Saturday, October 27, 2012

Expanding the Whedonverse

Tales of the Slayers
& Tales of the Vampires
Various Authors/Illustrators
p. 2002

My sister procured this anthology of Buffy the Vampire Slayer-related comics and loaned it to me last month. I blew through it in a day and a half, since, as previously mentioned, I am not as big on comics as I am on graphic novels. It is a collection of comics from the Tales of the Slayer series, which tells selected accounts of past (and future!) slayers, Tales of the Vampires, centering on unconnected vampire stories in keeping with the mythology, and a few miscellaneous comics. Joss Whedon and Amber Benson (Buffy’s Tara) are among the writers of these vastly varied sagas.

I found the slayer series much more intriguing than the vampire stories, on the whole. It starts off with the First Slayer, who actually appeared in the TV series. All of the past slayer stories are rather tragic and reveal quite a bit of drama in so few pages. I was most impressed with “Righteous,” the tale of the medieval slayer forsaken by the town she protects and burned at the stake, and “Nikki Goes Down!” the 1970s-era slayer avenging her cop boyfriend’s death at the hands of monsters, but I liked the art in the all-too-short “The Glittering World” best. I would easily read individual novels (graphic or otherwise) about almost any of these slayers. It’s so fascinating to see this world expanded upon further than we ever got in the series.

As far as canon is concerned, our chief cast is not well-represented in these particular comics. Apart from a Spike and Druscilla comic, a cheeky, early-seasons Buffy and Willow jaunt, and a few cameos and references (Dracula, Harmony and Mayor Wilkins among them), the characters we watched for seven years are mostly absent. This is not a story about them; it felt more like a collection of musings and plot bunnies by the people behind the show, exploring avenues only briefly touched upon prior.

Interspersed with the standalone comics is a serialized story of a group of children in the Watcher’s academy interacting with an ancient vampire, regaling them with his wisdom. I wasn’t terribly fond of the art or the story in this one and I found all the twists disappointingly predictable. I probably would have enjoyed it more had they presented it as a whole, long comic instead of drawing the suspense out. 

As I’ve said, very few of the vampire tales resonated with me. Vampire mythology has never interested me terribly. Whedon’s take on the creatures has been the only time I’ve found them remotely interesting and even then I was always rooting for the humans, not the vampires. Some of their stories were interesting, even sympathetic, but overall, more tedious than the struggles of the various slayers.

For fans of the Buffy and Angel series, this is a fantastic read, but it wouldn’t be very interesting to anyone else. The anthology is proof positive at how expansive and full of possibility the Whedonverse can be.

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