Slayer Lit Review
"BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER OMNIBUS VOLUME 3"
Reviewed by Mark Seeley
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus # 3, published by Dark Horse comics, hit shelves a little while ago. I have to admit, it's a little difficult to get through.
(Some background, I only started reading Dark Horse's Buffy comics with Tales of the Vampires, then began the new Season 8 series. So the Omnibuses... Omnibi?... are all new material for me, which I'm eating up.)
Since the purpose of the Omnibuses is to take all the published comics (taking place during the series) and put them in chronological order within the universe, volumes 1 and 2 are comprised of "before Buffy #1" comics, which were actually written later once the comic series improved. Omnibus 3 is finally hitting the very first Buffy comics published (right around Season 3), and they weren't done very well yet. The art is a LOT less than adequate (almost all vamps looking like green bat-faced creatures), and the dialogue was not always on target (although the writers seemed to understand Xander's character pretty much). However, the plots were, at least, interesting.
I must say, I LOVE the cover art of this volume (it's an homage to a screen shot from the original Scooby Doo cartoon title sequence.). So far, the cover art for the Omnibuses have all been great stuff!
In case you have not read this volume yet, I want to warn you --- there's going to be spoilers in this review.
Starting from the beginning...
"Wu-Tang Fang" - Obviously, the title can be seen as a bit of a nod to the 90s rap group Wu-Tang Clan. I don't know the origin of the rap group's name, so it might come from similar inspiration. A quick internet search reveals that the rap group was inspired by a 1981 kung-fu movie entitled "Shaolin and Wu Tang."
The film explains Wu-Tang as a sword style (I'm digressing.). Anyway, the issue deals with an ancient, Asian martial arts master-turned-vampire. Some shades of The Karate Kid here. He's looking for a challenge, and decides Buffy will provide one. He's not disappointed.
"Halloween" - I enjoyed how the comics filled the gap of Halloween episodes, since Season 3 had none. I liked how the Scoobies were not going to participate in Trick or Treating until forced by Principal Snyder as part of a neighborhood watch-type thing; it does seem like something he would do. The Scoobies' choices for costumes were interesting to me: Buffy as 'Jason Vorhees' (Friday the 13th), Xander as Bram Stoker's Dracula (not working for me, since he loathes vampires; the reasoning behind his donning the costume in the comic is weak, in my opinion), and Oz as the 'Land Shark' (from Saturday Night Live). Of course, if you figure they are hedging their bets in case their costumes take them over again, maybe that DOES work. They crash a vamp group's "night off," which works into the established lore a bit... no vamps hunting, but they captured victims in advance (including Willow) so they could stay in, watch scary movies, and snack.
"Cold Turkey" - Since the comics came out monthly, the next one is set for Thanksgiving. This is NOT "Pangs," to be sure. The story deals with the one vamp that survived the Halloween issue, and she's donning Buffy's lost 'Jason' mask. I guess she thought her own vamp face wasn't scary enough? I liked how the story dealt with a vamp survivor of a Buffy raid, and showed some hints of the kind of emotions some survivors might have.
"Dance with Me" - Um... yawn. The idea was interesting enough: A student who kept asking Buffy to go to dances with him, but kept being turned down, gets vamped and meets up with the Slayer. He's still dealing with feeling rejected... .so she kills him. Really, it's that short. I think this one might have been done outside of the regular monthly comic or something, as it's only 6 pages long.
"White Christmas" - Apparently taking place before "Amends," Buffy needs money to buy a dress for the Christmas dance. So, she gets a part-time job at the Popsicle Parlor in Sunnydale Mall. The manager spends all of his time in the freezer trying to conjure ice imps and demons to help him get out of his rut as a junk food joint manager. How the demons are supposed to help him is unclear. Maybe steal a lot of high end merchandise for him to sell at Xmas time? (And I guess he never heard of temp agencies and higher education.) This issue represents the biggest drawback in this set of issues: Buffy getting a job at a junk food mall stand a full two years before the Double Meat palace job. And the ice demons were... well, words fail me. Suffice it to say, thumbs down... even though it presents yet another clandestine date between Angel and Buffy and an ice rink (Sunnydale Mall apparently has one).
"Happy New Year" - Apparently, Oz's January "wolf-out" resulted in him escaping and Buffy having to hunt him down, with Oz suffering a minor injury as a result. But Willow is giving Buffy the silent treatment while dealing with her fear and pain. They then encounter a thief who keeps trying to steal books of magic from Giles; turns out he's cursed to be chased forever by his own dog, all because of a betrayal (a couple centuries ago) that sent his best friend and his unrequited love to burn at the stake for using witchcraft. Hilarity (Buffy style) ensues, and it ends with Willow and Buffy being able to talk to each other.
"New Kid on the Block" - A new student comes to Sunnydale, named Cynthia. She is befriended by the Scoobies just when the gals decide to have a slumber party. Of course, Xander wants/needs to attend. The slumber party is attacked by vamps (because it would NOT be a party with the Scoobies if it weren't attacked by something). Turns out the vamps are all thralls of Cynthia, who is a big, toothy demon-thing in disguise. Xander tries to come as an uninvited guest, Angel sees trouble and comes a-running... and the demon destroys the back yard pool before being swallowed up by the Hellmouth.
"Food Chain" - Brad Caulfield is the apparent leader of a group of rich, bullies at Sunnydale High School. (At first read, I expected them to be the foursome from "The Pack," but it turns out they're not.) Sandy is one of the group, and it seems she's the only one who's not a tool. Of course, that's because she's the real "leader," and a demon named Ylisandroth who is using the four boys for sustenance while... well, frankly, her motivations for being in Sunnydale are never revealed. Ylisandroth is a very interesting... um... Medium" Bad, and could have fit in with the show's rogues gallery, and could even have been an interesting facet of the Mayor's scheme, too. Since they never say why she's there, it would have been an interesting tie-in to Wilkins' plans... but we're never told that.
"Play with Fire" - The Scoobies actually chase a bunch of vamps into an old house. Once there, they encounter what seems to be a friendly ghost named Bryan. He's not a "Phantom Dennis" type of ghost, but he does show good intentions and helps them defeat the cornered vamps. The Scoobies figure out the guy's problem and free his spirit from the house. But since we then learn he wasn't really a ghost, he rematerializes and simply goes home. Again, yawn.
"Food Chain Part Two" - Brad Caulfield is still a tool, even after being saved from Ylisandroth by Buffy. There's a big hairy whosijamawhatsit attacking the other guys from his little clique. Turns out, Brad is possessed by a thing that was released by his worshiping of Ylis... (I'm not typing the name again, but you get the idea), and it's transforming him into the big, hairy thing nightly. Willow, with the supervision of Giles, uses magic to free Brad and expel the demon possessing him. He turns himself in and goes to jail.
"The Final Cut" - A student obsessed with becoming a filmmaker keeps sneaking in to an "off limits" room at the editing house where he sweeps up. He finds things there to try to take advantage of and further his film geekiness. He finds an old, unreleased film and watches it. It's a bad vampire movie from the days of black & white cinema. The vamp in the movie suddenly breaks character and talks directly to the kid! He's an actor trapped inside the film ever since it was made. Fair Quinn (the trapped actor) was a neat concept, and something I could imagine seeing in an episode. The Scoobies find out, get trapped in the film with the actor (who can escape to the real world by offering up the souls of the Scoobies to the demon he had made a bargain with back in the 1930s), and Buffy has to fight him. Pretty standard resolution.
"The Latest Craze" - This is my favorite one of the bunch. Ethan Rayne appears and there are a few small connections with the show continuity (Willow's Pez Witch and Buffy's Claddagh ring). Ethan Rayne's latest scheme is to use a bunch of little stuffed toys that come to life as Baumesel (think Beanie Gremlins). It fits Ethan's style pretty well. It also provides a bit of commentary on the kinds of things we'll cling to as a fad (Cordelia, of course, learns the exact wrong lesson from the whole misadventure). The resolution was pretty amusing as well.
Well, like I said, this has been the hardest one for me to get through - I've had it for almost three weeks now. It just simply is not the quality that the first Omnibus was, and definitely not the quality of Season 8. So far, I enjoyed Omnibus #1 the best (of the three published Omnibuses).
One of the biggest problems with these older comics, I feel, is the lack of motivation for the villains. The series had a strength because we found out why the Big Bads (and the little ones, too) were doing what they were doing, and what they hoped to achieve, not to mention how. So much of the narrative from the comics assembled here just leave that out. There are attempts here and there, but nothing poignant, or even relatively compelling.
According to the introduction in the book, there probably are going to be five or six volumes to the Omnibus. It's my hope and contention that the quality likely improves as the series found it's way. I do recommend this volume for fans of BtVS, albeit with the caveat that the first two were better and the next volumes should improve as well.
*** 3 out of 5 Stars
Mark Seeley is a member of a group of Buffy/Angel/Firefly fans who congregate online almost daily to compare notes, discuss, and argue about everything both within and without the works of Joss Whedon. He's an upright biped with dreams of making ends meet who lives in a small community just North West of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and has finally completed his collection of Buffy and Angel DVDs. Yay him.