Most Buffy fans who have gotten their hands on the slew of post-BtVS Season Seven graphic novels already know that it’s a Long Way Home for Ms. Summers, but just how did this wild and crazy ride of hers start off, anyway? Hints and open-ended sentences provided teasing glimpses of what had come before Sunnydale. And that movie from back in ’92? You know, the one with no Sara Michelle Gellar? Best not to dwell on that too much (even though it ain’t half bad . . . but that’s a story for another time.) Well, the folks at Dark Horse Books have collected a series of tales that shed light on that time, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus: Volume 1. And it’s just what the slayer ordered. Okay, maybe not; Buffy would probably think that people looking in on her life would be way creepy. But I’ve read my copy already, so . . . shall we?
Scott Allie calls this a collection of Year One stories in his Introduction to Volume 1, and I think that description fits perfectly. The remainder of these pre-series stories conclude in Volume 2, he says, and if that book matches this one in terms of artwork, story progression and character development of this first volume, I eagerly anticipate Volume 2. But there’s a ton of information in this current volume to quench many a fan’s lust for backstory. Hey, they even start out with a little Spike & Dru action, something that’s always welcome to my tired eyes. Those two crazy kids, in the story “All’s Fair,” get up to their usual hijinks at the Chicago World’s Fair, and meet up with what could be a bad karmic payback. Will the lovebirds triumph? Please. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have been in Sunnydale. The story still manages to entertain, and the artwork is full of different shades of red, just the way Spike and Drusilla would want it.
Speaking of mayhem (ahem) next is “The Origin,” a re-telling of the original got-kicked-out-of-L.A. story that the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie originally told, and that is referenced in the TV show. This version takes the place of that story entirely, forming a darker, less tongue-in-cheek look at Buffy’s life on the cusp of her rise to the Slayer. Here, you see her as a popular girl, a typical rich-kid snob whose life gets up-ended by the arrival of a Watcher who tells her about her destiny. The story feels a little rushed, but they did manage to fit it all into one comic! Pretty neat trick, I think. Of course, I’m used to a Big Bad running amok through an entire television season, but this isn’t a season, it’s a prologue. And not only does it tidy things up nicely, it leads to . . .
“Viva Las Buffy!” The story of Buffy’s trip to Las Vegas immediately after her old high school burns to the ground. Told from Pike’s point of view (her boyfriend before Angel came into the picture), it’s bittersweet and perfectly tied in to the TV storyline. And I mean that in the very best way. There’s even a hint of Ripper goodness for the Giles fans out there, and I for one was absolutely ecstatic about that, being a huge fan of the Watcher myself. If we can’t have Ripper, well, this is the next best thing. With the added bonus of no worries about television censors or “we can’t do that on basic cable!” After reading “Viva Las Buffy!,” I couldn’t help but wonder if Buffy’s hangup on Spike was at least partly due to her unresolved feelings for Pike. Pike, Spike; maybe, maybe not. Only Season Eight can tell.
Next in the collection? “Dawn & Hoopy The Bear.” Let me get this out of my system right now; I’ve always thought of moments dealing with Dawn as Time I’ll Never Get Back. When the Introduction to this volume mentioned that a Dawn story was included, and that Dawn would be inserted into the Buffy “Year One” stories? I pouted like a 5-year-old. Hey, I respect the hell out of Michelle Trachtenberg, the actress who brought a touching, broken humanity to what I’ve often considered a fifth-wheel character. And some of the scenes between Dawn and Buffy in the TV series (most especially in that sucker-punch episode “The Body” and its follow-up, “Forever”), are breathtaking. I just didn’t like the “jumping the shark” vibe that I got when they introduced the younger, make-believe sister of Buffy. Too many shows I loved when I grew up did the same thing, and the show suffered for it (I’m looking at you, Family Ties and Love Boat!) And “The Key”? Yawn. Next! Still, I really liked “Hoopy” despite myself. It’s a hilarious little “Monkey’s Paw” of a story, with an ending that left me hoping that we’d see Hoopy again.
The final story in this volume, “Slayer, Interrupted,” starts to bring things ’round to Sunnydale. With this tale, we see Buffy’s time in the mental hospital, trying to figure out what’s real and what isn’t. Giles gets some serious time, as he is chosen as one of the finalists for the role of Watcher to the Slayer, and hey, is that Sunnydale High? Sure enough! The final line of the story, and this volume, had me giggling, due in part to the wonderful way the panels laid out that final moment, and also because of my memories of the first time I saw episode one, season one. The final panel of Volume One was a perfect ending to this volume.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus: Volume 1 is a tasty tidbit — yep even at over 300 pages, they fly by so fast that it was over way before I wanted it to be – and an absolute must for Buffy fans. Seriously. You need this on your shelves. Go out, buy it now and thank me later. What more can be said in Volume 2? I don’t care really; if it’s anything like these stories, bring it on!
(Dark Horse Books, 2007)