In Review: Giles #1

The horror's back in high school, with Giles stuck growing up and protecting his classmates.

The covers: A trio to choose among, with one of them being unlisted! The Regular cover is by Steve Morris and has Giles adjusting his glasses while looking at the reader. He’s very gangly, which is how I would expect him. Walking next to him is Roux, who looks indifferent and tough. The exterior of the school is behind them in a flat blue and a peach tree can be seen above them. The shadow work is really good. A fine cover, but I’d prefer to see more of Giles. A mass of high school students between classes crowds the halls on the Variant cover by Arielle Jovellanos with Comicraft. The variety of students is good, with Giles standing out well and Roux noticeable on the far left. The colors are really 1980s, with so much violet. This is okay, but looks forty years old. The best cover is the second Variant cover by Jenny Frison, which is not listed on the inside cover of the physical book. This has Giles holding up a golden tome that bears the title Eudemonia. The Watcher’s face, as he appeared in the television series, peeks over the top of the book, as a yellow tentacle creeps over the top and can be seen snaking over his hand that holds the book. I love this cover. Overall grades: Regular B+, Variant Jovellanos B-, and Variant Frison A+

The story: Joss Whedon and Erika Alexander created this story which opens in a very shocking way. An eclipse is occurring, the rain is torrential, and lightning is striking everywhere around the St. Thomas Bridge in San Pedro. Teenage Giles has jumped off the bridge headfirst while thinking, ‘I am that guy. A death merchant. Dooming everything I touch. So, on this day without light, my sins laid bare, I condemn myself to death. Yet through her bloody kiss I will be reborn. Immortal.’ And he’s doing this all for a girl. He yells, “Loo-ve suu-cks!” as purple tentacles writhe above the water and it’s unseen owner saying, “Mother! Howl!” Hitting the water, the former Watcher swims deep. With a turn of the page the story goes back in time four and half weeks, now locating to Living Legend Charter School in the basement. Two students are in the dank setting: a wispy red headed teen and an African-American in a hoodie, which when pulled up has fun look that resembles a mohawk. They are there for her to do something, but before she can, the purple tentacles appear and grab the boy. The girl is barely able to run from the scene with her life. The scene moves again, now ten days later, as Rupert Giles enters the school for his first day. He’s been sent there because of rumors of vampire killings. Under the name Ralph Columbo, chosen by Buffy (HA!), he gets to investigate in plain sight. He’s not thrilled about one bit about having to go to school and finds himself right in the middle of something in the halls. His accent makes him a target, but he evades immediate trouble. He encounters someone he knew before his death and rebirth, but this individual doesn’t reveal much. It’s the girl with the hoodie that becomes Giles’s ally, and she’s got a few solid secrets to reveal. Page 12 has Giles learning that something’s not right at this institute. The final four pages are neat and has me very interested to see where this is going. I do hope that Giles gets to use his abilities more in upcoming issues, because it did seem like it took a while for him to be the character that he’s been in the comics. One incredibly cool addition that’s in this issue is a mixtape list to listen to while reading the story. What an extraordinary idea! This is just a flat out awesome idea and has me wishing that the previous seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer had done this. It’s like looking forward to seeing who was performing at the Bronze in every episode. Overall grade: A-

The art: This issue looks very different from the previous adventures of Buffy and Angel (and Faith!) published by Dark Horse. The artist is Jon Lam and his work has a manga-like look to the characters, especially Giles. I’m not completely sold on his look in this series. I’m used to seeing Giles look much younger, and he’s looking pretty tall and strong, unlike the gawky preteen he’s been. He’s also got very stylized hair, with a certain number of spikes in it regardless of the angle his head is at. His glasses have also got a constant glare on them. Again, this is Lam’s style, and it’s got me on the fence. It doesn’t annoy me, but it’s so different it might just take a while for me to get used it. Giles aside, the rest of the characters look fine and that’s probably because this is the first time they’ve been shown in comics. Roux looks great in every panel she’s in and I love the hoodie she has, which sets her apart from others. Lom’s settings are extremely detailed, which brings a strong sense of reality to the proceedings. The supernatural elements of the book are also well done, with the tease of tentacles being particularly neat, the magic Giles casts cool (More of this, please!), and the glow around some individuals neat. However, there’s a computer blur done on some of these characters that looks like a 1970s television blue screen effect — it would have looked much better had the art remained left alone. Outside of Giles, I’m liking what I’m seeing. Overall grade: B+

The colors: Dan Jackson, the regular colorist on other Buffy books, does his usual outstanding job on this book. The first page captures rainfall and the ocean with plenty of blues, but check out the purple aura around the sun — that’s an ominous sign using an usual color. The purple tentacles are gleefully grotesque with their colors. The third page explodes with colors as the setting is established, diminishing the darkness of the previous two pages. Giles’s hair has a brown and tan pattern to it that makes him stand out in a crowd. The lockers of the school are blood red, which, with my being a high school teacher, had me thinking that was a really foreboding color. Violets and purples show magic and they are terrific colors to stand out in this normal setting. Sounds also get some solid colors throughout, punching up the scenes where they appear. Jackson never disappoints. Overall grade: A

The letters: Also veterans of past Buffy books, Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt provide the text which includes scene settings, the story’s title, narration, sounds, monster speech, dialogue, signage, poster text, yells, and vampire speech. Having so many different fonts allows the text of the book to be as visually entertaining as the images. Plus the different texts tell the readers what it is he or she is reading, such as narration or dialogue and normal speech and monster speech. I’m partial to sound effects and there are several cool ones, especially in the closing action sequence. Overall grade: A

The final line: Teenage Giles is investigating vampires at a charter school and encounters a threat much larger. The premise is set out in this issue, so I’m ready to see where this is going to go next. The visuals are fine, though the style is something that’s going to require me getting used to on the lead. The horror’s back in high school, with Giles stuck growing up and protecting his classmates. Overall grade: A-

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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