More of the best of 2008: Buffy Season 8

December 23, 2008

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I could not compile a list of the best of 2008 without including Buffy Season #8. For the second consecutive year, I place this Dark Horse series among the top of the comic book heap and not just because I am a huge Buffy fan (Though that certainly helps its case) but also because it’s one of the most inventive and well crafted comic of its genre.

Forget the fact that this show translated to another medium hasn’t lost any of the wit, well written characterization or snappy dialogue associated with the defunct TV series, and don’t take into consideration the fact that even those who were not regular comic book readers sought out the book in order to follow the titular vampire slayer’s latest adventures. The fact remains that Dark Horse hasn’t skimped on artistic talent or overdone its marketing to promote the book. The Buffy brand still sells because it’s a quality iconic universe which has been crafted by Joss Whedon and company and which has been further added to in 2008 by the likes of Jeph Loeb, Brian K. Vaughn and Drew Goddard.

In addition to fleshing out the new “big bad” of the season Twilight, Buffy and her cohorts have battled familiar foes, deranged zombies and military goons, suffered through emotional losses and new relationships. Buffy’s relationship with Satsu was handled well, instead of being a titallating affair, it had all the subtlety and developed organically from the inherent needs of the storyline, as relationships tend to happen in real life. Then in issues 16-19 brought back Melaka Fray, the Slayer from the future which was first introduced by Whedon in 2001. The inevitable crossover mined the rich story potential of both universes, even if the payoff was ultimately less satisfying than her re-introduction.

The latest comic (issue 20) is a stand alone issue which travels back in time to the High School days at Sunnydale High. Though long gone, it was nice to see characters like Cordelia Chase and the dynamics of the scoobies once again. This story was initially penned by Jeph Leob for the Buffy animated series which never got picked up and just a glance through the pages of animation by Eric Wright, Ethen Beavers and Adam Van Wyk or the exquisite altertane cover by Georges Jeanty is enough to make any true Buffy fan sorry that this project never got off the ground.  In an era where blue chip comic books by A grade creators ship later and later, Dark Horse should be commended for bringing us 12 excellent issues of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 in 2008. I only wish there had been an annual.

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The best of 2008

December 19, 2008

73513_174494_1There are best of the year lists all over TV, magazines and media outlets and Behind My Byline is no different. I start off by listing one of the best comic books of the year, if not the very best. It’s Umbrella Academy “God Save the President”#1. Although this Dark Horse masterpiece written by Gerard Way (Of My Chemical Romance fame) and illustrated by Gabriel Ba is listed as a #1 issue, it’s actually a continuation of the earlier mini series which launched the entire enterprise.

In God Save the President, Way continues the story of the Umbrella Academy, even after their lives have been both literally and figuratively shattered and his adroit use of flashbacks and narrative structure craft one of the most enjoyable stories in comics. Ba’s contributions are excellent, his style is well suited for this quirky type of comic book featuring exaggerated but poignant facial expressions and dynamic action sequences from giant statues coming to life to attack the heroes to a standoff in a parking lot which is both beautifully rendered and action packed.

It’s the way in which Umbrella Academy takes risks in virtually every panel by conforming to superhero conventions and then using those conventions to launch off into a magical new visual feast for the eyes and the senses that gives this book a special place on my pull list. 

Sometimes, as good as Way’s dialouge is, it becomes irrelevant as the comic’s sense of pacing and Ba’s expert renditions move the story along with both flare and nuance. This is by far one hell of a comic book series, always an enjoyable read and as such, one of the best comics of 2008.


Nothing Like the Holidays

December 15, 2008

A movie review!

nothinglikeI’m taking a break from my usual reviews of comics and comic related movies to do a mini-review of this film because I saw it this weekend with my good friend Massiel Bobadilla. Massiel and I met while we both worked on the Mt. SAC newspaper together and she now works writing for a website (though don’t ask me which because I forget.)

I was in a bit of a funk due to some personal problems and she’s a good friend that listens to me whenever I need to talk and she had to write a review of this movie for work so I tagged along with her and another friend.

Overall, this is a good holiday themed movie, there are a myriad of good performances including a nice susprise role by Debra Messing.  Even though John Leguizamo is not one of my favorite actors, he does a good solid job in this story about a dysfunctional Puerto Rican-American family which get together for a holiday reunion. Even though there are some predictable moments in the film, I would say that these did not interfere with my enjoyment of it as a whole. It is cheesy at times, but even though the characters are all given subplots to work out and they eventually all come to a head like a powder keg, the pacing is good enough to make you want to keep watching until the inevitable resolution of every minor conflict presented in the film.

Afterwards, we went to get milke tea and boba at a tea place in the village in Walnut while watching shooting starts streaking from the city sky. Usually you have to go camping to see them and they are not quite visible from the city. It was quite cool. Right now I am quite busy as I am sure is everyone else finalizing holiday plans and finishing up xmas shopping. I have a whole stable of comics sitting in my hard drive which I have yet to get to, but am dying to. The end of 2008 is shaping off to be a busy one.


Buffy #19

December 6, 2008

Not a bad issue at all, wrapping up the Fray/Buffy universe crossover storyline. This issue was delayed and smart reviewers online have pointed out that its lateness mirrors the wait fans of the original “Fray” series had to endure to read the final chapter of the original 2001 story.

It does feel as the climax for this issue was a little predictable and maybe would have benefited from one more chapter. I enjoyed seeing Willow go dark again, even if we are talking about a different timeline or different reality but the inevitable confrontation with Buffy and Fray doesn’t pack nearly as much power as it should have.

Moline’s pencils don’t do the comic justice as his artwork seems below par of what he was producing in earlier chapters of the arc. In the opening installments, he depicted a dazzling futuristic world replete with flying cars and other minutia, but the latter part of this comic especially is flimsy at best devoid of some of that detail.

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Of course, there’s the brilliant Whedonesque dialogue which is a requisite of any Buffy comic present in Xander and Dawn in the forest against the forest creatures where a few chestnuts are the byproduct of Xander’s sardonic wit. We have been so spoiled by it for so long that we don’t always appreciate it.

There’s an interesting reveal at the end of the comic which I won’t spoil. It looks as though the next issue may be a stand alone romp the kind that succeeded in issue five, and as interesting as I find alternative timelines, I am glad to get the climax to the Frey universe and to return to the story proper in the current Buffy universe. I hope more of the regulars come back like Giles. It’s hard to believe that this comic has been so good for 19 issues and there hasn’t been a single appearance by any vampires with a soul. Because of contractual issues with IDW, I am not sure we will ever see them, though that would be a pity.