Thursday, 14 January 2010

Geek Happenings: Comics (with a vamp theme)

The Complete Dracula
Dracula 1
The Complete Dracula is an excellently written (by Leah Moore and John Reppion) and beautifully drawn adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic tale. I haven’t read the novel for many years but I am a fan and own all the major film and TV adaptations including the 1931 film with Bela Lugosi, the 1958 Hammer version with Christopher Lee, the 1977 BBC series with Louis Jordan, the 1979 film with Frank Langella and the 1992 Coppola film with Gary Oldman. And of course…the 2000 TV episode Buffy vs. Dracula. I love it. The Dracula is actually very good and Xander makes for a hilarious Renfield. But the 92 Coppola version is my fave. It is so lush, visually creative and theatrical and Oldman is awesome!

However, none of these adaptations are especially faithful to the novel with the Hammer version and the 1979 Langella film doing almost an entirely new story (based on the original stage adaptation of the book.) Even the BBC show and the Coppola film, by far the closest to the book, change things, amalgamate characters, invent new story points or miss things out altogether. This comic book adaptation is - from memory of the book and the notes in the back of each issue – 99.9% faithful. A couple of lines here and there have been slightly altered to make character motivations clearer but all Stoker’s characters, their relationships, the geography of the story (something none of the films gets right) and the timeline is spot on. They have even included the book’s original opening chapter ‘Dracula’s Guest’ which was excised upon publication due to length issues.

This is a wonderful adaptation of a beloved work of classic fiction. A great deal of research, love and care has gone in to its making including the writers and artists having worked closely with respected Dracula scholars to make sure everything they were doing was correct or at least in keeping with Stoker’s intentions. A collected edition will be out soon. If you like Dracula or just excellent graphic novels then you need this.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8
Buffy Season 8 - issue 31
Bet you guessed this one, huh? Yep, the Bufster lives on in comic books. This is the official Joss Whedon continuation of his TV show that ended in 2003 when Buffy defeated The First Evil, destroyed Sunnydale, and, using the magic of wicca witch Willow and a sacred Slayer artefact, turned all the worlds thousands of potential slayers in to full slayers.

“From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power, can stand up, will stand up. Slayers... every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?”

Dark Horse Comic’s Buffy Season 8 has been running now since 2007 with issue 31 new out this week. It has been a big critical and commercial hit. So what's going on in Slayerland?

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer…

Our gal Buffy Summers has been training an army of slayers who are now (for various reasons) the worlds public enemy number one. As such Buffy and her people are being hunted down by the masked bad guy Twilight (a dig maybe at another vamp thing?) and his US military cohorts along with other nefarious types including Amy and Warren, baddies from the TV show. The current plot has Buffy, her friends and the band of slayers hiding in remote Tibet fighting off Twilight’s forces and accidentally/on purpose releasing a trinity of ancient goddesses who are about to wreak havoc on the world. This new issue titled Turbulence is written by Joss himself. And it is excellent, filled with loads of his trademark witty, creative dialogue and character beats while moving the overall story along in to intriguing new places. The reveal of the identity of Twilight is about to happen in the books but has already leaked online. And I gotta say it is an odd one. But I go with Joss…after all Joss is Boss!

Anyway, Buffy Season 8 has been awesome from the start. Its been awesome for spinning some top notch stories, bringing back some great writers from the TV show, courting controversy (Buffy had a brief gay fling much to the horror of some fans and some of the media…twats!) But mostly its been awesome for just bringing back some much loved characters and giving them their proper voices courtesy of the god who be Whedon. Season 8 still has a while left to go and Season 9 is already being sketched out. Buffy Lives!

Angel issue 29
The only other series I currently get every issue of is the IDW produced Angel, the official continuation of the Buffy spin-off TV series of the same name.

For those not in the know Angel was Buffy’s vampire-with-a-soul boyfriend from seasons 1,2 & 3 before he got his own show, relocating to LA where he gathered a team around him to fight evil and “help the helpless.” Angel the series was cancelled at the end of season 5 (not through poor ratings, just to save money so the network could make cheaper reality shows instead) and it finished on a cliffhanger in the brilliant episode Not Fade Away. At series end the evil demonic law firm Wolfram and Hart, the main villains of the show, had been defeated. Unfortunately that defeat led to all hell being literally unleashed on earth…well…Los Angeles anyway. The last we saw of Angel and his few surviving teammates they were in a rain soaked alley, swords and axes in hand, about to face down a huge demonic horde. There was even a giant dragon. Hopeless odds surely. But Team Angel was up for the fight with Angel’s last words on screen being the immortal, “Let’s go to work!” as he charged the enemy with sword raised high.

This comic series, also starting in 2007 and originally titled Angel: After the Fall but now simply Angel, picked up several months after that fight in the alley. A fight Team Angel didn’t exactly win nor lose. LA is still hell with demon lords running various sectors and Angel (sans team) still at large, fighting the good fight, trying to help and protect the surviving humans. The series has been good and fun to read…mostly. Its problem is that Joss Whedon hasn’t been directly involved ala Buffy Season 8, only commenting on overall story lines and offering advice. Nor have any of the shows original writers been involved. So, to me, it has lacked the wit and smarts and the charm that Season 8 has had by the bucketload. But having said that it is still a good read and they did bring in one of my fave authors Kelley Armstrong a while back to script several issues, which was great. Plus it has Spike as a regular character. And Spike was and is my favourite character in the entire Buffyverse and one of my favourite characters in fiction ever. That platinum punk vamp kicks so much ass.

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