Whedonversity: Buffy Season 10 #2, Serenity #4 and Angel & Faith Season 10 #2 [Reviews]

By | May 9th, 2014
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Whedonversity, our column here on Multiversity here we look at the books following the extended stories from all of our favorite Joss Whedon shows (so, everything but SHIELD). Every month, Scotland’s own Colin Bell and I will sit down to discuss the books, what we like, what we don’t like, extended continuity and all that jazz, and today it’s a triple-whammy of “Buffy” Season 10 #2, “Serenity” #4 and “Angel and Faith” Season 10 #2!

As a note, spoilers abound — both for this issue, the show and the previous comic seasons. Hopefully you’ve had enough time to go to the store and pick up your own copy of the book (and if you haven’t, get going!).

Written by Christos Gage
Illustrated by Rebekah Isaacs

The Scoobies are back—including li’l Giles! Revelations about a new kind of vampire menace and the blank Vampyr book have only just begun. Everyone has a job to do, and for Buffy, it’s treading the road of past relationships! Lucky girl . . .

* The team from Angel & Faith tackles Buffy!

* Executive produced by Joss Whedon!

Matthew: Hello everyone, and welcome back to the latest installment of Whedonversity! We’ve finally covered all the beginnings of our new books, to mixed reactions, and now it’s time to really start getting into the meat of it all. Today, Colin and I will be discussing “Buffy” Season 10 #2, and I can already tell you that we have some things to talk about here.

So Colin, why don’t you start us off. What did you think about the second issue?

Colin: I enjoyed it! Not quite as much as issue one, which this was ostensibly a continuation of – I mean, all comics are a continuation of their previous issue if you know what I mean, but having read it it’s clear that this issue and the previous one were one big “establishing the status quo” story. While I was happy to have that be the case in the first issue, and I thought it did a pretty great job in kicking things off, this issue fleshed out a few more details, tidied up a few loose ends from Season 9 and slowly nudged us towards this season’s plot.

Matthew: You know, I think it’s interesting that you say that, because I’m actually not quite sure what this season’s plot is. I mean, granted: I think that we’re supposed to be digesting these things a bit more easily in trade form, as much as I hate to say that — but if you look at the past seasons, its true. The first trade always feels like it makes a lot more sense than the first issue, even if I like the first issue!

But, yes, I also liked the second issue quite a bit. I think it feels pretty natural at this point, back in the groove of things even with all the new stuff. I think that Gage in particular is pulling from earlier seasons of the show than what has come in the comics recently, and I think that benefits the series a lot. And I think that Isaacs is just, like, the best; this book looks fantastic.

So, let me ask you: what do you think about the dynamic of the team? Because this issue, I think even more than the last, sort of set the stage for how this book is ostensibly going to be going forward.

Colin: Well, now the dynamic of the team is probably the closest the series has been to “the core” since Joss Whedon started sanctioning official continuation comics. There’s none of Season 8’s slayer army tagging along, and the book seems pretty intent on bidding farewell Season 9’s additions – Billy and his crew, Dowling and Eldre Koh all get serviceable goodbyes, and now Giles is back (albeit more diminutive) it really feels like the gang is back together for the first time in a long time. This makes me happy.

Matthew: But in our preamble conversation, you made mention that there was something that made you unhappy. Would you like to jump ahead a bit and address what it was in the issue that you weren’t a fan of?

Continued below

Colin: Mainly the ending, which I felt was a bit abrupt, and if I’m not mistaken is a bit of a repeat of the last page of Season 8 #12, where Xander last looked up Dracula. I can’t work out if it’s meant to be a callback or not.

Matthew: Yes, it is EXACTLY how the Drew Goddard arc of Season 8 begins. Like, almost note for note.

But, here’s the thing: I think it is a callback. After all, the issue does reference that adventure rather specifically; I can’t imagine that it would just be a blatant swipe of the scene if it wasn’t otherwise specifically intended, no? And if you “get” the reference in this case, then I think it’s fair to call the nod actually fairly amusing — although I’d need to see where they were going with this before I say that I like the idea of Dracula being back in the series (which, in all honesty, I’m not too excited about).

Colin: I think my issue is that as a callback it’s fine, as a cliffhanger it’s lacking. It’s chucklesome enough, but really, it’s not enough of a grabber to make me think “what’s going to happen next?”. Because going by this, I kind of suspect what’s going to happen next is some “Dracula has Xander in his thrall” tomfoolery for at least an issue. Am I going to stop reading the book about it? No, you need me to do this column. Plus… it’s time for our monthly Praise Rebekah Isaacs section!

Matthew: Ha! Well, I think that’s all fair; I do think that the Dracula thing will probably become more apparent in the next issue, but as of this finale I didn’t have too many discerning thoughts on it.

I do, however, continue to think that Rebekah Isaacs is the best part of this book, hands down. I like Gage’s writing just fine, but man, Isaacs was an amazing choice as a follow-up to Jeanty and the book is looking absolutely great. It definitely feels much fresher with her art attached, I’ll say, and yes, even outside of her involvement with “Angel & Faith,” I feel like we’re seeing a whole new side of these books that we’d not necessarily encountered before and I am loving it. It’s optimistic, it’s quirky, it’s the same kind of upbeat-in-the-face-of-danger attitude that I loved about the show.

The “Praise Rebekah Isaacs” section of our reviews are clearly the best section of our reviews.

Colin: And that’s all we’ve got time for on Praise Rebekah Isaacs this month!

But seriously, she’s the best.

Matthew, you’ve yet to comment on the not-too-discreet shuffling off of the Season Nine gang, and better yet, Koh’s none-too-subtle hint that Illyria may well still be alive!

Matthew: This is true. On these two things, I think this:

1. I think that doing away with Season Nine is for the best. Not as any real commentary on Season Nine (it had things that worked, it had things that did not work), but for this series to really become Gage and Isaacs’, there needs to be a massive shift. Otherwise it’d just be more of the same, wouldn’t it? And I think that Gage and Isaacs have done such a good job in giving this book a new identity that really just reinventing the wheel here is absolutely necessary. So, if you’re asking me, I think doing away with the old and re-structuring it to actually more closely resemble the television show is the smartest thing they could do to make this accessible, entertaining and appealing to Buffy nerds like you and me.

2. I never liked the whole Illyria thing anyway.

Colin: What’s your beef with Illyria? She’s in a rare position as a character as she only actually appeared in just over a handful of television episodes and has spent most of her existence as a supporting character in the comics, where she’s been fleshed out to varying degrees of success.

Matthew: Maybe I missed those comics. Maybe I just liked Fred too much. But what can I say, I never really cared for Illyria as a concept or a character.

So to sum things up, Colin, what would you give this issue as far as a numerical grade goes?

Continued below

Colin: 7! A well-executed comic that only gets points docked for time spent rearranging the cast and a less-than-cliffhangerish ending. There’s enough talent on display that I’ve got total confidence that things will ramp up soon enough. Let’s get to the meat!

Matthew: I’m going to be a bit more kind, I think, if only because the book that this gets inevitably compared to. I very much like the new direction. I still am all pumped on the creative team. I share reservations with you on specific things, but I am an optimist. 7.5!

Colin: I thought I was being pretty optimistic, but okay!

Final Verdict: 7.25 – Buy!

Written by Zack Whedon
Illustrated by Georges Jeanty

With help from the New Resistance, Mal and Serenity’s crew are crashing the secret Alliance facility from which River was rescued. She is certain they need to go there—now. Meanwhile, Zoe is in Alliance custody where she discovers that there is more immediate danger from fellow prisoners than anyone else . . .

* Buffy’s Season 8 and 9 artist conquers the galaxy!

* Zack Whedon returns to Serenity!

* The story finally continues after the film!

* Executive produced by Joss Whedon!

Matthew: Alright, lets keep this Whedontrain a-rollin’ as we look at last week’s “Serenity: Leaves on the Wind” #4. I think this is the book we’ve been most excited about consistently, and the last issue left us with a bit of a head scratcher when You-Know-Who showed up.

So, Colin, as always, please start us off. What did you think of the latest installment of the Serenity sequel?

Colin: Another month, another issue of Serenity leaving me feeling bad for not liking it as much as I should, given that all it does is give me exactly what I would’ve wanted from a Firefly continuation. I remain megaconflicted.

Matthew: Really? Because if this issue did anything for me, it’s actually made me like “Serenity” even more. What did you dislike about it?

Colin: I found the literal jettisoning of Early to be wholly indicative of the problematic aspects of the series we’ve raised to date – things being crammed in for fan-service. I’m struggling to explain what the point of him appearing in the series was just now, unless there’s some grander scheme to bring him back in the next two issues.

Matthew: Hmm. I do suppose that’s a fair argument, although I suppose I did not necessarily take it that way when I first read it. I do think that there’s generally too much going on in this book for a satisfactory sixth issue finale, but oddly enough Jubal Early being kicked out didn’t really raise too much of an issue for me.

However, on the other side of things I actually quite liked the large majority of the narrative in this issue. I thought that the pace was well kept, the stakes were certainly raised at an alarming rate and that the majority of the series’ overall issues were punctuated quite nicely by the last page reveal of this issue. While I’ll admit to still being quite skeptic about everything wrapping up nice and evenly, it felt like this issue was the one where everything that was introduced in the first act began to somewhat serve its purpose.

But, I also say that after now noticing what you’ve mentioned about the treatment of Jubal, so perhaps I’m totally off?

Colin: No, I’ll cop to what you’re saying. I agree that this issue cracks along at a good lick, it all hangs together well as an issue, and there’s some nice moments to speak of. I definitely appreciated the efforts made to show the crew’s reluctance to having The Operative on board. That said, I don’t understand his motives for joining Serenity in this? I don’t think it’s even hinted at?

Matthew: Well, hmm. I re-watched Serenity recently, and if I remember correctly at the end of the movie the Operative feels just as betrayed by the Alliance as anyone else. The revelation seems to hit him pretty hard, which is why he abandons his mission to kill Mal for them. So perhaps it’s all connected to him agreeing that, based on the revelations of that film, since now there are more dastardly revelations of what the Alliance were up to that he wants to be more proactive?

Continued below

Plus, I bet Mal asked… like, really nicely.

Colin: I do like that the plot is basically a heist to get an army of Rivers to help heist Zoe out of prison. Maximum heistage, in a vintage Firefly style. The prison that Zoe’s found herself in is pretty terrifyingly realised as well.

Matthew: That’s maybe the only thing to me that still feels kind of superfluous — or, perhaps the only one thing that’s going to need a smarter wrap-up than what I think this mini is capable of. Like, it’s either going to be left alone for a sequel (Serenity: The Search for River) or it’s going to be rushed, right?

And, don’t get me wrong: I would be more than happy for this series to end on a cliffhanger so that we can be assured to have another one. I just fear that it’s going to be rushed instead.

Colin: I share your fears, but I’m quietly confident there’ll be more of these, no? Despite any misgivings we’ve had, it’s seemed well received. The letters page does make a point of underlining that there won’t be an ongoing series sadly, which really would help address any “too much going” on concern we’ve had over the past few months. We should probably discuss this more at the end of the series.

Matthew: Well I think we’ve touched on a lot of things so far, but I do want to clear up one thing: what did you like about this issue? I mean, were there any scenes you were excited about? The extra Operative, perhaps? Are you a fan of Bea yet?

Colin: It’s weird, Bea was positioned as the voice of the New Browncoats, the people inspired by the crew’s actions in Serenity, but her only contribution to the story until this issue was bringing Jayne back into the fold from a separation that only seemed to exist to illustrate a passage of time for the cast. This month, she acquired a space shuttle. I would like to see her do more, and I’m hoping that the New Browncoats are another shoe waiting to drop before the story is through.

Wait, did you asked what I liked? I liked the following:

– Zoe on the prison planet.
– Georges Jeanty in general – the panel of the crew sneaking around Sihnon and the last panel on the same page where Mal silently reveals himself to the New Browncoats are particular standouts.
– Kaylee and Inara’s whispered conversation away from the main plot, giving us some inkling to how the characters are actually reacting to what they’re going through.
– The return of the big red button.

And you?

Matthew: Oh, I think we’ve covered what I liked quite enough.

But we haven’t talked about Georges Jeanty yet, and I think that it is really worth mentioning that he continues to up his work throughout the series. Every issue we get something new that impresses me from what he’s done, and this issue is no different. From the city to his smaller character moments, I think that this transition from “Buffy” to “Serenity” is honestly the best thing that could’ve happened to Jeanty’s artistic growth and evolution.

Colin: I agree wholeheartedly. I don’t remember seeing this much emotion on the faces of his Buffy characters. It’s lovely. I’m genuinely keen to see what he moves on to post-this.

Matthew: How about another series of “Serenity?”

Colin: Sure, why not.

Matthew: Slap a number on this and lets call it.

Colin: SIX!

Matthew: Harsh! I’m going to an EIGHT! I dig this with a shovel and a pick axe and other helpful tools that allow me to dig properly.

Final Verdict: 7.0 – Buy!

Written by Victor Gischler
Illustrated by Will Conrad

As Faith awkwardly settles into her new job at Kennedy’s bodyguards-for-hire company, Angel is finding that he knows less than everyone about what is going on in London’s magic town. Trying to get to the bottom of a fiendish group of scheming pixies, Angel travels further down a really wrong road . . .

* Will Conrad (Serenity) returns to the Whedonverse!

* Executive produced by Joss Whedon!

Continued below

Matthew: Last but certainly not least, we’ve got “Angel and Faith” Season 10 #2! When we last looked at this book, you and I gave it some incredibly harsh commentary as easily the least favorite of the three new books. But you never know, sometimes second issues can turn things around for those who are willing to wait! And you and I both preferred “Angel and Faith” to “Buffy” in Season 9, so maybe this is what we needed to turn things around?

Alright, Colin — be the deciding judge! “Angel and Faith,” yay or nay? What did you think of issue two?

Colin: Perhaps I’m being unduly harsh on the book, but I’m yet to get a sense as to what this season’s purpose is and I feel it’s to the book’s detriment. For the second issue in a row it’s been “the disparate adventures of Angel and Faith”, keeping them separate when the unique selling point of the book is the chance to see these two conflicted characters play off each other.

Matthew: While I agree with this in theory, I will note reluctantly that I liked this issue more than the previous. I think, as far as first issue’s go, that that was a miserable hook and no way to launch a series. With this, however, I actually feel like I may have a better idea of what the book’s intention and purpose is; it seems in line with season premieres where the season finale left everything previously in disarray and the lead characters have to find their way back to each other. And with this issue the characters felt a bit more honest, a bit more like themselves; Angel seemed to harken back more to the series when he was actively trying to be a loner, and Faith here reminded me a bit of when Faith traveled to London back in the Season 8 comics.

They’re struggling, they don’t realize they need each other, but they’ve settled into something akin to what their normal lives may have been like if not for all this other, operatic nonsense. I’d imagine that is what we’re seeing here, no?

Colin: Are you telling me this is the year these two crazy kids finally get together?

Matthew: No, probably not. But, I mean, relationships are complex and weird and always shifting and changing in how they’re defined. I think Angel needs someone, just as Faith does; that seems to have been what the last series was about in a manner of speaking. That balance.

The world is different now. They see that and think that means they have to change immediately. But I’m positing, as a direction for this story (of which we’re not really sure on, to be truthful), that this first arc is more about defining why we even need a secondary book.

Colin: That’s an uphill battle, if you ask me. I don’t want to continually hold the current iteration up to last season, but that had a clear purpose – Angel trying to make amends for Twilight by bringing back Giles. Not only was it a clear goal, but for me it was the crux of the last go-round of Buffy books – certainly the stronger of the two – and the plot that had the most bearing on the Buffyverse as a whole. Sadly, this struggles to be consequential in comparison.

Matthew: But, is it perhaps unfair to completely assume the book will have a purpose so quickly into it? We’re assuming a lot here, granted, but you can’t always tell where a season of a TV show is going to go after one episode (though I think we’ve been somewhat conditioned with these types of stories to expect everything to have some kind of path clear by the end of the first episode). It’s more about rallying the band back together!

Colin: Well let’s do that then! I’d love to see that, as oppose to Angel Vs Fairies. I’ll cop to wanting to see how Faith gets on at Deepscan though, that seems like a genuine new situation and challenge for the character, trying to find her place in part of something bigger. Although you could say that her experience with being one in a lineage of Slayers is similar. In fact maybe that’s the point that’s being made here, and I am dense.

Continued below

Matthew: Post-show, I think Faith is one of those characters that people have had difficulties getting a hang of. I mean, let’s be real here: this Faith feels pretty different than Vaughan’s brief Faith-based arc which also feet different from Gage’s Faith. Every writer takes a different approach to writing her, as if she’s stuck in a kind of arrested development.

But, yes, I too look forward to what she gets up to at Deepscan. And the not so subtle Bieber riff was pretty humorous, if a touch forced (I think leaning on that stuff can be a bit of a crutch, but I won’t write it off until next issue’s events elaborate a bit more).

Colin: I didn’t even pick up on that. I wonder if that’s a cultural thing. Actually, rereading it now that you’ve said that, I’m not even sure I agree.

Also, what’s up with that guy actually trying to shoot a popstar?

Matthew: Uhm. Maybe it’s just a cultural thing.

So we’re both interested about Faith’s development, and I’m at least OK with Angel’s return to form from how his character used to be. But! How are you feeling about Will Conrad’s work this issue? Last time we were pretty harsh on his work.

Colin: YOU were harsh! I’m still enjoying it. Nice likenesses, he draws a big beaky monster well. You still disliking?

Matthew: I think that there is still some things in characterization that he’s not doing too well on, personally. I think there’s definitely an over-emphasis on photorealism here that’s maybe not necessary. Thing is, Conrad — to me — got a lot better this issue; it seemed like he loosened up some, as if he may have been over-trying on the first issue?

So better. I’m still not a big fan, and I prefer Isaacs and even Jeanty’s take on these characters so much more. Maybe after being between the light and the dark, I’m just not used to so much reveling in the dark?

Colin: I don’t believe you’re a stranger to darkness Matthew.

Matthew: I’ve been lost in the darkness, silence surrounding me. Once there was morning, but now endless night.

I still prefer the looks of the previous books, though.

So if you could pick any number between 1 and 10 in order to describe your feelings about the book, what would it be?

Colin: SIX.

Matthew: … Again?

Well. I don’t really disagree. Six it is.

Final Verdict: 6.0 – Browse!

//TAGS | Whedonversity

Matthew Meylikhov

Once upon a time, Matthew Meylikhov became the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Multiversity Comics, where he was known for his beard and fondness for cats. Then he became only one of those things. Now, if you listen really carefully at night, you may still hear from whispers on the wind a faint voice saying, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not as bad as everyone says it issss."


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