With the tragic death of Luke Perry (1966-2019) from a stroke this past week, there’s been an influx of “Buffy” fans announcing that they loved him as Pike in the 1992 “Buffy” movie and they are rewatching the film in his honor. Some are even going so far to say they like the movie, giving it a bizarre short-term boost in cult popularity.
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?
Often when a comic book series ends, that final issue will sit in its slot on the racks for a long time afterward, since there is no next issue to replace it. My enduring memory of “Tales of the Vampires” (December 2003-April 2004) is seeing Issue 5 on the rack for a year or so. It was the last issue of Dark Horse’s original “Buffy” run, leaving a three-year gap before Season 8 began in 2007. (It wasn’t a total dark age: There were “Buffy” novels throughout this time, and IDW’s “Angel” comics started in 2005.)
A lot of comic series whimper to their conclusion, but “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Classic” is not one of them. It saves the best for last, ironically by going back to the start of the timeline and filling in the events between “The Origin” and “Welcome to the Hellmouth” (Season 1, episode 1) in its final three arcs. Here’s a look at the last two, which — like “Viva Las Buffy!” (Issues 51-54) — are rare spin-off yarns that qualify as essential reads if you want a full picture of Buffy’s hero’s journey.
“X-Men” veteran Scott Lobdell and “Deadpool” co-creator Fabian Nicieza become the third and final regular helmer(s) on “Buffy Classic,” following Andi Watson, who did uneven work while being handcuffed by continuity, and Tom Fassbender and Jim Pascoe, who found ways to tell creative stories on the comic pages. Out of the gates, Lobdell and Nicieza (who had previously written “The Death of Buffy: Lost and Found”) impressively raise Fassbender/Pascoe’s already high bar.
“Groundhog Day” (1993) is of course the touchstone of the “repeating the same day” genre, so when another film comes along with that premise, it’s intriguing, but it also gives me pause: Will it merely repeat “Groundhog Day” for a younger generation, or will it have something new to say? Available via Redbox and streaming, “Happy Death Day” (2017) is a mixture. It starts off too much in the same vein, but gets more creative as it moves toward a satisfying ending.