments away from being lobotomized.
Review: Joss Whedon is certainly not the first writer to realize the inherent similarities between movie’s and comic books. In the past, probably because movies have generally been seen as the more respectable art form, it’s been the comic book writers and artists who’ve drawn the comparison. That’s changing. Authors known primarily for screenwriting, most notably J. Michael Stracyzinski and Joss Whedon are crossing the street, and they don’t seem to think of it as slumming.
The Buffy TV series was always laced with references to comic books, little obscure sops to the fan boy world. Now in a turnabout, Whedon is able to keep the popular show alive at a fraction of the cost by turning it into a comic. Mostly it works.
There are some obvious advantages. No one can tell you a special effect sequence is too costly. Your ‘actors’ never leave for a better offer halfway through a story ark, or get pregnant, or refuse to come out of their trailers until they get a better contract. On the other hand, when an author has complete control of his characters, they loose a certain amount of life. A television series is a collaboration between writer, actor and director, each bringing something of themselves to the table. Here, Whedon is both writer and director, and Jeanty is all the actors. He’s a good comic book artist. He’s also the wrong choice.
Fans watched seven seasons of ‘Buffy’. We love the actors and they are totally identified with the characters. Okay drawings are simply not good enough. For this book to work to its best effect, you need a portraitist. Case in point? The two-page splash panel that opens the book. For good lookin’ gals, armed to the teeth with very big guns are jumping out of helicopter. Which one is Buffy? Okay, the one in front. But here’s how I know. It’s her book, the three narration boxes so far have all been in her distinctive voice, and she sorta kinda just a little bit around the eyes looks like Sarah Michelle Geller. But okay, to be fair, I do get that it’s Buffy. Not so much in some pretty key panels. There’s a scene in the second book where Amy (who looks just about nothing like the actress who played her) is about to sacrifice some chick in a nightgown. It’s kind of important to know its Buffy. If Jeanty had spent a little more time making the drawing look like Gellar and a little less concentrating on the writhing/bondage/cleavage aspects of the scene I wouldn’t have had to backtrack almost a page to find out what the heck was going on.
Some of the drawings look like the people/ Jeanty seems to have an affinity for Allison Hannigan (Willow) and Michelle Trachtenberg (Dawn). He’s pretty lucky that Xander wears an eye patch so we always know it’s him, but if another dark haired guy with an eye patch enters the fray, we’re screwed.
There are comic book artists out there who can draw reasonable likenesses and make them act, and lord knows there’s a wealth of source material to work from after seven seasons. Jo Chen’s covers are unmistakably who they are supposed to be. Maybe that kind of work takes too long, maybe Chen was too expensive, I don’t know.
It’s a testament to what a good writer Whedon is and how effortlessly he makes the switch from screenplay to comic script that the art rarely distracted me. I really missed Buffy when it went off the air, and while the comic book can’t take it’s place, it satisfies the Buffy jones way more than I’d have guessed. The pacing, the plot, the balance of humor and action are all in place. Questions get answered, characters return, surprises abound and it’s fun in all the ways the die-hard Buffy fan is looking for. Bitching aside, I bought the first TPB of the series to review it, but I’ll be buying the rest, and probably the Angel series Whedon scripted as well, based on how good what I’ve read so far is.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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