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Hot Ink — Buffy the Vampire Slayer #32, Wolverine Weapon X #10, Legends: The Enchanted #0

LOOK, UP IN THE SKY, IT’S A COMIC BOOK CHARACTER – Buffy the Vampire Slayer 32

A new arc starts in Dark Horse’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8″ this week. Brad Meltzer takes over the writing duties, while Georges Jeanty remains on art. There’s a big reveal coming up in Meltzer’s four issue arc, named “Twilight” after Season 8′s big bad and also in the hope that someday we’ll all be able to say that word again without having to fight down the feeling of bile rising up in our throats. The reveal itself has already been spoiled across the internet, so I won’t repeat it here in case you’ve managed to miraculously avoid it thus far.

But I will say that when I heard about it my waning interest in the book was rekindled a bit, if only to see how well such a major event would be handled when it happened. All that said, we’re still an issue away from the fireworks going off, and knowing this far ahead of time actually destroyed any tension surrounding it that this issue tried to build. I was a fan of Buffy, the series, and while I originally felt that the story and characters were handling the transition of the primary narrative to comics rather well when season 8 started, I began to change my mind after about a dozen issues or so. There was something different, and I didn’t like it.

Over the course of its seven seasons on TV, Buffy was a well done story about a group of young people growing from high school to adulthood and learning to deal with the responsibilities gained along the way. It was limited in what it could do by the fact that it was a live action show with a second-tier network TV show budget. But it turned that creative limitation around and made it a strength. The monsters and special effects were secondary elements. What the show was really about was the ensemble of characters, their individual and collective journeys. When they saved the world, I cared about it because they were saving their own little world of family and friends that were so easy to become invested in.Now, with no special effects budget to worry about and the limits lifted on the writers’ imaginations, the focus on characters seems to have been lessened in favor of showing off the kinds of bizarre creatures and conflicts on a scale the show would never have been able to pull off. And with Buffy getting superpowers here, it feels like another case of something being thrown into a comic book because there’s this sense that it’s the sort of thing that’s expected to be in a comic book. Never mind whether or not it’s something that feels right in a Buffy story. I’m leaving open the possibility that this is all some kind of subversion, that Buffy is being given superpowers to prove a point that there’s something ill-fitting about Buffy having superpowers. And to demonstrate that what works for Superman isn’t necessarily what works for Buffy, that she shouldn’t be expected to confront her problems and solve them in the same way the heroes do on most of the other comic books you could read.

All that said, it’s not a bad comic. Meltzer writes good dialogue, seems to have a good handle on each of the characters, and has several lines that are good for a laugh. Jeanty’s art is still solid, and filled with loving homages to comic book superheroes of the spandex wearing variety in this issue. But I’m still not able to shake the feeling that even though Buffy was a series that changed its tone several times throughout its TV run, the comic, particularly the last 15 issues or so, really isn’t meshing with what’s gone before. With eight issues left in season eight’s run and the identity of Twilight about to be revealed to the characters next month, there’s still the opportunity for the series to finish strong and true to its roots. It’s possible, and it’s something I’d like to see happen, but if you asked me what the chances were I’m not sure how favorable I could be right now.

WITH EVERY TENTH DEAD GIRLFRIEND HE GETS A FREE FUNERAL – Wolverine Weapon X 10

It’s February, and that means Valentine’s Day is almost here. You may think that Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate being in love. You would be wrong. If you’re in love, every day is a day to celebrate being in love. You may think that Valentine’s Day is a Christian co-option of a Roman fertility ritual that involved sacrificing goats, dressing in their skins and then whipping women with the leftover pieces of said goatskin to encourage fertility, in which case you would be technically correct. But this is not a holiday to celebrate the patron saint of know-it-alls. Because no one, least of all the Catholic church, likes them (i.e., you). No, Valentine’s Day is a day meant to inspire a feeling of guilt in the single. To take one day of there year and work extra hard to remind them that today is not for you, because you’re not trying enough.

But that being said, it could always be worse. You could be Wolverine. Because while, yes, there are a number of unpleasant reasons to be single, “Anyone I become involved with tends to die, often violently, shortly afterwards” has got to be one of the most painful. What does Wolverine have to look forward to on Valentine’s Day? Even if he has a box of old cards somewhere to reminisce over, he’s lucky if half of them aren’t bloodstained. Wolverine is to true love what the New York Mets are to quality baseball. Sometimes they get close, but even when they do you have to know disaster is right around the corner. Watching the same pattern over and over again might even be funny if it weren’t also kind of heartbreaking.

And so it’s with that attitude, mostly humor with the occasional pulling of a heartstring, that writer Jason Aaron and artist C.P. Smith tackle Wolverine’s love life in this week’s “Wolverine Weapon X #10″. The issue’s a fun read that doesn’t require you to have been following the series so far to enjoy it. Aaron shows Wolverine attempting to deal with his fears as he starts to be drawn into a relationship with San Francisco based reporter Melita Garner. While figuring out what to do about the situation, he talks with the small number of still living women who’ve been a part of his life, both old friends and old lovers. The exchanges are well done and quite funny, particularly Wolverine’s talks with Yukio and Jubilee, as well as his several conversations with Melita and one brief scene between Melita and Emma Frost.

The difficulties of a relationship between one of the busiest individuals in the Marvel universe and an ordinary woman turn out to be a great source of comedy, but it’s all done in a dry, serious tone that never becomes so wacky that you start to lose sight of the fact that these are two people who care about each other and are trying to figure out how they can make a difficult situation work. When Wolverine says things like “I keep crazy hours. Sometimes I even go into space”, it’s an effective line because, first, it’s true, second, even though it’s hilarious it’s said in a moment of serious investigation into whether the relationship will work, and, third, as a reader you’re not entirely certain if he’s actively looking for reasons not to enter into a relationship because he’s afraid of what might happen. Aaron’s writing consistently works on multiple levels throughout the issue. Well, almost consistently. The line “Have you ever done it on a bed of dead ninjas before?” pretty much only works on the one level. But in its defense it works on that level spectacularly well.

Also, it’s worth noting that it can be hard for a regular human to stand out in a Marvel book, so it’s even more impressive that after only one issue I already like Melita. It’ll be a real shame when she dies at some point in the next few months. And then when I forget she even existed a few months after that.

GRIM WITH A CAPITAL “G” (BUT ONLY ONE M) – Legends: The Enchanted 0

Written and illustrated by Nick Percival, Radical Publishing’s “Legends: The Enchanted” re-imagines classic fairy tale characters in a gritty post-apocalyptic future. Issue 0 is available as a one dollar preview this week. In an interesting approach the preview is meant not to tie-in with a new ongoing series, but instead to convince readers to pick up a completed graphic novel to be released later this year. As someone who has, in the past, often read the first issue of a mini-series and been convinced that I’d end up buying the trade, it seems like a good idea to me. In a few months we’ll see how well it works. As for “Legends” itself, there’s certainly much to be impressed by here. Perhaps not enough for me to be certain that I’ll pick up the full book, but enough that I’ll at least consider it when it’s released.

The tone of the story is effectively set in the first scene. We’re introduced to Jack, the Giant-Killer, who promptly kills two giants, takes his pay, and rides out of town on a motorcycle, grumbling about needing a better way to make a living. Every moment of this is depicted in exquisite detail, and Percival’s artwork is stunning. His monsters are all grotesque. His world is grim, a remarkably crafted mixture of ruined cityscapes melded together with decaying plant life, always shrouded in darkness. Even the human beings show signs of decay on them, all marked with scars, pustules and missing teeth, all as polluted and dying as the world they live in. The only exceptions are the Enchanted, beings given mysterious magical gifts that make them skilled fighters and also let them heal any injury. We’re introduced to three in the preview, Jack, Pinocchio, and an unnamed woman in a red hood with a thing for fighting wolves. When things take a turn for the worse for one of them, the remaining Enchanted have reasons to start worrying for their own safety.

Percival’s gorgeous artwork is the clear draw here. The story’s simple enough that it never stumbles over itself, providing enough information to explain what’s going on but relying on the imagery to do most of the work. For that reason alone I wasn’t quite as excited by “Legends” as I could have been, but if the story’s premise interests you or if the idea of sometimes beautiful, sometimes disturbing post-apocalyptic fantasy art piques your interest then this book is worth checking out.

One Last Plug Before I Go:
Marvel’s “Siege” continued this week, and I remain impressed by Brian Reed and Chris Samnee’s work on the tie-in title “Siege: Embedded” which released its second issue. If you’re reading the main title, there’s really no reason not to pick this up. If you’re refusing to read the main title because you don’t like crossovers, you should still give Embedded a look. Volstagg’s road trip with journalists Ben Urich and Will Stern to the siege on Asgard in Oklahoma is a great read.

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