Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Buffy Comic Project: "Ugly Little Monsters, Part 1"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 40

Dark Horse (Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators:  Tom Fassbender & Jim Pascoe (story); Cliff Richards (pencils), Joe Pimentel & Will Conrad (inks).

Setting:  Season Five

T.V. Character Appearances:  Buffy, Willow, Tara, Xander, Tara, Dawn, Spike, Giles,

Major Original Characters:  None

Summary:  It is some weeks after the death of Joyce.  Willow and Tara decide to keep Buffy company on patrol, but during a vampire attack Tara is scratched in the face.  When Willow and Tara return to the Magic Box, Anya makes a rude comment about the scratches and Willow and Anya argue.  Elsewhere, Spike turns up at Giles' door and says he is concerned about Buffy.  He shows Giles something called Ezekiel's Bane and says he found a demon wearing it in the sewers.  Giles says Ezekiel's Bane allows the owner to store and manipulate intense emotional energy, but that it now poses no danger.  Meanwhile, at the Summers' residence, Willow and Buffy discuss how Buffy is coping when they hear a scream from upstairs.  In Dawn's closet are a trio of sharp-clawed demons!  The demons screech at Dawn and then leap out the window.


I loved this issue, and although it might sound odd, part of the reason is that the writers didn't worry about getting to the plot until the last few pages.  The characterization is perfect.  Having watched every episode of Buffy many (many) times, I can completely imagine the actors speaking the dialogue in the comic.  The conflict between Willow and Anya is played well and earned; Willow would stick up for Tara, and lambasting Anya for constantly making rude remarks on the pretence that she doesn't understand humans was a nice way to cut through and deconstruct established personality traits (a Whedon trademark).  The portrayal of Buffy finding herself in the difficult position of now being something of a mother-figure to Dawn was also handled well.  It's a Buffy story, so there has to be monsters and fighting at some point, but it's really the characters and their interaction that sets the Buffy-verse apart from the rest.


* There's a well-written scene where Willow and Tara are insulted by a trio of drunk jerks.  It's not clear if the verbal attack is misogynistic, homophobic, or both, but seeing characters deal with real-world problems helps keep the stories grounded.

*  There's a weird and slightly comical panel featuring Xander on page 5, where it looks like he has two heads.  Xander is delivering dialogue both to Anya (in the foreground) and to Willow and Tara (in the background) of the same panel.  In order to get Xander looking in the right direction for each, the artist stuck two heads on the same body to represent Xander turning.  I get the idea, but it looks really weird and is probably the sort of thing that would be better represented by turning the one big panel into two smaller ones.  An editor's note on the letter's page provides an explanation for why this wasn't done: for some dumb reason, the editor challenged the writers to use precisely three panels per page.

* In one scene, Buffy is sitting on her bed reading an issue of Fray (the comic that features a Slayer in the far future).

*  For the art covers, I've always hated the very cartoony style that the editor seems to favour.  It makes the Scoobies look like they're in middle school.

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