Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #1
Written by Christos Gage
Art by Rebekah Isaacs and Dan Jackson
Lettering by Richard Starkins and Jimmy Betancourt
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Review by Michael Moccio
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
This might be nostalgia talking, but Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs kill it with the first issue of Season 10, proving definitively that the series is in good hands. All right, it’s definitely not nostalgia — these two put together an issue that echoes the wit of the original series and begins what seems to be another incredible installment in the Buffy franchise. Even though the Scooby Gang deals with cleaning up Santa Rosita of the zombie vampires (“zompires”) and the repercussions of brining magic back, the creative team still brings that all-important enjoyment of Buffy to the table to create a stellar first issue. Each of the characters we know, love, and have so many opinions about feel completely true to their characters, despite this new setting, new creative team, and new rules of the world.
The overall story of the issue serves as a great entry point into the new season. Gage starts at a high tension point in the narrative as the Scooby Gang continues to evacuate Santa Rosita. This immediately engages readers, especially because the Scoobies are doing what they do best by fighting the good fight and we can’t help but root for them. Though some past details will be fuzzy for casual readers of past seasons or new readers jumping on from the television series, the strength of the issue will keep them entertained and engaged enough to get hooked.
Arguably, the most important aspect of Buffy is the dialogue between characters. Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie has gone on record before, most recently at the past NYCC, that “Buffy can’t have bad dialogue,” even with a good story. As the editor of the issue, Allie should be rest assured that Gage has successfully carried on the tradition of witty and fun back-and-forth between the core characters. Everyone gets a chance to shine during the issue: from Andrew, to Buffy, to Dawn, and Faith — there’s at least one quip that makes readers smile. Gage’s real talent, however, is framing the dialogue so that it doesn’t feel forced, particularly with Buffy’s internal exposition.
It might seem strange for people who don’t know her to see Buffy wondering about Dawn and Xander’s relationship during an intense getaway scene, but because Buffy draws a comparison between their relationship and her divorced parents’, Gage lets readers know exactly why Buffy is thinking what she’s thinking. It’s this ability that allows Gage to seamlessly integrate those bits of dialogue that make these characters human and relatable, despite the fact that they’re doing things in situations none of us as readers would ever be in. While Gage has hiccups with the dialogue at points — “downright Shakespearean” sounded strange, and “what the Friar Tuck” just didn’t seem to fit Spike at all — he, overall, nails it so consistently that his success far outweighs his small mistakes.
Gage should count himself lucky to be collaborating with Isaacs, whose visual style capitalizes on Gage’s ability to write great dialogue. These characters look like their real-life counterparts, which is one of the hardest feats to accomplish while illustrating books such as Buffy. Paired with her ability to draw dynamic fight sequences, Isaacs art is stellar and striking. Her breakdowns and sense of time are her greatest strengths: as she cuts to different characters with dialogue, she elevates Gage’s writing to the next level. Her breakdowns echo the editorial style seen in the television show, both of which depend on proper timing and succeed in delivering the greatest punch with the dialogue.
The climax of the issue matches any of the most heartfelt scenes of the entire Buffy canon, and shows the creative synergy between Gage and Isaacs. Buffy finally reunites with an old friend, and it couldn’t have been better. It’s Isaacs illustrations that make the scene as powerful as it is: as they fight towards each other, leading to hugs and tears, readers will finally get the emotional gratification they’ve been waiting for — and it feels so good.
There’s so much going right in this issue that the small and subtle imperfections are completely eclipsed by the sheer enjoyment fans of the series will experience with this issue. By the end, anyone who was on the fence about Season 10 should be convinced that it’s going to be one hell of a ride. Between the humor that comes from the strong cast of characters, to Gage’s on-point writing, to Isaacs’ superb art, and Allie’s experience in keeping true to the Buffy mythos while still allowing creative teams to be unique, this entire team promises what looks to be another fantastic addition to the series.
The Fuse #2
Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Justin Greenwood and Shari Chankhamma
Lettering by Ed Brisson
Published by Image Comics
Review by Rob McMonigal
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Klem and Ralph may be cops on a space station, but they face the same Earthly roadblocks to solving a crime. Digging deeper into a pair of low-level deaths, the unlikely pair weave their way through unreliable databases, careless witnesses, and a possible cover-up in this excellent second issue of a sci-fi detective comic.
A lot of your enjoyment of The Fuse is going to be based on whether or not you like crime comics or the detective genre in general. While the space-age setting does provide new angles for writer Antony Johnston to pursue (such as an entire class of people called “cablers” who retreated off the grid and into the station’s infrastructure), the speculative elements of this series are not very strong. You could do a story like this one in any underfunded urban city, and with a few changes, the story would work. In fact, the whole point here is to show that despite the space-age technology, the motives behind crime and how they are investigated stays roughly the same.
What that means in practical terms is that The Fuse is focused squarely on the characters, specifically the interplay between Klem (the grizzled veteran with a short, ahem, fuse) and Ralph (the rookie who volunteered for a crappy assignment). After having their moments of antagonism and feeling-out in the first issue, both get down to the business of solving the murder. This issue is primarily Klem’s show, as she takes charge and links the pair of deaths. When she thinks she has a lead that takes the case right to the top, Klem doesn’t even stop to worry about whether or not she’s got an iron clad chain of evidence-or even a motive. This scene serves both to establish her character as a cop, but also to show that even in space, politics are corrupt, power wins, and the world in which our characters inhabit is a complex place built on a web of relationships (an idea first introduced in the opening pages and cemented here).
Though Klem has the lead role, her junior partner also gets fleshed out nicely. We see that he’s still not getting the way the world works here, especially in relation to the cablers. Ralph is taking it all in (serving as a surrogate for the reader), but is able to show his own detective skills by matching Klem’s logic step by step. There’s also some nice dry wit sprinkled in, giving some breathers among the gritty cop work. Ralph is going to need to take a more active role soon, however, or risk being a replaceable figure.
Justin Greenwood’s art on The Fuse is amazing, bringing the world of this comic to life not by creating pages upon pages of ultra-futuristic backgrounds, but by showing how close the station is to the Earth we’re all familiar with. Dangerous alleys look just like the ones in a story set in contemporary times. Pipes are still pipes, and the morgue (detailed down to having a drab green tile floor to make it easy to clean) looks like it could appear on an episode of Hawaii Five-O. Heck, Klem even uses an old land-line telephone in her office! While there are a few changes (the vehicles appear to be hover-cars), everything down to the clothing and security mirrors are very much low-tech, setting up Johnston’s thematic goal of “the more things change…” nicely.
Like all of the best comic artists, Greenwood also understands that the way he portrays and positions the characters has a major impact on the reader’s impressions about them. This issue is a clinic on how to do that right. Klem looks concerned for a fellow officer on one page, grins as she banters with another, and when she interacts with Ralph, the facial expressions and body language change depending on the situation. Meanwhile, Ralph’s narrow, white eyes are always staring with determination and readiness. Combined with subtle shifts in perspective, this is a comic that flows and moves along with the accelerating plot, right up to the major reveal on the final page.
If you’re looking for a series that relies on techniques that haven’t been invented yet and rocket jet chase scenes, then The Fuse isn’t for you. However, if you’ve seen every episode of Law and Order twice, this is one of the best attempts in comics to take that mindset and use it to tell a story, and is highly recommended.
Clockwork Angels #1
Written by Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart
Art by Nick Robles
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Rush has always been known for sprawling science fiction concept and drummer Neil Peart’s steampunk coming of age story, Clockwork Angels, is no different. Kevin J Anderson first adapted the album into a novel and now it’s getting the comic book treatment. Newcomer Nick Robles’ art takes on a suitably cinematic feel. Anderson sets the stage with a bevy of familiar tropes that could provide an easy access point for material that hasn’t always been known to be accessible. However, that familiarity also reaps some concerns. This is a well-crafted story but it might too early to tell if its a new one.
The art is really what makes this one. Robles’ fantastic storybook approach lends a whimsy and weight to the story. The information provided in his art is just about perfect. He’s able to balance intrigue and visual exposition without sacrificing the pacing of the plot or burying character development. his characters feature strong expressions and meaningful poses. His panel layouts serve the story well. The only problems might be his tendency to linger with establishing shots. The first introduction to the Watchmaker’s room, for instance, features three panels without characters and five total without dialogue or narration. It stops the story dead in its tracks as a means of shifting the tone, but it doesn’t provide any meaningful information that couldn’t have been told to us another way. On the whole, Robles has a Disney-like quality to his art that really raises the level of quality for a fairly by-the-numbers plot.
Anderson is extremely familiar with science fiction and fantasy, having written for many properties such as Star Wars, Dune, X-Files and more. The concept at the heart of Clockwork Angels is probably similar to something he’s come across before: in a supposedly utopian society, a young boy questions his place in the world setting him on a path to find out the truth. This is the start of a “hero’s journey,” like so many we’ve seen before. What’s refreshing about it is that Anderson doesn’t try to make it more than it is. He’s aware of what he’s working with and remaining faithful to the source material is most important above all. Still, that’s what holds this back. So many of the pieces seem interchangeable with characters and plot devices that we’ve seen before that some readers (read: non-Rush fans) might be hard-pressed to find a reason to read this over some more familiar sci-fi/fantasy story.
Rush fans will likely be happy to see the band expanding into another medium and considering Clockwork Angels’s previous success as a novel and an album, there is definitely an audience for it. But translating a work across mediums means that certain aspects are gained and lost. Obviously here, the art is a huge gain, showcasing a new artist with obvious chops. But what is lost? It might be the simple fact that in translating an album into a novel and then parsing it down to a six-issue comic book series, there’s a certain amount of simplification that might rob the story of its uniqueness. Time will tell on that one. For now, Clockwork Angels is an interesting debut from an unlikely source thats worth a look from Rush fans and sci-fi enthusiasts alike.