Today’s Super Comic — Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #16 (2008)

buffy-season-eight-16All Buffy comic books will pale in comparison to the TV show—my favorite show of all time. But that doesn’t mean the comics can’t be fun in their own right.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight continues where the TV show left off, and it continues with storylines and plot elements that would have looked stupidly ridiculous on live-action television, such as a giant Dawn early in the series and a flying Buffy later on. This is Buffy without the budgetary restrictions, but it works just fine in comic book form because the characters all sound like themselves and act true to form under the guidance of series creator Joss Whedon. And artist Karl Moline does a superb job translating the actors into cartoons.

One of the stronger storylines begins in #16, and it benefits from reintroducing us to characters and a setting created specifically for comic books.

Buffy time-travels to the future and meets Fray, who was the protagonist of Whedon’s spinoff miniseries of the same name. With this being only part one, we just get a taste of how these two leading ladies will interact, and it’s already spot-on.

This series isn’t an essential continuation of the TV show, but it scratches the itch for us diehard fans. (Though I still haven’t gotten around to reading Season Nine. One of these days.)

Writer: Joss Whedon

Penciler: Karl Moline

Inker: Andy Owens

Cover: Jo Chen

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Buffy the Vampire Slayer vol. 4: Time of Your Life (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Fray #1 (2001)

Fray 1Catch-up post!

Adaptations are tricky. I’ve read some fun Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, but no matter how talented an artist is, he or she will never be able to capture the full breadth of an actor’s mannerisms. Something always feels like it’s missing.

But with the miniseries Fray, Joss Whedon sidesteps the adaptation problem by creating something entirely new within the Buffy universe…just set many years in the future. It’s a spinoff where the only element that carries over is the concept of a vampire slayer, but everything else is different, fresh, and ideally suited for the comic book medium.

Melaka Fray is no Buffy clone. She’s got her own distinct personality and motivations in a distinct setting with a distinct supporting cast. Not a piece of source-material baggage to be found. But like Buffy, she comes across as an engaging, flawed heroine right from the start.

And, thanks to a solid script by Whedon and great layouts by Karl Moline, the result is a fantastic read—whether you’ve ever watched an episode of Buffy or not. The first issue succeeds in setting the stage for a compelling story, particularly because it does so without burdening the reader with an onslaught of exposition.

If you read one Buffy-related comic, this should be it.

Writer: Joss Whedon

Penciler: Karl Moline

Inker: Andy Owens

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Fray (TPB)

Appropriate For: 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic: Astonishing X-Men #14 (2006)

AXM 14Joss Whedon deconstructs Cyclops, and it’s about as brilliant as you would expect.

Before he took on Earth’s Mightiest Film Franchise, Whedon wrote a love letter to classic X-Men comics over the course of 25 issues of Atonishing X-Men, in which he was paired with superb artist John Cassaday. They presented no bold new interpretation of the X-Men. Rather, they told solid X-Men stories focusing on several popular characters, and they did so with exceptional skill, polish, and humor.

Every issue features Whedon’s snappy dialogue and Cassaday’s detailed, cinematic art. But #14 also features great insight into Cyclops’s character. The Avengers have Captain America. The Fantastic Four have Mr. Fantastic. And the X-Men have…Cyclops? What makes him so special?

The issue plays to Whedon’s strengths…namely, one couple having a substantial conversation while another couple…well, they’re not conversing much, but they provide the comedy to balance out the Cyclops storyline.

And Cassaday isn’t just a great artist — he also excels at staging the action via his page layouts, like a good director. The book’s funniest moment lands because of Cassaday’s “direction” … and also because Whedon knows when to step aside and let the pictures tell the story.

It’s the X-Men done right.

Writer: Joss Whedon

Artist: John Cassaday

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Astonishing X-Men vol. 3: Torn (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 15 and up