The Humble Bundle has Buffy, Angel, and Spike comics for a couple of more days!

I liked the Angel: After the Fall comics a lot and I’ve been looking for the Spike comics, so of course I got it.

One of the first Buffy the Vampire Slayer books, set in the first season.

Publication year: 1998
Format: print
Page count: 178
Publisher: Archway

Buffy is dreaming very detailed dreams about a previous Slayer, Samantha Kane. The dreams are set in 1692, in Salem during the start of the notorious witch trials. It feels like Buffy herself were in Kane’s body. Then is turns out that Giles and Xander are dreaming about the same time period but in different people. Giles is convinced that it isn’t a coincidence. At the same time, Giles’ old flame Lora comes to Sunnydale. She and her husband organize séances. One of the spirits have contacted them and warned them that Giles is in danger, so Lora and Rick have traveled to Sunnydale. Also, a news reporter, from a TV show dealing with all sorts of supernatural things, is targeting Buffy’s mother.

All of these elements had some promise and they could have been quite amusing. Unfortunately, the writing didn’t click with me and I felt that the writing was somewhat disjointed. The customary Buffy humor was also lacking. Also, the final fight was very public; it’s quite difficult to keep people from noticing a zombie army.

A quick read but unfortunately forgettable

A Buffy the vampire slayer novel, although set in 1940, before the show started.

Publication year: 2001
Format: print
Page count: 353
Publisher: Pocket Books

Spike and Dru are vampires and lovers, and apparently quite popular characters. Spike is one of my favorite characters, ever, so I was quite exited to read this book.

In March 1940 Spike and Drusilla are in New York and Dru is bored. So, she wants a very special birthday present: the mythical Freya’s Strand, the necklace of the Brisings. Her birthday is, of course, the anniversary of the day when she was made a vampire. Spike, of course, will do anything for his lady love and they are looking for someone who knows where the demon Skrymir, the Strand’s owner, is. Spike gets the information and soon the duo is sailing to Norway. However, because the war has started, their journey is a bit rough; the Germans sink their ship and the vampires have to invade the German submarine to get to their destination. But the demon is quite powerful and he doesn’t want to just give the magical item away. Instead he proposes a bargain: if Spike and Dru kill off the prospective Slayers under the Watchers’ Council’s protection, he will give the necklace to them. Spike and Dru are just too happy to agree.

The current Slayer is Sophie Carstensen, a Danish girl, and her Watcher is Yanna who is a seer. Sophie is willful but very determined and capable. She also loves Yanna dearly and is worried that Yanna’s gift of sight will drive her insane at some point. When the book starts, they are on the trail of Gorm who used to be Denmark’s king a thousand years ago. Yanna’s visions warn her of the coming war but Sophie doesn’t want to leave her country before killing Gorm.

Sophie is very similar to Buffy, except that she doesn’t have a circle of friends and she’s an orphan, so the only person she worries about is Yanna. She’s even blond and beautiful. We’re introduced to several Slayers in waiting, as they are called, and they are somewhat different. All of them have been identified as potential Slayers and the Watchers are training them, as Kendra and Faith were trained in the series. I quite enjoyed the potentials but there wasn’t much time to get to know them.

The plot is quite fast-paced but has some repetitive elements: Spike and Dru go after a potential and kills her. For a Buffy book, this book has a lot of pretty gruesome violence and death. Of course, the main characters are Spike and Dru who were quite known for their evil and violent ways in the series. And the setting is during a war. Unfortunately, that also means that characters introduced in this book are killed of pretty quickly and there’s not much room for character development. Also, the book deviates from canon.

The books starts off focusing on Spike and Dru, with Spike as the POV character. However, fairly soon, Sophie becomes also a POV character and then Yanna and even Skrymir steal the spotlight from the vampires. Like I said, I’m a fan of Spike and so I rather enjoyed the book.

A stand alone Buffy the vampire slayer book.

Publication year: 1998
Format: print
Page count: 164
Publisher: Archway

This is only the third book based on Buffy. It takes place during season 1.

Summer vacation is nearly over but a carnival has come to Sunnydale. Buffy is anxious because she witnesses a pack of coyotes dragging a pet dog away. Xander and Willow assure her that coyotes come to the town during summer. Buffy, Xander, and Willow head to the carnival. To every one’s surprise, a gorgeous carnival girl latches onto Xander and a handsome man wants to date Willow. However, Buffy thinks that the carnival people are more than a bit strange. When she tries to warn her friends, they just think she’s jealous.

This was a quick read but unfortunately not very good. The main idea was interesting but I thought more could have been done with it. I enjoyed most of the funny scenes set in the carnival.

However, some characters were out of character. In this book Giles seems to be working for Buffy. She orders him around and he accepts it. Also, Willow’s only character trait seems to be her crush on Xander. Both of them are curiously clueless about any danger and neither of them finds it at all suspicious that two people are suddenly interested in them – after the first season episodes where they both had suspicious dates. The ending is also a bit abrupt.

Collects issues 1-3 of the miniseries with a couple of pages of concept art.

Writer: Doug Petrie
Artist: Ryan Sook
Publication year: 2000 (during seasons 4/5)

The comic is set during season 2 (between “Passion” and “I only have Eyes for You”), while Angel was Angelus and we get to see him interact with Spike and Drusilla. In the show, Spike/Angelus snark were funny but unfortunately, the comic doesn’t reach that level.

The story starts on a Japanese ship which is transporting cargo that the crew thinks is cursed. They’re almost right: Angelus is on board. He kills almost all of the crew, leaving just one man alive (a crucial mistake), and takes the cargo which turns out to be a suit of magical samurai armor which can summon a powerful demon. Spike (in the wheelchair), Drusilla, and Angelus start working to summon the demon Kelgor.

Meanwhile, Giles is having a hard time with Jenny’s death and that makes Buffy and the gang uneasy, they even wonder if he can do his job anymore. During a fight with the resurrected Kelgor, men from a mysterious government agency arrest Buffy.

The main story line is pretty similar to usual Buffy stories. However, there a lot of great moments in the comic such as the return of Kendra. She was really underused in the series and I was happy to see her back. Giles is also all dark and Ripper like which is always fun. The writer Doug Petrie wrote quite a few episodes and it shows.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really care for the art, it looks almost smudgy. Drusilla didn’t look anything like the actress. However, it seems to me that the art improves in issues 2 and 3. I also think that in the end the mysterious government agents are pretty pointless. Unless they are actually from the Initiative but that wasn’t confirmed.

The third book in a trilogy of alternate universe Buffy: the Vampire Slayer story set at the end of Season Six.

Publication year: 2004
Page count: 258
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books

At the end of the previous book, Giles and the gang stole Ghost of Tara away from Willow. Of course, the moment Willow realizes this, she heads over to the Magic Box to her lover’s ghost back. However, Giles has cast a powerful spell over the whole store so Willow can’t get in. In addition, Giles has imprisoned Ghost of Tara to the store so that only he can release the spirit. He, and the gang, are trying to make Willow turn back to good by forcing her to do good deeds in order to spend even little time with the ghost. Willow gives Giles her pets, Oz and Spike, but leaves, livid with rage.

Even though her two previously created underlings, the cat demon and the Riley golem, both turned against her, Willow creates one more minion. This time it’s a Gnarl demon and she imprisons it into a cave. She plans to kidnap the Scooby gang and give them to the flesh eating demon until they give her back the ghost. Willow’s minions are able to kidnap Xander and Dawn pretty easily. They are left paralyzed on the mercy of the demon who starts to skin them alive.

At the start of the book, Willow seems more merciless and evil than before. In the previous books, she and Buffy fought because Buffy and the gang were in the way, but now Willow wants revenge. She also has to deal with more mundane trouble. The families of her coven members who are missing want them back and they blame Willow. She’s forced to deal with that because the police can be quite a lot of trouble and delay Tara’s resurrection.

Willow took two familiar characters prisoners in the first book, although she calls them pets. She trapped Oz in a permanent werewolf form and chained him to her apartment. Spike had just returned to Sunnydale after he got his soul back when Willow took him as a pet, too. Oz gets a few good scenes in this book but otherwise Navarro didn’t do much with them. I kept waiting for them to get some sort of payback or something but no. In fact, I’m not sure why they were even in the series.

The tone of the series is pretty dark and depressing, which is expected, when one of the core Scooby gang turns against the others. However, in this book, the kidnapped Scoobies are down right tortured pretty gruesomely. Dawn, Xander, and Giles end up almost dead.

Unfortunately, I felt that this was the weakest book in the trilogy. I really didn’t like the ending and Willow keeps doing the same mistakes. Also, first Willow is drained from a fight and the next moment she’s teleporting and doing other stuff that clearly requires a lot of magical mojo. Sadly, the series had a great premise but ended up having too many lost opportunities. Of course, that could be because it’s a tie-in novel.

The second book in a trilogy of alternate universe Buffy: the Vampire Slayer story set at the end of Season Six.

Publication year: 2004
Page count: 258
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books

The first book ended in a battle where Anya was able to read Giles’ spell that was suppose to send Willow’s coven members to different places on Earth, and so diminish her power and especially her ability to get more power. The spell was somewhat successful, sending five members away. At the same time, Willow was battling her demonic cat demon which had turned against her. But when the cat demon tried to kill Buffy, Willow killed the demon.

Willow’s remaining coven members aren’t happy about it. They say that Willow didn’t protect them like she had promised. Frustrated, Willow gives in to their demands and tries to bring back the vanished coven members. She’s able to bring back only three of them. She also creates an even more powerful underling to protect her coven: a golem. In order to make the golem more powerful and to make sure it has protective impulses towards the coven, Willow binds a dead spirit to it: Riley Finn. In this universe, Riley and his wife were killed shortly after their visit to Sunnydale.

At the start of the first book, when Willow and Giles battled each other, Giles was paralyzed from the waist down. Now, he’s feeling insecure and has trouble focusing on the problem at hand. However, Anya has been working on a healing spell and Giles is, of course, anxious to use it. The gang also doesn’t know what Willow wants; they just try to minimize the damage she’s doing to Sunnydale. When Giles finds out that his spell has sent some of the coven members into danger, he’s very guilty and second guesses himself often.

In this book, Willow clearly needs her coven to give her strength. She ends up trying to make them feel safer instead of just threatening them, like she did in the first book. She also recruits an old friend: Amy. Amy turns out to have quite a lot of resentment towards the gang because they didn’t turn her back to a human earlier. She only helps Willow because Willow promises to her that when Tara is back, Amy will be the biggest witch in Sunnydale. Because Willow will retire.

Willow is also trying to blame everything on Buffy. She’s clearly on the road of not taking responsibility from her actions. However, the Ghost of Tara is constantly questioning her decisions.

Unfortunately, the second book has a lot of repetitive elements from the first. I’m not even sure if the second book is needed. However, I was again happy to read about Buffy and the rest of the gang.

The books ends in a cliffhanger, which is again in a climatic battle.

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