Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #18 (Dark Horse Comics)
By Joss Whedon, Karl Moline & Jo Chen
Trapped in the future, Buffy breaks the cardinal rule for time-travelers — she tries to look up info about her own future. What’s even more depressing, though, is when she discovers that she didn’t make the books. The legend of Buffy Summers was never written. Time to kill some vamps to make up for it. Gunther, meanwhile, gets a visit from Fray’s brother. Back in the present, Willow may have found a way to rescue Buffy, and Dawn and Xander continue their flight, with plenty more requisite innuendo. I can’t be the only one at this point who thinks Whedon is hinting at some sort of relationship between these two… after all, in this time frame she’s got to be 18 or 19, while he’s probably 25-ish. It’s not really that unthinkable. And if that’s not the plan, then Whedon is throwing a heck of a lot of red herrings out. But it’s not all sex — we’ve got some new monsters here, which Moline provides a great visual for, and the Willow story is getting more and more intense. This title continues to be a great continuation of the Buffy saga.
Sugarshock #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
By Joss Whedon & Fabio Moon
The next book in Dark Horse‘s “One-Shot Wonders” promotion reprints a three-part story from Myspace Dark Horse Presents. In his newest creation, Joss Whedon presents a girl band (well… three girls plus one robot) who get summoned to another planet to battle for the future of the human race, only to reveal some pretty bizarre things about themselves on the way. Although I’ve come to expect Whedon to come up with different sorts of stories, this one is way beyond his usual realm of kookiness. The characters, the situation, the dialogue, all feels like he dumped out all the different, unusual chunks of his imagination into one story. The result isn’t bad — he’s created some unique characters and some very funny bits. It doesn’t quite rise to the level of his better creations, but it’s entertaining enough in its own right, certainly entertaining enough to read online for free. Fabio Moon‘s artwork fits the story very well. The layouts are good, the designs are great, and the execution is solid. It’s a fun little book, and I’ll be certain to look for more online if they do any more.
Star Wars: Legacy #28 (Dark Horse Comics)
By John Ostrander, Jan Duursema & Travis Charest
The Vector crossover begins its final leg as Cade Skywalker and his ragtag crew prepare for their gambit to overthrow Darth Krayt. As the journey continues, they run across the drifting vessel of Celeste Morne, a Jedi who has spent 3000 years bonded to an artifact possessed by the spirit of a Sith lord. Knowing of the Skywalker legacy through encounters with Luke and Darth Vader, Celeste’s encounter with Cade takes a surprisingly different turn. While the sections of this story in Dark Times and Rebellion were both pretty good, they also felt somewhat inconsequential i terms of those books’ overall story. Here, however, with the whole future of the Star Wars universe available to play with, it doesn’t feel at all impossible that John Ostrander would take advantage of this crossover to make some lasting changes to the Legacy status quo. Really good issue.
Star Wars: Legacy #27 (Dark Horse Comics)
By John Ostrander & Omar Francia
Here’s a cool little standalone issue. Darth Krayt, lord of the Sith, is suffering from the Yuuzhan Vong coral implants inside his body. To try to save him, Darth Wyrlok attempts to delve the lost Sith knowledge of a master called Darth Andeddu, who found a way to animate his own body even after death. Andeddu doesn’t consider Krayt and Wyrlok worthy of his knowledge, though, and Wyrlok beings an intense battle for the life of his master. The Sith of Star Wars: Legacy are all really intriguing characters, and John Ostrander‘s decision to spotlight them this month makes for one of the best issues of this title since its inception. Although none of these characters are heroes, Wyrlok does manage to become a more sympathetic character, a character you can (almost) root for in his battle against Andeddu. Omar Francias artwork is fantastic — cool-looking aliens, nasty zombie Sith, an awesome painted cover. The whole package is extremely well put-together. If you’re a Star Wars fan, again, this is a book that stands on its own. Go ahead and check it out.
My Name is Bruce #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
By Milton Freewater Jr., Mark Verheiden, Cliff Richards & Bart Sears
Based on the long-delayed movie of the same name, the My Name is Bruce one-shot features B-movie legend Bruce Campbell getting recruited by one of his biggest fans to fight off a vengeful demon accidentally released from a mine. A couple of spiteful ghosts watch the whole thing, amused by the proceedings. This is a pretty weak book, as 99 percent of all movie-to-comic adaptations are. The story is rushed and the characters (even Campbell are paper-thin). There’s no real sense of joy or excitement, the stuff that you just need in Campbell‘s work to make it fun to watch. I’m not going to judge the movie on this, as (like I said) comic adaptations, even of great movies, are usually pretty bad. But if I didn’t already love Bruce, this wouldn’t be a comic that would make me a fan.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #17 (Dark Horse Comics)
By Joss Whedon, Karl Moline & Jo Chen
A disturbance in time has hurled Buffy forward to the distant future, where she counters the girl called Fray, the first slayer in centuries. As Buffy tries to acclimate herself to the strange world she’s emerged into, back home Willow tries to find her while Xander and Dawn come under attack. Whedon is doing something unexpected with Xander and Dawn here, and while I’m not 100 percent sure where he’s going, I’ve got my suspicions. The interaction between Buffy and Fray is fun, and while Whedon tries a little too hard to whip up some future jargon, he doesn’t go far enough that it becomes confusing. Karl Moline, artist of the original Fray miniseries, is right at home both in the future and the present. I’d be a little concerned that people who haven’t read Fray could get confused by this issue, but Whedon does a decent job of getting you up to speed on all the players. And the end of this issue, of course, is one of those gut-punch cliffhangers he just loves to pull on us. The further we go into this series, the more I love it.
Title: Treatment and other stories
Writers: Dave Gibbons, Robert Love, David Walker, Carla Speed McNeil, Paul Chadwick, Howard Chaykin, Jim Steranko, Patrick Alexander, Richard Corben, Chuck Brown, David Chelsea, Neal Adams, Michael T. Gilbert
Art: Dave Gibbons, Robert Love, Carla Speed McNeil, Paul Chadwick, Howard Chaykin, Jim Steranko, Patrick Alexander, Richard Corben, Sanford Greene, David Chelsea, Neal Adams, Michael T. Gilbert
Colorist: Angus McKie, Michelle Davies, Diego Simone, Jenn Manley Lee, Bill Mudron, Jesus Aburto, Tyson Hesse, Sanford Greene, Moose Baumann
Letterer: Thomas Mauer, Ken Bruzenak, Clem Robins, Steve Dutro
Cover Artist: Dave Gibbons
Editor: Mike Richardson
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
This is perhaps the best issue yet of the reborn Dark Horse Presents. With a whopping twelve stories, the odds are in your favor that more of them will be good, but this time the only ones that really fall flat are the ones that have been flat since the first issue.
Dave Gibbons steps in with Treatment, an odd commentary on crime fighting and the media, set in a future where cops are TV stars and their deaths in the line of duty are treated as entertainment. I’m kind of sad that this isn’t listed as “chapter one,” as he’s created a very interesting universe that I’d like to revisit. Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder takes a very bizarre turn this issue, and Patrick Alexander’s Indecisive Man is an extremely funny look at the world’s least effective superhero. Michael T. Gilbert’s Mister Monster finishes his battle with Oooak in a goofy, silly way that I think Stan Lee himself would have been very proud of.
In the middle tier, we get new chapters of Number 13, Concrete, Murky World, Rotten Apple and Snow Angel, all of which progress their respective stories or worlds in an interesting, satisfactory way. Jim Steranko also presents the first chapter of Red Tide, an illustrated detective novel. The story is interesting – a poisoned man with 72 hours to live hires a private detective to find his killer in time for him to see the man brought to justice. I like this one quite a lot, and I look forward to reading the rest.
As before, the weak links come from the old masters – Howard Chaykin’s Marked Man continues to be a lifeless, by-the-numbers crime story, and Neal Adams’ Blood is a sci-fi story that seems to be wallowing in bizarre ideas at the expense of a comprehensible plot.
But the good far outweighs the bad in this issue, and that’s what you have to hope for in a book like this. Overall, I’m really happy with the work we get here.