Slayer Lit

Slayer Lit Review

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OUT OF THE WOODWORK

Story by Tom Fassbender & Jim Pascoe; Art by Cliff Richards and Joe Pimentel

OUT OF THE WOODWORK

I enjoyed this; it was very long, which always ups the enjoyment factor for me!

First off, I must make mention of the timeline, which was strange. It states that this story takes place after S4, but the Initiative still feels like a cohesive operation, and Buffy tells Giles in one scene that she and Willow need to "go to this rally thing for Professor Walsh's class". Small quibble, but in real terms, this story would need to take place sometime during S4...and early S4 at that...but after the gang have known about the Initiative long enough to feel comfortable about it (and obviously before Professor Walsh's death). There were other small blips as well: Sunnydale, for example, is written 'Sunnyvale' in one panel, which, let's face it, is a pretty big typo.

As to the storyline; Sunnydale is being plagued by giant insect-like demons who look rather similar to the supply teacher in S1's Teacher's Pet. But rather than laying eggs, they seem to be using humans to instantaneously spawn a swarm.

In a subplot, a homeless man is the victim of a vampire attack, and loses a precious ring (inscribed with the words 'Love Conquers All') to one of the vamps in the process. The poor man may be dead, but he wants his ring back, and when Riley and Cole (a fellow Initiative soldier) inadvertently stumble into the alleyway where the man died, his ghostly presence sends Riley into a mystical coma.

Oh, and Giles has a new love interest....

That's pretty much it. I must admit that I found all the plots a little weak, but the pleasure actually comes from the very satisfying characterisations and voices, which are really true to our show. Spike and Anya were particularly wonderful (and very, very funny), and there are beautiful scenes involving Willow and Tara, which address the difficulties Tara experiences in integrating with the Scoobies as a group.

Buffy herself seems to be in a strange kind of S4 pre-"A New Man" state; very involved with Riley, but over the initial excitement of The Initiative, and deeply resentful of Giles' new love interest, but only after Riley has succumbed to a mystical coma. There is an interesting tension in the dynamic of their relationship, particularly when the woman in question appears to have fallen victim to the bug-monsters. Both Giles and Buffy are distraught and anxious, and there is one beautiful panel in which Buffy goes to visit Riley and is told by the doctor that Willow, Xander et al have all secretly been taking turns in visiting Riley. She never brings this up, but this scene is a prelude to their call-to-arms and is followed by a nice ensemble/power shot of the gang, which I don't recall seeing in other comics I've read. It's also very much in the spirit of the characters we know, and reminded me of the Scoobies' vigil when Angel is shot by Faith in S3.

Unfortunately, the tale itself is rather confused. When Cole is 'infected' by a bug-monster, rather than spawning baby bugs, he is instead gradually transformed into a giant bug, but why his fate is different to that of the first victim is not clearly explained...particularly when, during the 'final shoot-out' towards the end, Buffy and the Scoobies are viewed as meals on legs as opposed to potential fellow bugs. And when the gang discovers that Cole's been infected, rather than kill him, they lock him in the cage of the school library. Hmm....the whole school blows up at the end of S3, and is drawn in this comic as a ruin...what are the chancesof Giles' library cage remaining intact after the graduation explosion?!?

Furthermore, Riley's coma does not really convince. Although Buffy resolves this subplot quite early on in the storyline, we are never given sufficient background information to really understand a) what is happening and b) why it takes so long for Riley to wake up. In fact, Riley remains in a coma practically throughout - and at 216 pages long, that's a lot of pages. It's almost as if he had an elsewhere to be in real life, so the writers set up a storyline that he wouldn't need to be too involved in. It really is bizarre.

To sum up: as long as you're not hoping for a truly gripping read plot-wise, Out of the Woodwork does deliver in all other respects. There's also a very nice touch at the end: an extract from a 1971 publication called The Field Guide to Occult Entomology (I kid you not).

*** 3 out of 5 stars

Collects issues 31-34 of the BtVS comic Vol. I, plus DHP 2000 Annual