The next “Buffy” comic review is coming up a day early due to a change in my work schedule.
Title: Buffy the Vampire Slayer #20
Author: Jeph Loeb
Illustrator(s): Georges Jeanty (pencils), Andy Owens (inks), Lee Loughridge (colors)
Animation: Eric Wight, Ethen Beavers and Adam Van Wyk
Cover Date: December 2008
Cover Price: $2.99 US for the issue. $15.95 US for the trade paperback collecting issues 16-19.
Buffy dreams in her sleep. Seriously. The issue takes an idea Jeph Loeb wanted to use for the now-dead animated series that was proposed, and wrote it into this series as a dream for Buffy.
Buffy’s comments and internal monologues, based on having her “current” knowledge in a story set while Snyder was still principal of the high school.
The apparant irrelevance to the current series. While this plot could have worked very well in the context it was originally created for, at this point in season eight it feels like a wasted issue. So far, it’s the only issue that hasn’t contributed to the long-term story arc, and that’s simply not what I’m looking for at this point.
This is original in the sense that it’s unlike any previous contribution to the Buffyverse. This could be do, in large part, to the juvenile nature of the content, which is a side-effect of creating the concept for use as an episode of a Saturday morning cartoon. Sure, there are comments that wouldn’t have been a part of the series, but the overarching plot is definitely younger than Buffy’s stories have ever been. The plot itself is a variation on a theme we’ve seen done before. (In fact, it was done much better in an issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, by reversing the pretext where personal life gets in the way of world-saving instead of vice versa.) I give it 4 out of 6.
The artwork on the framing story (set in the eighth season) is very well done, complete with the detail we’ve gotten used to from this creative team. The dream itself seems to be the work done by the “animation” list, and it’s very much in the less detailed style of a Saturday morning cartoon. I understand the need to cut detail from an animated series for broadcast, as the production time and number of required animation cells create very different logistics. For a one-shot comic that could have been prepped months in advance thanks to Whedon’s long term plans, as well as the flashback nature of the content itself, we didn’t need to drop the detail level this much. Again, what would have worked in the originally intended medium doesn’t translate as well to this medium. I give it 4 out of 6.
The story, as you might have guessed, is simple enough that it’s hard to mess up. There are no logic issues here, but when you pick up something with the “Buffy” name expecting Whedon’s hinting and long-term planning, only to find this predictable triviality instead, you may not be terribly pleased. I wasn’t. I give it 4 out of 6.
The characterization is about the only aspect that’s up to par with what we’re used to. The voices and dialog sound right for the characters at these stages of their life cycles. I give it 5 out of 6.
The emotional response was pretty weak. It’s just too far removed from the rest of the comic and television series to be satisfying. I give it 3 out of 6.
The flow works as well as can be expected, given the time jumps and the need to determine exactly where this fits in continuity. (Snyder’s principal, but Buffy doesn’t know Angel was Angelus. It’s a narrow window.) I give it 4 out of 6.
Overall, I believe this could have been one of the best episodes of a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” Saturday morning cartoon, but it’s an ultimately unsatisfying entry into the comic series. If you’re collecting by individual issues, don’t be afraid to skip it. If you collect the series in trade paperback form, get the trade for the first four issues. If you have the trade, you might as well read the whole thing, but you won’t be missing anything if you stop where this issue starts. I give it 3 out of 6.
In total, Buffy the Vampire Slayer #20 receives 27 out of 42.