BookBin2012: Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Omnibus 1-4

Some of you may already know that I have spent slightly more than a year in the idyllic little slice of hell life known as The Buffyverse. In fact, I just recently finished my sojourn with the viewing of the last episode of Angel.

Being the overachieving geek that I am, of course, I couldn’t leave it at tormenting myself with the shows only. Oh no! There are comics as well, my friends! In fact, both Buffy and Angel continue on in comics-based “seasons.” Prior to this, however, the shows had regular release comics, running concurrently with the shows…just like Star Trek or The X-Files.

Just like Star Trek or The X-Files, these early non-canonical comics are spotty in their storytelling attempts, but more often than not simply awful to behold. On all levels. The artwork is questionable in its best form. In most forms, it’s the equivalent of a hydrochloric eye wash. Seriously, if you cannot find someone able to tell your story in a visually pleasing style, you need to reconsider telling your story in graphic form. Many of the comics are illustrated in poorly chosen styles, some looking so amateurish and off-putting that the artwork distracted me completely from the story itself.

Thankfully, Cliff Richards did a lot of the artwork throughout these first four Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus volumes. His style is far more aesthetically pleasing than some of the more obtuse styles throughout these volumes, albeit more traditional as well. What can I say? I’m just an old-fashioned wolf at heart, I guess. Not even Richards, however, could meet the challenge of making the characters look like their actor counterparts. This is something that I notice in every show- or movie-based graphic novel tie-in: The comic characters very rarely look like the actors.

I’m somewhat all right with this, but it’s because I have decided that the artists do this as a means of signaling that, hey, this isn’t Sarah Michelle Gellar. This is Buffy. And she only looks like Sarah Michelle Gellar when Sarah Michelle Gellar is playing her. Elsewhere? She looks like this. Or this. Or this. The artist is ultimately true to the character, not the player. Does that make sense?

Of course, that being said, sometimes we then end up with comic characters that look like this little slice of WTF:

And believe me when I state that there were worse visual offenses than this throughout these volumes. For the most part, however, I think my biggest quibble with a lot of the artwork was the fact that more often than not, Willow was a brunette. Um…wha? That’s as irritating as a certain TNG novelist writing that Dr. Crusher has green eyes. Again, if you want to be taken seriously, you kind of have to get basics right. I know I just wrote that the artist must remain true to the character rather than the actor with comics…but when you’re not drawing your characters to look like the actors, you need some kind of universal visual to signal that this is Willow and not Cordelia, which honestly became an issue for me with some of the more non-traditional artwork.

That being said, I would like to hug the artist responsible for the cover art for the third volume of this set. Why?

Well played. So very well played.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I chose to read the first four volumes of the Buffy Omnibus because they were readily available through our local library. Only these volumes, however. Honestly? I’m okay with that. Only getting to read the first four volumes is more than okay with me.

As for the stories, they were mostly…unmemorable. Some were short little one-shots that made absolutely no sense and held no point beyond the one being wielded by the Slayer against whatever demonic ick she was facing at the moment.

There were standouts, however. Actually, I’m going to say that the first volume in its entirety was the most enjoyable of the four, and very much worth reading. It begins with a graphic rendering of the original Joss Whedon script for the movie that started all this insanity.

Remember that movie? Yeah.

Well, apparently, it was supposed to be much darker…still possessing pop culture awareness, humor, and kitsch, but also infused with deep shades of melancholy and despair.

Kind of like what the show often tried to be.

The original movie story actually wasn’t bad. Neither was the follow-up arc “Slayer, Interrupted,” which chronicled Buffy’s brief institutionalization that was referenced a few times on the show. It also shows the tangential travails of one Rupert Giles, who wishes to earn the Council’s approval as the next assigned Watcher. The Giles storyline is fairly decent as well and plays quite nicely in conjunction with Buffy’s arc, bringing them together slowly and convincingly until they finally cross in good old Sunnydale.

Before we get the recognizable arrangement of Buffy and Giles and the Scooby Gang, however, we get Volume 2’s “A Stake to the Heart.” This was probably my favorite story arc of all four volumes. It details the end of Buffy’s parents’ marriage and Joyce’s subsequent decision to move her daughters to Sunnydale. It’s quite a dark, grim tale in which Angel accidentally releases a band of “malignancy demons” upon Buffy in an attempt to cast a spell to protect her from the miseries and pressures of life that surround her.

Oops.

Admittedly, it’s a silly sounding premise for a story. However, the artwork is the finest of the lot—bleak, surrealist, disturbing imagery that works well to illustrate the desolation of the tale. I’m sure you all know me well enough by this point to know that this is precisely my type of combination.

Of course, these good stories must share space with some rather lackluster Spike and Drusilla stories as well as stories about vanity-obsessed vampires, mischievous gnomes or elves or something cutesy and forgettable, as well as a story about Dawn and a killer magic teddy bear (although, for some reason, I think I might have liked the teddy bear one, if only for the kitsch).

Again, I’m okay with only having access to the first four volumes of this series.

Final Verdict: Worth checking out but definitely not worth buying…although I honestly would consider buying the first two if I found them for a significantly reduced price.