With “Buffy” and “Angel” on different networks, massive crossovers weren’t in the works on TV, but “Monster Island” (March 2003), by Christopher Golden and Thomas E. Sniegoski, rectifies that. Not surprisingly, the mixing of the two character groups leads to continuity errors (more on that later). Most of the novel, set in the early part of “Buffy” Season 6 and “Angel” Season 3, is good reading, although it has the usual problem in the “epic” novels of ending with a long, overblown battle.
It’s like an all-star writing contest when Yvonne Navarro, Mel Odom, Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder get together to write four novellas for “Tales of the Slayer, Vol. 3” (November 2003). At this point in my reread, they are four of the five best Buffyverse writers (with Jeff Mariotte filling the other spot). Here are my rankings of their contributions in this third “Tales” volume:
It’d be cool to read an “Angel” book of 12 short stories that each take place in one hour on the longest night of the year. “The Longest Night” (December 2002), unfortunately, isn’t that book. It claims to be that book on the back cover blurb, but the editors never told the writers. So the gang can be beat up or covered in demon goo the end of one hour and healthy and clean at the start of the next, for example.
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.
Following the “Spotlight” series, IDW’s “Angel” comics line unveiled more stories focused on individual characters in the loosely Halloween-themed “Masks” (October 2006). The double-length one-shot includes stories about Puppet Angel, Illyria, Cordelia and Lindsey McDonald, all themed around the figurative masks people wear.
Perhaps you’re a fan of the “Buffy” TV series or the TV-series-plus-the-current-comics who is thinking of tip-toeing into the canonically muddy waters of the old Dark Horse comics, from 1998-2004. There is a ton of good stuff (and some not-so-good stuff) to weed through, but maybe you want to cut to the chase. Which stories tie in most closely with the TV series? Which ones enhance the narrative? In short: Which ones are essential?
The four-book serial novel “The Lost Slayer” (August-November 2001) is one of the grimmest “Buffy” stories on record, oddly taking place near the start of Season 4, a relatively sunny point in the timeline. It’s ambitious, as Christopher Golden brings our favorite Slayer into an alternate future, thus allowing for narrative freedom not usually found in spinoff fiction. But it also seems to have been written too quickly, as it has an unusual amount of errors and oddities.
The most heavily marketed “Buffy” video game, “Chaos Bleeds,” got both comic book (June 2003) and novel (August 2003) adaptations. Usually video game tie-ins are red flags for readers, because there’s a danger they will be the literary equivalent of watching someone play the game. On the other hand, authors are often aware of this danger, and they have been known to dodge it. In “Star Wars” Legends, for instance, “Republic Commando” and “X-Wing” are among the elite book series.
Oz served an important role on “Buffy” as a representative of a classic monster (the werewolf), Willow’s boyfriend, and a steadying presence among the Scooby Gang. But, despite the fact that Seth Green was the second-most-famous actor in the cast, there weren’t many Oz-centric episodes. When Green left the show in Season 4, it left a gap between “Wild at Heart” (4.6) and “New Moon Rising” (4.19) that felt rather empty. And even though the two episodes themselves are great, they feel like Willow episodes more so than Oz episodes.
Following James Marsters and preceding Juliet Landau and Nicholas Brendon, Amber Benson became the second “Buffy” actor to write a Buffyverse comic, co-penning three “Willow & Tara” issues with veteran scribe Christopher Golden. Considering her editorial at the back of the first issue where she says she only got into the medium in preparation for this gig, it’s a darn impressive debut.