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There’s a New Sheriff in Magic Town: Angel & Faith Season 10 from Dark Horse Comics

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Ever since Barnabas Collins bared his fangs for the 1960’s Gothic daytime soap opera, Dark Shadows, we’ve been enamored with repentant vampires. The idea of the ultimate bad-boy-turned-good by the love of a woman, captured our dark hearts. Like Barnabas, the path to true love never did run smooth for fellow repentant vampire Angel (created by Executive Producer Joss Whedon), and of course, there’s a twist to that epic love story as well.

 

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What it Was…

For those who are unfamiliar with the tale, Angel is a vampire cursed with a soul (in the Buffyverse vampires do not have souls, as a rule, with only two exceptions) by a group of vengeance-seeking gypsies, for the atrocities he has committed.  Now, feeling the full weight of the devastation he has wrought, Angel (once the worst of his vampire-kind – known then as Angelus / Liam – when he was human – who wasn’t that much better), seeks redemption for his sins.

When we first meet Angel (played by David Boreanaz – Bones) in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he is watching over Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar). OK, he comes off like a creepy stalker whose motives are unclear at first, but he means well.

Eventually, he joins Buffy and her friends in the fight against evil. Unfortunately, Angel makes the mistake of falling in love with the young slayer. In a moment of unbridled passion, Angel loses his soul again (part of the gypsy curse). A moment of true happiness turns Angel back into a soulless, heartless, mass-murdering monster.

Once his soul is restored, Angel knows he can’t stay with Buffy, as he can’t risk the demon within returning to destroy her and all those around her. The star-crossed lovers must part. Heartbroken, Angel removes himself from Buffy’s life and relocates to Los Angeles (the City of Angels – where else?) where he sets up Angel Investigations – a detective agency with a mission to protect the weak and the helpless.

Along the way, Angel meets Doyle (played by the late Glenn Quinn – Roseanne), a half-human half-Brachen demon, whose painful psychic visions aid Angel on his mission. By chance he also re-meets friend and former mean girl Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter – Veronica Mars), trying to make it big in Hollywood as an actress.

Later, Angel is joined by disgraced Watcher Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (Alexis Denishof – How I Met Your MotherGrimm), former-gang-member-turned-slayer Charles Gunn (J. August Richards – Arrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), super science geek Winifred ‘Fred’ Burkle (Amy Acker – Dollhouse, Person of Interest), and the green, karaoke-loving, telepathic demon Lorne (played by the late Andy Hallett).

When the TV series ended in 2004 (in the finale Not Fade Away), we were left with the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers. Angel, along with fellow vamp Spike (James Marsters), Gunn and Illyria (the Demon taking up residence in Fred’s body), were left with Hell literally raining down upon them — a parting gift from the Senior Partners from the evil law firm of Wolfram and Hart (The Wolf, The Ram and The Heart).

With an army of demons bearing down upon them,  a dragon flying overhead, the loss of their friend, Wesley, and Gunn wounded, our four heroes stand, seriously outnumbered. The last thing we see is Angel, leading the charge. That image burned into our retinas. We were left staring blankly at the screen in disbelief. This couldn’t be the end, could it? I hadn’t been this upset by a series finale since the last episode of Blake’s 7… but I digress… as I often do. Sadly, we never saw Angel and company grace our screens again.

 

Angel and Faith Season 10 #1, ULTRA Variant cover by Rebekah Isaacs

Angel and Faith Season 10 #1, ULTRA Variant cover by Rebekah Isaacs

Our Dark Knight Returns…

Joss Whedon resurrected Angel in 2007 (then with comics from IDW Publishing) picking up where the TV finale left off.  For the last two seasons, Joss and Dark Horse Comics have teamed Angel up with Faith the Vampire Slayer (played by Eliza Dushku in the series) to continue their adventures. Faith has come back from the brink herself, and in her own way, is also seeking redemption for her sins. Both lonely souls bond, becoming allies and friends.

Season 9 of Angel & Faith saw the return of Rupert Giles, Buffy’s Watcher (played in the series by Anthony Stewart Head). Angel had killed Giles while under the influence of magic in Season 8 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, there was an unforeseen consequence to resurrecting our beloved Giles (formerly a middle-aged Englishman). When he returns, he comes back as a young, almost Harry Potteresque pre-teen, capable of wielding magic himself. As we have learned, magic can be unpredictable and dangerous at times. Welcoming Giles back to the world of the living comes with a steep price. Part of London is sacrificed in order to do it and now part of the city is flooded with magic and overrun with supernatural beings.

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Here Comes the Law…

When we return, we find our brooding hero, Angel, attempting to deal with the fallout from the previous season, in the section of London known as Magic Town.  As you can imagine, there’s plenty of brooding and self-recrimination that comes with that territory. Meanwhile, we transition over to Faith, who has joined Buffy and the Scoobies in Santa Rosita to help fight the dreaded “zompires” (zombie vampires), as we saw in the Season 10 opener of Buffy. Faith also delivers her comrades the greatest of all gifts in the form of a youthful Giles, though it pains her greatly to do so as she watches the joyful reunion from the distance, always the outsider.

For Season 10 of Angel & Faith, Victor Gischler and Will Conrad take the helm from the creative team of Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs (who have moved over to the main Buffy comic) and with them they bring an intense, dark flavor that suits this series quite well.

Far less colorful and light-hearted in tone than Buffy, Gischler and Conrad match the look and feel of the Angel TV series. Will Conrad’s artwork captures the likenesses of the actors from the show (especially Boreanaz and Dushku) beautifully, and that alone had me hooked.  The story itself is fast-paced, with plenty of tension and drama. Though I found the transitions between Angel’s scenes and Faith’s a bit jarring, I blew through the issue quickly, and found myself disappointed when it was over so soon.

 

Andy Says…

The skilled team of Gischler and Conrad hit the opening issue out of the ballpark and left me wanting more. As a fan of the series, what more can you ask for? Angel & Faith Season 10 Issue 1 from Dark Horse Comics is out today at a comic book store near you.

New Rules for the Old Team in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10” From Dark Horse Comics

Buffy, The Vampire Slayer: Season 10 # 1 - Steve Morris Cover Art

Buffy, The Vampire Slayer: Season 10 # 1 – Steve Morris Cover Art

Buffy the Vampire Slayer… 

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve been living under a rock. Lately, large chunks of time seem to disappear without my knowledge or consent, and before I know it, decades have passed. I don’t like it one bit.

It didn’t seem all that long ago, when in fact over 16 years have passed since the diminutive Sarah Michelle Gellar first burst onto our TV screens, kicking demon ass as the feisty, wise-cracking Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And yes, it has been more than 10 years since the television series ended. I didn’t want to do the math either.

 

What it Was…

Needless to say, the hit cult TV series from Executive Producer Joss Whedon (not to be confused with its predecessor and 1992 theatrical release), about a seemingly ordinary 16-year-old girl, gifted with super powers, destined to rid the world of vampires, demons and other creatures of the night, surprised and delighted us. Armed with a pointy wooden stake and an equally sharp tongue, this pint-sized hero has become a symbol of girl power for young women everywhere. And like myself, fans never stopped hoping for Buffy’s return. At the very least we expected a spinoff featuring one of our beloved Scoobies. So we waited… and waited… and waited…

 

Never Say Goodbye…

When we last saw our beloved Scooby Gang (on our screens almost 11 years ago), they had defeated the The First Evil (aka the Big Bad), and along with a team of Slayer Potentials, whose powers had been activated by the Super-Witch, Willow (played by Alyson Hannigan – American Pie, How I Met Your Mother), had saved the world yet again. Just as it seemed there were many more stories to tell, after seven seasons (and two networks), it was time to say goodbye to our heroes.

After the series finale, rumors continued to circulate about a TV spinoff for fellow Slayer (and Buffy rival) Faith (played by Eliza Dushku – Tru Calling, Dollhouse) and for Bad-Vamp-Turned-Good, Spike (James Marsters – Torchwood, Supernatural). And what ever happened to the Ripper spinoff featuring Rupert Giles (played by Anthony Stewart Head – Doctor Who) we heard so much about? Over time, we started to lose hope we’d ever see our friends again. While Team Buffy had certainly earned the vacation, we weren’t ready to lose them forever.

 

Buffy Season 10 #1 - Ultra Variant Cover Art by Rebekah Isaacs (Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics)

Buffy Season 10 #1 – Ultra Variant Cover Art by Rebekah Isaacs (Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics)

A Slayer’s Job is Never Done…

The fact is you can’t keep a good Slayer down, and four years after the final episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired, series creator Joss Whedon resurrected our old friends in the form of continuing adventures from Dark Horse Comics.

For Season 10, Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs have crossed over from the Angel and Faith series (also from Dark Horse), bringing with them their take on the Buffyverse for Joss Whedon and Dark Horse’s flagship book. Written by Gage, and beautifully illustrated by Isaacs, the Scooby Gang are a welcome sight for these tired, sore old eyes.

In this latest installment, Buffy and company (formerly from Sunnydale), now in Santa Rosita, have returned magic to the land (after losing it for much of Season 9), but not without encountering some fallout in the form of “zompires” (zombie vampires) – mindless, bloodthirsty creatures, bent on destruction. Uneasy alliances are formed to deal with these abominations to both human and vampire kind, but that’s just the beginning of their troubles.

 

Dark Horse's Exclusive Emerald City  Comic Con Variant Cover by Rebekah Isaacs

Dark Horse’s Exclusive Emerald City Comic Con Variant Cover by Rebekah Isaacs


Andy Says…

I must admit, I find it rather comforting to have Buffy, Spike, Willow and Xander (along with some other familiar faces) back up to their old tricks. Though I don’t know how I completely managed to overlook Seasons 8 and 9 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I plan to remedy that oversight immediately and catch up with previous issues.

Season 10 of Buffy feels like a fun reunion with old friends, complete with the trademark banter fans have come to know and love. Issue 1 is also jam packed with action and last minute twists that are so satisfying for the Buffy fan, you can only imagine how hard it is not to give away spoilers, sweetie, but I will resist the temptation and let you all enjoy for yourselves.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10: Issue 1: New Rules is out now! Get it at a comic book store near you.

Serenity Soars Again in Dark Horse Comics’ “Serenity: Leaves on the Wind”

 

 

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(Editor’s Note: Welcome back Adriana “Andy” Melendez for a look at this just launched Dark Horse Series.)

“You are a leaf driven by the wind.” – Herne the Hunter (Robin of Sherwood)

“I am a leaf on the wind… watch how I soar.” –  Hoban Washburne (Firefly)

It’s fitting for me to link two of my favorite series together via the above quotes. Both are about a misfit band of outlaws on the run. Though not always merry, you can burn the land and boil the sea, but you can’t can’t keep a good ship down.

 

What it Is…

That’s right, Mal and the crew from Joss Whedon’s space western, Firefly (which ran on Fox from 2002-2003) make their welcome return in the form of new adventures from Dark Horse Comics.

For those who are a bit fuzzy on the details, here’s a recap. Firefly/Serenity is set in the 26th century across hundreds of moons which have been terraformed to become New Earths, capable of sustaining life. Human settlements colonized these moons, as it would appear our Earth could no longer sustain life.

In this future, two super-powers emerged, fusing to become one central government – The Alliance. Think more in terms of the Peacekeepers (Farscape) and less like the Federation (Star Trek). Sadly, this brave new world looks a lot like our old one, with huge gaps between the rich and the poor, and many struggling to survive. This new world order, and the fight for independence from tyrannical government control, is where our 26th century Robin Hood comes in.

Firefly follows the exploits of Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (former soldier turned smuggler, played in the series by Nathan Fillion – One Life to Live, Castle) and his crew — his second in command Zoe (Gina Torres – Xena, Angel, Cleopatra 2525), her husband and Serenity’s pilot, Hoban “Wash” Washburne  (Alan Tudyk – Dollhouse), ship’s engineer Kaylee (Jewel Staite – Stargate Atlantis), hired gun Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin – My Bodyguard, Full Metal Jacket), and four passengers — Shepherd Derrial Book (Ron Glass – Barney Miller), Inara Serra (Morena Bacarrin – V, Homeland) – a companion (think high-class escort), and a brother and sister with secrets of their own.

When Mal picks up Dr. Simon Tam (played by Sean Maher – Warehouse 13, Arrow) and his mentally-unstable, younger sister River (Summer Glau – The 4400, Sarah Connor Chronicles), things really start to go wrong. Truth be told, you can say Mal wasn’t exactly born under a lucky star, having been on the losing side of the War for Independence (the Browncoats’ attempt to rebel against Alliance control). The decorated war vet was forced into a life of crime. A small price to pay for his freedom from the Alliance, he reckoned. Until they came after River…

Child prodigy River Tam was the subject of cruel government experiments, which had permanently altered her brain. The unpredictable outcome of these experiments left River fractured, an open, raw nerve, incapable of governing her own emotions and vulnerable to the thoughts and emotions of others.

No one could foresee how powerful River would become in the process. Her gift of intuition evolved into powerful psychic powers (empathy, telepathy, mind reading). River also picked up the ability to acquire (or absorb) additional skills with little or no effort, including hand-to-hand combat and deadly accurate aim with a gun. She’d become the ultimate weapon — making her quite valuable to some and quite dangerous to others.


Where We Left Off…

When we last saw our heroes (on the big screen almost a decade ago), they were running from the Alliance and bounty hunters — all after River. In the process, they uncover the Alliance’s darkest secret — their role in the deaths of countless millions on the planet of Miranda.

An attempt by the government to chemically pacify the population on the colony of Miranda goes horribly wrong. The inhabitants become peaceful to the point of complete indolence, killing almost all of them — all except for a small number. The experimental drugs triggered psychotic behavior in the remaining colonists. No longer human, now savage cannibals known as the Reavers, they’ve gone on to terrorize the outer planets.

If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to.

The crew of Serenity go to great lengths, at great cost, to reveal this secret, sending a transmission that reaches across the galaxy, but not before losing two of their own. Former crew member, Shepherd Book, is murdered for offering his friends shelter, and after leaving Miranda, Serenity’s pilot, Wash, is impaled by a Reaver harpoon.

I shed quite a few tears that day. I kept hoping for a happier ending…
The Outlaws Return/Dark Horse Rides to the Rescue…

We knew that couldn’t be the end for our heroes. Like I said, you can’t keep a good ship, or its crew, down. Fan outcry at the premature cancellation of the TV series inspired the Serenity (2005) movie. Again, their unwavering love and loyalty inspires Serenity’s continuing adventures.

Leaves on the Wind follows the events of the theatrical release almost a year after the deaths of Wash and Shepherd. We see what’s left of our heroes… battered and bereft, but never broken. Without giving too much away, I will say Mal and the gang are still on the run, with enemies (both old and new) in hot pursuit… with new challenges to face…

Written by Zack Whedon (younger brother of Firefly and Buffy The Vampire Slayer series creator, Joss Whedon), this latest treatment by Dark Horse (there have been others), beautifully illustrated by Dan Dos Santos and Georges Jeanty, definitely looks and feels like the real deal. I could easily see this as an episode of the TV show.

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Andy Says…

I will be honest and say that I wasn’t initially a fan of Firefly. It can take me a while to warm up to a show. I was the same way with the X-Files, Fringe and a few others, but once I find the heart of it, I am forever loyal.

Firefly definitely had, and still has, heart. Unfortunately, like many shows, it takes about a season for a new series to find its feet. Sadly, Firefly was cancelled by the 11th episode of its 14-episode run. Upon second viewing, however, I saw it for the gem it was. Had it been renewed, I believe it would have had a long, successful run.

While the tone of Issue 1 is somewhat somber, lacking some of the wit and verve the Whedon brothers are known for, it is to be expected, given the circumstances. As we may never get to see our beloved crew on screen again, Leaves on the Wind is a must for the die-hard Firefly/Serenity fan. I  look forward to future installments.

Check out Issue Number 1 of Serenity: Leaves on the Wind, at a comic book store near you today.

Firefly the TV series and Serenity the movie are both available on DVD (also for streaming on Netflix.)