Monday, October 3, 2011

The Artwork Too Frequently Brings Down Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight Retreat.

The Good: Generally good story, Good character development, Moments of artwork.
The Bad: Bulk of the artwork, Repetitive feeling.
The Basics: Much more for fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Retreat tells a fine Buffy story with generally poor artwork.

My wife and I have been watching her new DVD set of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (reviewed here!) for the past few weeks since her birthday and I have been surprised by both how much I am enjoying rewatching the many episodes and by how much of the series seems erratic to me now. Either way, rewatching the series left me in a prime place to enjoy the new "Season 8" trade paperback anthology, Retreat. This was a Random Day gift from me to my wife and after she praised it, I came to it enthusiastic. Unfortunately, while the story and character elements were worthwhile, the artwork was frequently, distractingly, bad.

For those who do not understand the concept of Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight, it is pretty simple. Continuing the story of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, from where the television series ended up, Buffy and her friends have relocated to Scotland with an army of Slayers and they have been training in order to take on the legions of vampires still roaming the world, though they have drawn the attention of the evil Twilight in the process. This is happening at the same time as the fifth season of Angel and Retreat is intended to be the sixth episode of the season. This story follows directly on the climax of Predators And Prey and continues a very serialized sense of the book series.

With Twilight's forces pounding Buffy and the Slayers back to their innermost defenses, the Slayers are forced to accept that with Amy and Warren on his side, Twilight has them outmatched and outgunned. Realizing that it is magic that allows Twilight to track the Slayers, Buffy has Willow cast one last spell, transporting the whole lot of them in their submarine to Tibet. There they meet with Oz, who has discovered a way to thwart the magics that plague him with lycanthropy.

But soon even Tibet is not safe for the Slayers and Oz as Twilight manages to track the group there. Vulnerable without the magic that makes them Slayers, Buffy and her army are pushed back by even more brutal forced. The result is catastrophic.

Retreat has a pretty decent idea, which is that Oz has found a community where magic is not used and it does not enslave people who are not entirely able to use it properly. Instead, Oz and the people he is with have found a way to let their innate magic be sapped into the Earth. In true Buffy fashion, however, there is a price for that and when Twilight arrives along with the forces that have been collecting the magic in Tibet, that price is appropriately high. Writer Jane Espenson is creative with the concept and that works well.

What also works is Espenson's mastery of the Buffy sense of dialogue and humor, especially where Oz is concerned. Oz is characterized mostly through silence and stoic deliveries, so he is a tough one to write a comic book for and get the tone right. But from his first "Huh" on page 30 when the sub materializes in the meadow before him, Espenson gets Oz absolutely right for his voice.

It is disappointing, then, that Espenson takes such a lazy way out in Retreat with the Andrew storyline. Andrew begins filming again, this time to root out a spy in the midst of the Slayers and that was done on the show and just seems tired on these pages. Even so, it is not enough to drag down the movement and energy of the main narrative.

What does drag down the main storyline is the artwork. With pencils by Georges Jeanty, Retreat has some rather serious artwork flaws, not the least of which is that Jeanty has a difficult time drawing Dawn and Faith and making them look different. After an initially tight opening with Buffy and Willow fleeing as birds, Jeanty seems to get lazy or bored with the artwork. The result is like what one finds on page 14 of the trade paperback anthology. That page has five panels and only the center one with the skinless Warren is truly detailed. The first, third and final panels are so underdetailed they are little more than thumbnail sketches, where their occupants are more recognizable by context of conversation and the fact that they appeared on the prior page together. The second panel has a very animated version of Andrew and it is average. By contrast, the fourth panel is a great piece which has a recognizable subject, great shading and depth. The incongruent nature of the artwork is annoying in the beginning and becomes downright problematic as the story progresses, especially in the battle scenes where the reader pretty much knows who is who only after the fighting is over and characters are speaking with one another.

In the trade paperback anthology of Retreat, there is a cover gallery and several pages of pencil sketches. There are also two shorts, "Harmony Comes To The Nation" and "Always Darkest." The first has Harmony appearing on the Colbert Report and Karl Moline's drawings are so vaguely done than none of the artwork actually looks like Steven Colbert. By contrast, "Always Darkest" has wonderful artwork by Jo Chen which has panels that look like little paintings, but a surprisingly weak story by Joss Whedon himself.

Ultimately, Buffy The Vampire Slayer Retreat is a good trade paperback anthology and it continues the story of Buffy The Vampire Slayer well in story terms. Fans will be pleased, but readers who are not already into the Buffy phenomenon will likely bounce between lost and disappointed with this volume.

For the other volumes in Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight, please check out my reviews of:
The Long Way Home
No Future For You
Wolves At The Gate
Time Of Your Life
Predators And Prey


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment