Shiny Shelf

Tales of the Vampires #1

By Eddie Robson on 20 February 2004

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

I haven’t picked up a ‘Buffy’ comic in a while, not since losing patience with Andi Watson’s tedious run, but this anthology bears the Mark of Joss and hence has caught my attention. It’s one of a number of projects that Dark Horse is running whilst it decides what to do with its ‘Buffy’ line now that the show is over: I would advocate a series of post-season seven stories, taking advantage of there no longer being a show to integrate with. But we’ll see.

The bulk of this first issue of ‘Tales of the Vampires’ is a Spike and Dru story written by ‘Angel’ and ‘Buffy’ scripter Drew Goddard, who wrote some top-notch instalments of the final ‘Buffy’ season (including ‘Selfless’, ‘Dirty Girls’ and ‘Conversations With Dead People’). He also inspires a slightly frightening degree of worship from the fanbase, so he must be doing something right. The framing material and the six-pager at the back, ‘Stacy’, are written by Whedon himself. This being the case, the quality of writing is not in question: however, the nature of these stories makes this issue feel slightly thin.

There’s little wrong with either of them, since they both function perfectly well and comment intelligently on their characters, but on the whole this issue doesn’t quite fit in enough to make it feel worth the cash. The framing sequence isn’t really necessary: I’d be happy for this to work as a traditional horror anthology comic that happens to set its stories in the ‘Buffy’ universe. Goddard’s ‘The Problem with Vampires’ could’ve fitted into fewer pages and left room for something else. It’s the charge I used to level at early issues of the ‘Buffy’ comic: next to the series itself it feels a bit inconsequential.

In addition, ‘The Problem with Vampires’ strays a little too close to Anne Rice territory for my liking, making Spike and Dru a bit too cuddly. It’s set just before their first appearance in the TV show and seems to forget what merciless villains they were back then: here, they’re portrayed as misunderstood lovers. Doesn’t quite wash I’m afraid. The series worked long and hard to make Spike a sympathetic character, and all that development can’t be forgotten.

‘Stacy’ works better as a short story, aided perhaps by its unassuming presence at the back of the issue. It also tackles more successfully the issue of what it’s like to be a vampire, showing the personality of a young, geekish girl twist around to accommodate her transformation into a creature of evil. I’d like to see more of her and in fact I’d rather this had been the lead story, but Spike is always going to shift more copies I suppose.

I have nothing but praise for the artwork: Cameron Stewart, late of ‘Catwoman’, is an ideal choice for ‘Stacy’, bringing a cuteness to the character and then subverting it when she gets bitten. Paul Lee’s work on ‘The Problem with Vampires’ is similarly good, with an intelligent use of shade and a static quality that works really well in a David Lloyd kind of way. Actually, although I said I had nothing but praise I do feel a degree of indifference to Alex Sanchez’s framing sequence, which features some really ugly-looking kids.

Recommended? Well, I wouldn’t tell you not to buy it, and ‘Buffy’ fans will find it enjoyable enough. Whether I pick up issue two or not will probably depend upon the talent involved. No Joss, no sale.

Buy the precursor to this series, ‘Tales of the Slayers’, from

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By Eddie Robson

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