Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Annual '99
Dark Horse Comics (Volume 1, 1998-2003)
Creators: "The Latest Craze" (Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski, Cliff Richards); "Bad Dog" (Douglas Petrie, Ryan Sook)
Setting: Season 3
T.V./Movie Character Appearances: Buffy, Willow, Giles, Oz, Cordelia, Xander, Ethan Rayne, Angel,
Major Original Characters: Elissa (high school student)
1) "The Latest Craze": Sunnydale High is hit by a new trend: little collectible troll dolls in endless variation of appearance. The students' craze to collect them escalates to the point where there are fist-fights in the hallways and some students spending hundreds of dollars to buy "limited edition" ones. Even Willow gets in on the action, forming an emotional bond with her troll doll. But unbeknownst to everyone, the trolls are actually alive, and, in the middle of the night, animate to steal some items belonging to their "owners" and taking those items to their massive "mother." When the trolls go so far as to try to steal Oz's guitar after a show at the Bronze, Buffy decides she has to investigate. Breaking into the new store in town that has been selling the troll dolls, they realize that Ethan Rayne is behind it! He's brought over the trolls from another dimension in order to become rich. Buffy and the Scooby Gang confront the troll "mother" and banish them back to the dimension they came from.
2) "Bad Dog": It's the night of the full moon, and Oz has to be locked in the library cage to prevent him doing harm when he transforms into a werewolf. Willow is to stand guard for the first shift, but when Buffy comes to relieve her, she finds the cage torn open, the window broken, and both Willow and Oz gone! Buffy grabs a tranq gun and runs into the forest where she gets Angel's help in tracking the werewolf. It pounces but after a struggle they manage to subdue it. Using it like a bloodhound, they have it follow Willow's scent into the sewers where they find that Willow has actually been kidnapped by a would-be cultist who wants to sacrifice her in order to gain great power! The cultist turns into a multi-armed Kali-like figure, but Buffy has no trouble dispatching him and saving the day.
This was a 64-page annual, and unfortunately it's mostly a waste of the space. The lead story, "The Latest Craze", contains a story element (collectible dolls) I can relate to, but my kid's in grade school and not a senior in high school like the students in the story who get wrapped up in the craze. The plot's pretty obvious, the humor is feeble and almost a Buffy-pastiche, and there's just nothing memorable about the tale. Even Ethan Rayne's role in the story is little different than in his Halloween-costume stunt appearance. The story is partially redeemed by good artwork, and it's nice that Xander actually solves the mystery first, but it's definitely a "Saturday morning cartoon" view of Buffy.
After that story, there's a four-page text piece about the comic crew's time at a big convention called WizardWorld. I'm glad they had fun, but I didn't need to pay money to read about it.
The second story in the comic, "Bad Dog", suffers from seriously problematic artwork. The story isn't much better, as it's all story beats we've seen before (Werewolf Oz escaped and wrongfully blamed, Xander arguing that Oz is too dangerous to be in Willow's life, Willow kidnapped and put in danger, etc.).
The issue ends with a seven-page "pin-up" section. Most of the artwork doesn't really look like the characters, and it's a miss for me.
Overall: not worth seeking out.