BUFFY GONE BAD?
Just a reminder: In case you missed it, there was a special edition of Pipeline this week devoted to explaining to Dan Jurgens why his Superman titles aren't worth reading. It was done after an interview with Jurgens showed the world how completely clueless or blind he is to the books' fault. It was presented as a public service. ;-)
And since I've made friends now with the Superman fans, I thought I'd take on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans. Don't get me wrong: I love the show and thought the first issue was terrific. The second issue? That's another story altogether. Here's the text of my letter to Dark Horse about said travesty of sequential art.
This comic is a mess. It's just a prime example of everything a comic shouldn't do inside of one neat little package. And it's potentially dangerous, just to give it an added kick. More on that later. . .
It's a shame when the high expectations satisfied in the first issue don't get carried through on into the second issue. Andi Watson and Joe Bennett did an excellent job in the first issue. The dialogue was on-character, the
art resembled the actors and actresses, the storytelling was readable. The story was simple, but well told.
The problems start with this comic between the first and second page. What happens? The transition sucks. Buffy and Willow are seen walking out the school at the end of the first page. At the top of the second page, they're seen sitting down with Xander on the stairs outside of school. I think that's reasonably logical. The dialogue, however, doesn't follow this at all! (This is a recurring problem through the book, by the way.) The dialogue on the first panel of the second page would work best after a scene break, but there's no sign of one here. It looks like one continuous scene. And the readers are thrust into the middle of a conversation which directly clashes with the one they just read on the previous page. I kept flipping back and forth, hoping I had just missed a page somewhere. No such luck.
The principal here also looks nothing like Armiun Shimmerman, but I have a feeling that may be a contractual thing. Probably his likeness is only available to Star Trek comics or something. I can deal with that. What I can't deal with is the sloppy storytelling and panel layout of this page. It's an excellent case of an artist drawing stuff first and worrying abour storytelling later. The page flows from left to right to down to left to right to down to right, with panels occuring two sequences prior overlapping current panels. It's a bloody mess is what it is. In addition, most of these are just head shots, so when the principal walks into the scene, you don't see it. You just jump from Buffy's head to the principal's head. It's up to the reader to assume that the principal has just walked by and that it's not another new scene beginning.
Let's stop picking on the artist for a moment. Let's move to the writer.
This is a Halloween story. As such, the characters appear, at one point, in costume. The establishing shot is a wide shot of Buffy, Xander, and Oz in costume. Buffy is pretty obvious, with her long blonde hair showing. It's impossible to tell the difference between Oz and Xander in this panel -- the ESTABLISHING PANEL -- and yet the writer doesn't give us a clue. All the characters speak in this panel. Would it have been too much to ask that one
of them use another's name SOMEWHERE to give the reader a clue so he doesn't feel lost right off the bat?
It's tough to tell in spots where the fault lies with the artist or with the writer. Check out page 6 for a good example of this. It's the page with a conversation between Buffy and her mother. The dialogue and the art are not
complementary at all, and it is impossible to tell who's at fault here. If the book is written in a full script style, then it's the artist's fault. If it's done in a Marvel style (which is doubtful, given that a licensor
probably looks everything over) then it's the writer's fault.
In either case, the editor should have seen this and done something to correct it.
If the writing and art is unclear, then Janice Chiang is not much of a help, either. It is the letterer's job to help guide the eye, as well. While it is a familiar letterist's complaint that the artist never leaves enough room
for the balloons and captions, there's something to be said for a letterer who can position the balloons in such a way so as to let the reader know the order in which they are supposed to be read. I don't know; maybe the editor
draws the guides for where the balloons are supposed to go in this case. In any case, balloon placement is hairy at the bottom of page 13.
So while the likenesses of the actors are about as good as you're going to get in a licensed comic and their dialogue is often spot-on to the TV show, this comic is a mess. I can only recommend it to students of the craft who wish to see where things can go horribly wrong.
Finally, why is this comic dangerous? Well, Dark Horse is promoting it on the newsstand and is selling it at your local Quicky Marts and the like. As such, it will have wider exposure into areas not used to seeing comic books. With any luck, this could bring in new fans to the comic book arena. That would be appreciated.
However, when a book is this ineptly put together, it will serve only to confuse new readers. They'll come away from this book shaking their heads and wondering why they just don't understand the comics form. "Do I read the
balloons first and then look at the art or vice versa? Do I read left to right or up to down first? How can I tell the difference between characters? Who are these people?"
They'll be lost to us forever.
That's the crying shame. And that's why I'm hoping this will be heard and fixed in future issues.