Dark Horse


Collects Angels we have seen on high, MacGuffins, BtVS: Ring of Fire and Dust Waltz, BtVS: Spike & Drue 3: The Queen of Heart and Paint the Town Red, and BtVS 60-63.

Writers: Christopher Golden, Dan Brereton, Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Jen van Meter, Doug Petrie, James Masters

Artists: Cliff Richards, Jeff Matsuda, Brian Horton, Ryan Sook, Hector Gomez, Sandy Florea

These stories range wildly in quality, execution, and also in place during the series. Definitely aimed at fans of the show.
The first story “Angels we have seen on high” is a really short and takes place before the series. Dawn is in danger in an amusement park while Buffy is chasing after some vampires. The art is quite blocky and doesn’t resemble the actors at all. But it’s a fun little story.

“A stake through the heart” is also set before the series. Buffy and Dawn’s parents are in the middle of breaking up and this upsets the whole family. Angel and Whistler are creepily watching them from the shadows and Angel tries to help, trying to banish the terrible feelings through a magical ritual. Instead, he manages to manifest them as demons who then prey on the family. We also get cameos by Cordelia, Harmony, and other characters.

“MacGuffins” is set sometime during the series. Buffy is at her dad’s place where someone sends a couple of gremlins and she has to figure out how to get rid of them, alone.

In “Queen of Hearts” Spike and Drusilla are driving to Sunnydale but they pause for a snack. This leads them to a river boat called a queen of hearts and quite a lot of trouble.

“Ring of Fire” is set during the second season when Angel is Angelus and has just killed Jenny. I’ve read this as a separate comic before. It has some great moments, like the return of Kendra and the snark between Spike and Angelus.

“Paint the Town Red” is another Spike and Drusilla story set after they left the show in second season. They’ve settled into a nice little town. But Dru dreams about Angel and Spike’s jealousy drives him to assault Dru and leave her. Of course, she follows but with a surprise.

“The Dust Waltz”: Vampire Queen Lilith and her sister have come to Sunnydale, which means trouble to the gang. Also, Giles’ niece Jane comes to town as well. She’s an archeology student which is interesting but she doesn’t really add anything to the story. Lilith and her sister are powerful and would have made interesting continuing enemies.

Most of the stories are nice but pretty average. Enough the make me want to rewatch the earlier seasons.

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Collects BtVS: Spike & Drue 3, BtVS the Origin 1-3, and BtVS 51-59.

Writers: Christopher Golden, Dan Brereton, Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Paul Lee
Artists: Eric Powell, Drew Geraci, Keith Barnett, Joe Bennett, Rick Ketcham, Cliff Richards, Will Conrad, Paul Lee

These stories all happen before the TV series started. However, Williow and Xander make a cameo and Giles has to deal with Watcher business. Also, Joyce and Dawn have big roles.

“All’s Fair” is a Spike and Dru story. It starts in the Boxer rebellion when Spike kills the Slayer and her relatives vow to avenge her. In the world fair in Chicago 1933, Spike and Dru are enjoying themselves when they come upon a mad scientist and the vengeful relatives. It’s a quick read and fits both Spike and Dru’s personalities. The art doesn’t make any effort to make them recognizable.

Apparently, “the Origin” is an adaptation of the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie script. I haven’t seen the movie so I don’t know how different it might be. Dawn doesn’t appear. Buffy’s parents’ marriage is already starting to crack. In Los Angeles, Buffy is one of the cool girls with a boyfriend and a group of friends. But when she starts to have weird dreams and a strange man called Merrick appears, telling Buffy that she’s the Slayer.

“Viva las Buffy” is set mostly in Las Vegas shortly after “the Origin”. Buffy and her new boyfriend Pike find out that there are vampires in Las Vegas. So, Buffy runs away with him to hunt the vampires. Meanwhile, Dawn finds Buffy’s diary. Pike narrates this tale but it has parts with he can’t know; namely, Angel’s part. Angel and Whistler are already following Buffy and trying to help her.

Meanwhile, Giles has to prove to the Watchers’ council that he’s the right man to become Buffy’s Watcher. We also see couple of other familiar Watchers. The art was better because this time the characters look like the actors.

In “Dawn and Hoopy the Bear” an enemy is trying to get rid of the Slayer by putting an evil spirit into a stuffed bear. Unfortunately, he gives the bear to the wrong Summers.

In “Slayer, Interrupted” Dawn shows Buffy’s diary to their parents and they send Buffy into a mental institution. She’s starting to think that she’s not sane and agrees to go there. However, from the start we hear that one of the other patients is Bride of Rakagore so we know there something shifty going on. In London, Giles has to confront his past as the Ripper.

These were fun stories but they deal with some of the same storylines as in the show, such as Buffy running away and Pike choosing to leave Buffy so that he won’t endanger her. These are things that should have been talked about during the show but weren’t (of course), so they felt a bit disjointed. They definitely gave the stories more depth, though. Also, Dawn and Joyce find out about Buffy being the Slayer far sooner than in the show. But these quibbles aside, there were fun stories and it was great to revisit the characters.

Collects: Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis 1-4, Indiana Jones: Thunder in the Orient 1-6, Indiana Jones and the Arms of Gold 1-4.
Writers: Hal Barwood, Noah Falstein, William Messner-Loebs, Dan Barry, Mike Richardson, Lee Marrs
Artists: Dan Barry, Karl Kesel, Dan Spiegel, Andy Mushynsky, Leo Durañona

This collection has three stories which are practically stand-alones. In the Fate of Atlantis, we’re introduced to a former archeologist, current swindle artist Sophia Hapgood who is also a major character in the second story. She seems to have some psychic powers.

The first one is apparently a video game put into a comic book form. Indy and Sophia are looking for the fabled Atlantis, looking for clues and orichalcum balls all around the world while Nazis are after them. This was a bit confusing to me because I didn’t really get the clues but I guess they’re described better in the game and nobody thought the readers haven’t played the game. (Steam seems to have it for just six euros… Anyone played it?)

In the second story, Indy, a small Indian boy Khamal, and Sophie are looking for scrolls left by Buddha. They travel around Asia looking for clues while a Japanese General is tracking them. He wants the scrolls so that Japan can rule Asia with them. This focuses very much on running around and ducking armies and has more violence than I expected. It also feels disjointed because of that running around. On the other hand, the secondary characters are better than in the first story. I particularly liked Khamal.

In the third story, Indy meets Francisca Uribe del Arco who is a guest lecturer at Barnett Collage. But instead of teaching students, Indy and Francisca head to Buenos Aires looking for Incan gold treasure. Mysterious people attack them along the way. This is the shortest one but it holds together much better than the previous two. It was also most fun to me with Indy breaking into a museum (gasp!).

All of the stories are pretty racists and the female characters are threatened with rape in all of them; which isn’t unusual for Indy adventure. Overall, I think the Young Indiana Jones series was much better than these stories.

The fourth collected volume of Firefly comic but the first one set after the movie Serenity. Collects Leaves on the Wind 1-6 and “It’s never easy”.

Writer: Zack Whedon
Artists: Georges Jeanty, Fabio Moon, Karl Story
Publisher: Dark Horse
Publishing year: 2014

The story starts several months after the movie Serenity. The crew have let the regular people know about Miranda and what they found there. Some of the people think that the crew are heroes but there are people, apparently working for the government, who are branding Mal and his crew as terrorists and criminals. Shadowy Alliance operatives are sent after the crew. However, there’s also a group calling themselves the New Resistance who wants to find Mal and make him their leader.

Mal and the crew are hiding. At least until Zoe gives birth to her and Wash’s baby. Unfortunately, Zoe is bleeding internally and the crew have to head for the nearest hospital. Once there, it doesn’t take long until the Alliance is notified and the crew is forced to abandon Zoe to the hospital. Of course, they’ll try to get her back any way they can.

Mal and the crew are rather desperate at the start of the story. They don’t have much food left and Serenity is falling apart. Two of their crew is dead and Jayne has left, too. On the other hand, River is doing much better and she’s now the pilot. There are other personal development which I won’t spoil here but which I very much approve of.

The story starts in a very interesting way but I think the middle was a bit rushed (or maybe I just wanted a longer story ). Lots of familiar characters reappear and Zoe has her own adventure. Also, the first pages were interesting where we saw the quick progression of Mal being branded as a terrorist for revealing Alliance’s secrets.

The stakes were raised quite high in the story and especially in the last pages. I don’t see how they can go back to being relative nobodies and doing odd jobs (in every sense of the word). Unfortunately, they don’t have much of an income so I’m very curious to see how they can support themselves from now on. It’s also a bit of shame because I liked that part of the story before, the small (criminal) gigs they did but at least they could pick and choose the ones they did. I already feel that this comic is darker in tone than the TV show and it seems that it will go even darker because their enemies are so dangerous now. The comic doesn’t have the comedic moments the show had which lightened up the mood.

Overall, I liked the first two collections more.

Oh, yes. This isn’t a good jumping-on point. I recommend watching first the TV-show Firefly (just half a season) and movie Serenity.

The third collection of the comics continuing the story of the vampire with a soul after the Angel TV show ended.

Written by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch
Art by Nick Runge and various artists
Page count: 104
Publication date: 2009
Publisher: Dark Horse
Collects issues 9-12 of Angel: After the Fall comic

The main story line continues right where it left off in the first volume. Los Angeles is in hell and various demon lords have divided it amongst themselves. Angel has challenged their champions to a fight. Not surprisingly, his gang is there to protect him: Illyria, Spike, the dragon, Lorne, Groosalugg, Connor, Wesley although as a ghost he’s mostly there for moral support. It turns out that Spike’s bikini girls are actually ninja girls in training, which I quite liked. The vampire Gunn and his gang just watch the fight and scheme. Illyria changes into and out of Fred in inopportune times.

In the next issue, Angel and the gang are still trying to find out who killed the downtown demon lord in the first issue and escalated the situation in the first place. The rest of the gang finds out Angel’s secret and don’t react well to it at all. They also find out that the killer was Gunn and his gang. In the meantime, Gunn is training his gang with the help of George, the telepathic fish, and a few Slayers who are trapped in LA. Gunn kills the Slayers in the end. George also tries to contact people outside LA for help and finds out that the rest of the US doesn’t know that LA is gone!

Next: the big confrontation between Angel and the vampire Gunn!

A lot of things happens in this volume. The big fight between Angel and the champions is cut short but I don’t mind that. The only thing that is a bit disappointing is the we didn’t get the huge dragon vs. dinosaur fight that was promised at the end of the first volume. Most of the fighting happens in the background anyway while Angel talks with Connor or Spike.

I’ve been wondering why Buffy and her gang aren’t researching the LA in Hell situation and here’s the explanation. Just who is capable of doing such a massive illusion and shouldn’t there be constant traffic to and from this fake LA? How on Earth can the illusion be kept up? I hope we get to know that.

I really liked the confrontations that we get this volume. A lot of secrets are aired and, not surprisingly, people don’t like it when they have been kept in the dark. Connor and Angel argue but I think they will make up pretty quickly. We also get an explanation for why Gunn has been acting like a crazy man and why he believes that he’s doing the right thing. Angel and Gunn were very much in character when they finally confronted each other and I really liked those scenes.

The artist has changed and I’m sorry but I don’t really care for the new art. The fight scenes in the first issue are pretty confusing and the action tends to be a bit hard to follow. On the plus side, the characters look like the actors in some panels.

Once again, the collection ends in a cliffhanger. Unfortunately, the Finnish library system doesn’t have vol. 4.

The second collection of the comics continuing the story of the vampire with a soul after the Angel TV show ended.

Written by Joss Whedon, Brian Lynch
Art by Franco Urru and various artists
Page count: 104
Publication date: 2008
Publisher: Dark Horse
Collects issues 6-8 of Angel: After the Fall comic

This time we get a collection of stories, short stories really, about what happened to the individual characters at the moment LA was sent to Hell. There is a frame story about the telepathic fish Betta George whom Gunn has kidnapped and is trying to convince to work for him. Since mostly Gunn just beats up Betta, that isn’t really successful.

The other stories focus on Spike, Connor, Lorne, Wesley, Kate, Gwen, an unnamed doom-sayer, and Gunn. There’s also an art gallery with covers and pin-ups. The collection starts with Groosablog where our blogging hero does a recap. Each story has a different artist which creates a somewhat different moods for the stories.

Every story is just a few pages long. In the Spike story, Spike at first thinks that he can retire since he’s now survived two apocalypses. Then, he finds Fred in her human form nearby. When demons appear, Fred changes into Illyria. I have no idea what that is about but I now have a bit of (probably false) hope that Fred will get rid of Illyria at some point.

Connor’s and Kate’s stories are intertwined and we get to see how Connor decides to get involved in the rescue effort. Lorne’s story is perhaps the most bittersweet one. He wants to create a better place for people but, of course, this is Hell. The doom-sayer one is about a civilian who knows that the end of days is near and is telling it to everyone. Then, the world does end.

In Wesley’s story, his employers tempt him with a paradise with his love. Yet, he sees through it and makes his own decision about helping Angel. In Gunn’s story Gunn’s pulled away from the fighting and patched up by a group who wants to recruit him. In both Wesley’s and Gunn’s stories there are tantalizing hints about things to come. Wolfram & Hart say that Wesley is the reason they are going to win and in Gunn’s story, one of the group says that they have an inside line, but not to whom. It might be to Wolfram & Hart. I doubt it’s to Wesley or Angel

This is an okay collection and stands on its own, although you have to be familiar with the characters to get much out of it. I would have rather gotten on with the story….

The first collection of the comics continuing the story of the vampire with a soul after the Angel TV show ended.

Written by Bryan Lynch
Art: Franco Urru
Publication date: 2008
Publisher: Dark Horse
Collects the first five issues of the on-going Angel: After the Fall comic

A lot has changed after the series ended. Because of that it’s not absolutely necessary to watch the show before reading the comic although I highly recommend it. While the main characters and their relationships are mostly introduced, the secondary characters aren’t, so you get a lot more out of it if you watch at least Angel season 5 beforehand. I’ve seen seasons 4 and 5 years ago when they were shown in Finnish TV and started to watch season 1 on DVD recently.

The story picks up a couple of month after the final episodes with a new status quo. Most of the characters survived the end of the show and Angel is still the hero who does his best to rescue humans. However, that’s a bit harder now because the evil incarnate (otherwise known as Wolfram & Hart) have yanked Los Angeles to Hell. Literally. Demons are killing and enslaving the humans, and the more powerful Demon Lords have divided Los Angeles amongst themselves.

Angel made Wolfram & Hart’s former headquarters his own. He and and an incorporeal Wesley Wyndham-Pryce are somewhat uneasy allies and are holding their own against the Downtown LA’s Demon Lord who isn’t too thrilled about Angel’s activities. Oh, and Wesley is still Wolfram & Hart’s LA representative and this apparently gives him more clout among the demons than Angel has, despite the fact that Angel has now a dragon. The dragon who attacked our heroes at the end of the last episode was apparently a misguided dupe and Angel was able to persuade it join his side.

Angel sends the humans he rescues to a building where his son Connor and some other people are protecting them as well as they can. Apparently, they can’t leave LA so smuggling them out isn’t possible. To make matters worse, Angel manages to annoy the Downtown Demon Lord by killing the Lord’s son.

Meanwhile, a human looking team is battling one of the Demon Lords in Westwood. The Lord has a horde of human slaves and a telepathic fish. The group manages to defeat the Lord and his minions but instead of rescuing the humans, they start to feed on the poor former slaves. Their leader is the former vampire hunter and current vampire: Charles Gunn!

In the next issue, Angel heads out to warn Connor about the enraged Demon Lord. However, Connor is investigating Westwood where several demons are trying to claim the title of Lord of Westwood. After the battle, Angel and Connor find writing is an ancient tongue, and Angel heads out to find the person he thinks is responsible for the kill and the writing: Illyria.

Spike and Illyria are living in an paradise-like state with several semi-nude young women. Illyria is one of the Demon Lords and they don’t seem eager to annoy her. However, Illyria isn’t happy about Angel dropping in and things escalate. Meanwhile, Gunn has kidnapped the telepathic fish and has big plans for it, and for himself. He think he should be the one to save LA and he isn’t going to let Angel stand in the way of his heroism.

I liked this collection a lot, mostly, although not as much as the first Buffy collection. The circumstances are very much changed from the show but the characters seem to be themselves, mostly. I wasn’t thrilled about Spike’s treatment, though; it seems to me that Spike has now taken the role of a comic sidekick instead of bad ass vampire. However, he was later shown to… sorry, I’m not going to spoil that! 😉 It made me feel a bit better about him. There’s also disappointing level of sexism here: the women slaves are all almost nude (not to mention young and thin), and all women wear skin tight clothing and have apparently been given boob jobs. Bleargh, to quote Buffy.

I have a hate/love relationship with Illyria. I really liked Fred and I really didn’t like it at all when Illyria replaced her, and of course when she replaced her. (I should have known better by then because Whedon seems to have something against happy couples.) However, I really like Illyria as a character and I’m hoping that we’ll get to see a lot more of her.

Mostly, I was very happy with the LA in Hell thing, which brought on new problems and villains and twists to the characters. Near the end of the collection we get to see some characters from the show who aren’t introduced at all and might cause confusion to people who aren’t familiar with the show. I was happy to see them again.

Urro’s style is very different from Jeanty’s who draws the Buffy comics. Urro doesn’t even try to emulate the actors’ features but instead makes the characters his own. And of course, a comic doesn’t have to conform to a show’s special effects budget or actor availability.

Oh and it ends in a cliffhanger. Which isn’t resolved in the next collection!

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