While Joss Whedon himself brought Dracula into the Buffyverse with “Buffy vs. Dracula” (“Buffy” 5.1), comic-book legend John Byrne brought another Universal Monster into the fold with two “Angel vs. Frankenstein” comics – “Heir” in October 2009 and “Fragments” in October 2010. Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is the backstory for the monster, who calls himself Frankenstein in these comics because he sees himself as the heir of the mad doctor who made him.
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Christopher Golden pens another of his excellent “Buffy” epics with “The Wisdom of War” (July 2002). While it feels a little too big for its britches as I try to reconcile this story fitting into the TV show’s narrative flow – for example, Xander nearly gets turned into a fish monster in a more serious reprise of “Go Fish” (2.20) and Buffy suffers a life-threatening injury in the final battle – it earns serious points because Golden nails Faith’s characterization in his first crack at writing the rogue Slayer.
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On my first read of IDW’s “Spike” comics, my attitude was “Why are they introducing new characters instead of using the familiar group?” That’s the curse of new characters introduced into a comic book that continues a TV narrative. Without an actor to anchor them, they seem ephemeral. But the passage of time has changed my perspective, and I warmed up to Brian Lynch’s four-issue “Shadow Puppets” (June-October 2007) on this read.
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After a few late-Season 5 novels skimmed over Joyce’s death as if scared to address it, Mel Odom does it right with the young-adult novel “Crossings” (June 2002). Set between “Forever” (5.17) and “Intervention” (5.18), as most of these late-Season 5 entries are, it digs into the new Buffy-Dawn dynamic while also serving as a sneak preview for additional Season 6 themes like Willow’s magic addiction.
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I’m generally not a fan of stories about a character (and it’s almost always someone who doesn’t belong there) stuck in prison or an asylum. And I didn’t have good memories of my first read-through of Brian Lynch’s “Spike” and “Angel” work, as I probably always judged him harshly against the fact that Joss Whedon loved his storytelling and hand-picked him to tell the ongoing “Angel: After the Fall” story.
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In his debut Buffverse novel, the young-adult entry “Sweet Sixteen” (April 2002), veteran fantasy writer Scott Ciencin seems to make a smart call by focusing on the often-underused Dawn. But after a solid start where Dawn befriends picked-on new girl Arianna, the plot is driven by misunderstandings, manipulations and contrivances. Arguably worse, most of the Scooby Gang is out of character. The book never coalesces into a satisfying whole, and even good tidbits are few and far between.
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When I heard that the “Buffy” Season 5 premiere would be called “Buffy vs. Dracula,” I thought it was a bad idea to bring other people’s characters into a show that was so good at developing its own characters. But the episode won me over as I realized it was about the Scooby Gang’s reaction to Dracula – starting with Buffy thinking it’s cool to meet him – and that approach carries into IDW’s five-issue series “Spike vs. Dracula” (February-June 2006).
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After a brief foray into Season 4 with “The Lost Slayer,” the “Buffy” novels skip over Season 5 (at least for now) and enter Season 6 with “Tempted Champions” (March 2002), Yvonne Navarro’s sophomore effort that improves dramatically from “Paleo” (2000). Not only is this an excellent Anya novel, it’s one of the best Anya stories, period.
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Along with the “Angel” license, IDW also picked up the “Spike” license in 2005. Although there was never a “Spike” TV show, there were enough “Spike” comics that it can be treated as a distinct line, especially since the covers feature a “Spike” logo rather than the “Angel” logo. IDW tested the waters for the title with three double-length one-shots: “Old Times” (August 2005), “Old Wounds” (January 2006) and “Lost & Found” (April 2006).
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In addition to their strong run as the main writers on the “Buffy Classic” comic books, Tom Fassbender and Jim Pascoe also tried their hand at prose with the illustrated novella “Creatures of Habit” (March 2002). As the only “Buffy” story in this format, it might get lost in the shuffle with some fans. That would be too bad, because it’s a fun, easy read with wonderful art by Brian Horton and Paul Lee that will call to mind the “Buffy” comic-book covers from this era.
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