Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Graphic Lit: Buffy returns

Since the cult TV series “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” ended in 2003, fans have had few places to turn to satisfy their cravings.

They can relax now, as Ms. Summers has risen from the dead once more for a final eighth season. The catch, however, is that she isn’t showing up on your television, but at your local comic book shop.

“Buffy The Vampire Slayer” is a new, monthly comic from Dark Horse and written by series creator Joss Whedon, who’s impressed a number of comic book fans lately with his successful run on “The Astonishing X-Men.”

“I basically said, ‘We could do something and for once we could make it canon [make it part of the main story line]. We could make it officially what happened after the end of the show,’¤” Whedon said in an interview with TV Guide in December. “Let Buffy not only address certain themes that slipped between the cracks of the show, but also really be a comic book.”

The first issue, which was released in stores last week, has already proved to be a hit, as it sold out of its 100,000 first printing almost immediately. (A second printing should be in stores Wednesday).

Whedon will pen the first six issues of the series and then hand off the writing chores to acclaimed scribe Brian K. Vaughn (“Pride of Baghdad,” “Y: The Last Man”). Other writers will fill in as the series progresses. The comic is planned to run for about 25-30 issues.

The first issue picks up a year or so after the end of the seventh season, with Buffy fighting evil abroad and training new slayers. The U.S. military, meanwhile, seems quite worried about the army she’s amassed and aims to take her down. They might get help from one of the survivors of her decimated home town.

I’m about as familiar with the “Buffy” series as I am with NASCAR, which is to say not at all. As a result, I was a bit lost at times as to who certain characters were, what their relationship was to one another and how things ended up as they did. This is clearly a comic for “Buffy” fans first and foremost, with newcomers like myself coming in at a distant second.

That being the case, I turned to my fellow reporter and devout “Buffy” fan, Kira Schlechter, to get her impressions of the comic:

“It picks up where the last episode of the series let off, in a nutshell. And pretty nicely, although it doesn’t march in place — the plot gets cranking really fast, and a whole bunch of new questions arise.” That is what Joss does so well — no wasting time.

“I loved the dialogue. It’s pure Joss — witty and funny and smart-alecky,” Schlechter said. “I can’t make an educated comment about the art, but I do think they made Xander a bit too chiseled.

“All in all, a really good start — I’m dying to see what happens next.”

So there you have it, Buffy fans, a ringing endorsement. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the video store to fill in the gaps in my vampire-slaying education.


Buffy isn’t the only monster hunter who’s shown up in comics lately. That original beast-buster, “Beowulf,” is back in a 128-page graphic novel by Gareth Hinds (Candlewick Press, $9.99.)

The book is a pretty faithful adaptation of the medieval poem about a brave Dane who goes up against the mother of all monsters, Grendel, and then fights his mother.

The only major change of note is that Hinds and his translators chose a colloquial translation of the poem instead of something more, say, eloquent.

It’s a shame actually, considering how literal Hinds’ adaptation is. He sees the work in purely action terms, and while the fight scenes are well-staged (and gory), I kept wishing he had chosen a less traditional path.

There are hints here and there of what Hinds might have done had he chosen to be less reverential to the original material, but what we’re left with is simply a more lavish version of those old “Classics Illustrated” comics they used to foist on kids back in bygone days. That’s not enough to warrant a recommendation.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2007

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