Book Review – Buffy Season 8 – Time of your Life

Buffy Season 8 vol 4 TPThis series goes from strength to strength and is a worthwhile addition to the Buffy canon.

To begin, a brief outline. Following the ending of Buffy on TV, Joss Whedon did a whole bunch of different things, including writing a comic called Fray, a futuristic take on the slayer. In this graphic novel, the fourth volume of collected comics from season 8, Buffy gets sent through a portal and winds up in the future, first fighting against, then fighting with Melaka Fray, said future slayer.

It’s rare that the magic created on TV through the combination of excellent scripts and perfect actors is successfully replicated in another format, as the plethora of Buffy books and comics that were released whilst the show was on-air demonstrated. However, Whedon, along with Karl Moline, get it just right. The dialogue is as idiosyncratic and effective as ever, the fights are just as good, only bigger, and the funny is still brought in a big way.

I found myself reading it out loud, trying to impersonate the actors and finding it easy. The atmosphere and strongest points of the show are all present. The great artwork helps as well, Moline getting the characters just right. This is shown when old stars of the TV show appear and don’t need to be introduced for you to know exactly who they are. It’s a brave move that’s carried off well.

The bonus story here, by comic guru and TV writer Jeph Loeb, takes Buffy back to school through some wonderfully Buffy-esque mojo. This gives Loeb the chance to have fun with all the original characters and tell a fun story at the same time. Once again the art, something entirely different, is great and adds another layer to the storytelling, as well as being perfect for the subject matter.

As you may have gathered, I’m a Buffy fan of old, but I would also recommend this series to anyone new to the world of the slayer. Whedon has developed his comic writing skills over time and now crafts a lean, gripping tale in this medium just as effectively as in TV or film.

If you enjoy comics with action, lots of emotion and lots of laughs, this is well worth a read.

7 days of comics and why you should read them, Sundays choice – Love and Rockets

Sunday morning is my favourite comic reading time, a chance to sit in bed with a cup of tea and really lose myself in something. My favourite place to go is the universe of Love and Rockets by Los Bros Hernandez. Like returning to old friends, the wonder of Palomar and the neighbourhood of Maggie and Hopey welcome me back every time.


What began as a strange sci-fi affair soon morphed into a brilliantly accurate portrayal of relationships and family. As far removed from The Ultimates as it could be in style, yet remarkably similar in some of what it explores, Love and Rockets has grown its’ characters more than anything else I’ve read.

Why I love it:

I’ve talked about character development, but where Love and Rockets scores big is just how far the characters have come. I finished the most recent issue a month or so ago and sat there in floods of tears as a loop set up some fifteen years previously was finally closed.

That the characters have been through all kinds of hell and hardship, and look distinctly different from where they started only adds to the emotional weight of the book. I love that Maggie’s bigger than she used to be, and only puts on makeup for very special occasions. I love even more that her internal monologue, a wonderful mix of self-mockery and self-doubt is just as strong as ever. Some things never change, whilst everything else inevitably does.

Palomar is just as honest and raw with it’s cast, no one ever getting it quite right, but always driven by the things that make us human and interesting. I don’t go to Love and Rockets for excitement and adventure, I go to feel human and normal and part of something bigger than myself. That may seem odd for people searching for escapism, but in my eyes there can be no greater accolade for a serialized story to have.



7 days of comics and why you should read them, Saturdays choice – The Ultimates

Party time, so what better to read about than a bunch of misfit, mid-life crisis-ing, argumentative super heroes? The Mark Millar run on The Ultimates is my favourite Marvel of the last few years, like one long Saturday night movie.


A classic marvel team up, featuring Captain America, The Hulk, Ironman and others; shoved together into a controversial, world-spanning team. The big difference is that they have personal lives, and real issues, and stuff that makes them interesting!

Why I love it:

Aside from the wonderful risk that Marvel took in having their classic heroes become alcoholics and murderers, The Ultimates also has breathtaking scope and vision. Comics have the freedom to really do anything, and when that freedom is brought into the real world it can be breathtaking.

The Ultimates destroy New York, kill thousands of innocents and get involved in counter terrorism in countries the US have no right to be anywhere near. Millar is completely unafraid to ask big questions of modern foreign policy, or portray heroes of years past as wife beating scumbags.  I love The Ultimates because it isn’t afraid to change things and throw out everything you thought you knew about the characters. The magic of comics, in action.

7 days of comics and why you should read them, Fridays choice – Transmetropolitan

The weekend is here! Work is finished and it’s time to celebrate, and how better than with Transmetropolitan, by Warren Ellis? Escapism mixed with some real messages, it makes me laugh and think at the same time and gets me suitably inspired for the weekend of creating ahead.


Spider Jerusalem is a journalist, and not one of those namby-pamby research on the internet ones either. He gets to the heart of the story, often literally and is afraid of no one and nothing. He operates in ‘The City’, a mish mash of humanity, based some-time in the future and a combination of all the most exciting places you’ve ever been. What’s important? The truth, without compromise.

Why I love it:

I spoke about characters earlier in the week, so I won’t mention the wonderful development that Ellis brings, oh so subtly to his main protagonists. I also spoke about plot development so won’t mention the slow burning story that grows beneath the monthly helping of humour and righteous anger.

So, to pick something else that made this comic so successful, I’ll focus on the sheer creativity and prescience present in every issue. It’s easy when you are falling in love with characters and trying to figure out the plot, to overlook the many small touches that populate the best comics. With a comic like Transmetropolitan, where the world is ripe for invention, Ellis manages to be endlessly original whilst keeping it grounded in something that feels horribly like our reality. From the ‘makers’ present in each flat (and the different available models, based on how rich you are), to Spider’s cat, sorry 3 eyed mutation that it is, there are a wealth of details that enrich and realize the world. Ideas, such as having physical aspects of other cultures medically embedded come very close to real life and, you feel, can only be a short time away. This grounding of science fiction makes the story that much more powerful and relevant, despite the insane antics that happen within it.

7 days of comics and why you should read them, Thursdays choice – Ultimate Spiderman

The weekend is just around the corner, and I can see the light at the end of the work-shaped tunnel. I’m ready for some old-school superhero shit, fun and fisticuffs, wrapped up in one big web. I love all things Spidey, but my run of choice has to be Brian Michael Bendis’ fabulous 100 and something series on Ultimate Spider man.


This feels a tad redundant. Kid gets bitten by radioactive spider, stuff ensues, great power, you know the drill. This particular reboot has just the right balance of action, romance, humour (very important) and cool teenage angst, without overdoing any of it.

Why I love it:

So, you have of those things I mentioned above. The action is exciting; the romance superbly awkward and wonderful, the humour is, at times, pant-wettingly effective and, above all, the characters are great. Likable, human and not above saying exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time.

However, the strength for me in this series is the unspoken agreement between the author and the audience. Of course, there is a huge amount of history present when you take over a comic book like this, but even without that backstory, the first few issues, or chapters, set up the expectations of the reader. Whatever you promise through those early moments must be paid off if the reader is to remain interested and engaged. Bendis does exactly that. Yes, he creates some fairly out-there story arcs, but the relationships and inner monologue that drive the comic remain true throughout. This faithfulness to the initial premise is an essential part of keeping and entertaining an audience.

7 days of comics and why you should read them, Wednesdays choice – 100 Bullets

Midweek, and assuming I‘m reading after work, the week is over half done, so excitement abounds. By this stage in the week I want to get into something a little closer to home and something that gets me thinking. That’s not to say that the previous two don’t make me think, but 100 Bullets, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso demands some serious brainpower.


Something in your life has gone horribly wrong. A man arrives at your door in a smart suit, bearing a briefcase. Contained within it are a gun, bullets and evidence that conclusively proves that your recent hardship can be blamed on X. The question is that if you could kill X with the knowledge that you aren’t going to get caught, would you do it?

Why I love it:

As a concept, it’s deliciously nasty and imaginative, whilst being thoroughly simple to understand. It also poses the sort of moral questions that can keep you up at night. The particular strength in this series for me was the development of the story. I’ve spoken Monday and Tuesday about the importance of character development to serialized fiction but the growth of the plot is also paramount. 100 Bullets starts off as a series of one-shots, the same scenario played out with different characters that react in different ways. However, as the strands are gently teased and pulled, so the big picture is slowly brought into focus. Questions are thrown into the air and left hanging for the reader to grab hold of and figure out the answer, sometimes waiting for months or years for the clues. The strength of the writing, and the intrigue created kept me searching for the answers, although, as with life, they were never delivered neatly. The payoff was well worth the wait, but it was the hunting for the answers that kept me reading. Kind of like Lost, only it made sense and was really satisfying.