September 29th, 2010

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus, Vol 1

Reviewed by Bernice Watson

The level of genuine enjoyment any given reader will take from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus, Volume 1 really depends on their feelings towards the original television show. Devoted fan? Well then, I can almost guarantee that you will enjoy this jaunt through the Buffyverse especially as this particular volume contains a collection of stories whose aim is to fill in some gaps in the established story. Caught a couple of episodes of Buffy in the ‘90s and have flicked through some of the Season 8 comics? I think you’ll find this volume falls a little flat. Luckily for me, I am a Buffy fan and therefore found myself gleefully tearing though this 312 page tome and hungrily soaking up the new Buffy lore.

Editor Scott Allie tells us that the stories collected in Volume 1 were actually written during the show’s seventh season run but as trying to write abreast of the show at that point was logistically too tricky the writers instead turned to Buffy’s early days for their stories. The result was a series of Buffy: Year One stories which aimed to bridge the gap between the 1992 film and the beginning of the television series.

The biggest problem for any writer who isn’t Joss Whedon when working on Buffy is the dialogue. The ‘Whedonesque’ style is a tricky beast and one not easily imitated by others. I first noticed this in Christopher Golden’s ‘All’s Fair’, a whimsical jaunt through Spike and Drusilla’s pre-Buffy past. Golden mostly hits the right notes, Spikes English drawl, Dru’s maniacal ramblings; but still something’s not quite right. It all feels a little too self-conscious, too carefully constructed. Similarly in the rest of the stories collected here there is a certain something missing from much of the dialogue. It’s something I also notice in the current Season 8 stories not written by Joss but that’s another review…

Story-wise Volume 1 does fill in some important holes between the film and the series, most notably what ever happened to Pike (Luke Perry’s character in the film) and the events leading up to Buffy’s move to Sunnydale. The second story in the volume re-creates Joss’ original film script in an attempt to re-claim the story as it was intended. Although the effort is appreciated by anyone who wants to claw their own eyeballs out when confronted with the cinematic train wreck that is the film, I thought this new version was a little unsteady on its feet. ‘Viva Las Buffy!’ sees our heroine running away to fight vampires in Las Vegas with Pike immediately after the events of the film. It is here that readers get some closure on the Buffy-Pike relationship. The story also introduces Angel and Giles, although Buffy meets neither of course. The decision to include a first person narrative from Pike here helps to add a little emotional depth to an otherwise fairly light romp through vampire infested casinos. The end of the Pike-Buffy friendship also helps to foreshadow somewhat the larger themes of isolation, sacrifice and duty which are explored in the show. Buffy herself doesn’t get much of a voice though and remains a largely two-dimensional character.

In what must have been a difficult decision, the editor opted to include Dawn in these retrospective additions to the Buffy story. He admits her inclusion ‘…met with some criticism from fans.’ The reasoning is that Season 7 Buffy would remember Dawn being present during these events. The counter argument, of course, is that she wasn’t. Time-space paradoxes make my head hurt so I’m not going to try and figure this one out but I can’t say I’m Dawn’s biggest fan so I would’ve been happy without her here. Nevertheless, ‘Dawn and Hoopy the Bear’ was good clean fun and I guess gave readers a chance to see the Summers family in divorce-foreshadowing turmoil.

I did notice some discrepancies here and there in the stories. Call me unnecessarily picky but they caught my attention. One example is a question of location. All of these stories (except ‘All’s Fair’ and ‘Buffy: The Origin’) take place between the events of the film and the beginning of the television series. We know that in the first episode of season 1 Buffy and Joyce (and Dawn I suppose…? Head. Pain. Bad.) have just moved to Sunnydale sans Mr Summers. So when the house depicted here in ‘Slayer Interrupted’ is clearly the house in Sunnydale from the show I got a little confused. Just to muddy the waters further, nine pages later Buffy and Dawn are at LA Mall. So are they in LA or Sunnydale?? And if they’re in Sunnydale why is Mr Summers still in the picture? Continuity, people - it’s important.

The artwork in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus, Volume 1 has its ups and downs. Drawing characters from actors is never easy and I have to give a tip of my hat to all the artists working on these stories for the way they cross that bridge. ‘Viva Las Buffy’ and ‘Slayer Interrupted’ showed the best form with plenty of eye-grabbing action sequences and some nice work with colour. ‘All’s Fair’ didn’t do much for me, Spike and Dru didn’t look much like their onscreen counterparts which is always disappointing.

All and all, as I said above, if you’re already a Buffy fan then I think you’ll enjoy Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus, Volume 1. If you’re not a follower of all things Buffy then I’d say give it a miss. I certainly intend to get my hands on a copy of Volume 2 in the series and look forward to more adventures with Buffy and co.

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