In Review: Giles #3

Absolute goosebumps for the feels and thrills.

The covers: Two very different covers for this installment that beautifully tease what lies within. The Regular cover is by the extremely talented Steve Morris who’s created a close-up of vampire/girlfriend Roux. The left side of her face contains three moments from her past: as a vampire, as a dead woman, and as a possible slave — ?!? The pictures are incomplete as they’re on fire, with embers falling like tiny comets before her face. In the bottom right is teenage Giles, looking up at the burning history of his girlfriend. And in the bottom right corner Roux is shown with her eyes shut before another woman who also appears sleeping. This sensational composition is fantastic, with the colors gorgeous. This is a fine art frontpiece. The Variant cover by Arielle Jovellanos with Comicraft, which is interesting because there’s no additional text on the cover — it’s just a Buffy plug at the top, the title, and the first three creators on the book. On a riverbank, a ghoulish cloaked figure with powerful glowing eyes is digging a grave to drop dead (unconscious?) Roux into. In the foreground, almost the entire bottom half of the image are silhouettes of modern day Roux and Giles looking at one another, seemingly before they kiss. This is really heavy in different shades of violets, with the silhouettes in the bottom done in white. You would think this wouldn’t work for such a grim illustration, but it works perfectly in giving this cover a very magical flair. I really like how the silhouettes communicate that a kiss is to come. Great job in every way. Overall grades: Both A

The story: I’ve liked, but not loved the first two issues of this series. This is the part where I now take my foot out of my mouth, because I LOVED this issue. Writers Joss Whedon and Erika Alexander focus on Roux’s past. The clever way that this can be shown to the reader is having Giles create a vision spell that allows him, and the reader, to “see her story.” Her tale begins in 1816 at the Remy Plantation in Louisiana. The owner of the plantation has caught the ire of an unknown person for, as the rumors went, he had reneged on a gambling debt. He and all the others, save four slaves, are killed. As Roux tells her story, Whedon and Alexander pause the tale for Giles’s narration, telling the reader how he feels about what he’s seeing. This is a great way to build tension, by stopping this amazing tale, and reminding the reader that Giles is learning all this information and that he’s still uncomfortable with her being a vampire. When the tales continues after the first stop, the individual that turned Roux is revealed. This character is unlike anything I’ve seen in a Buffy or spin-off book. The dialogue from this character gives him quite a voice. When she awakens as a vampire, time has passed and what she does to survive as a person and a vampire is engrossing. I especially like the quick peek into 1862. I was really surprised by what she did in 1892, which is something I don’t think a Whedon vampire has ever done. The intimacy on Page 10 is fantastic: the carefully phrased words and the subtle overtones are gold. This page was the highpoint of the series, and then, rightfully so, a surprise return occurs on 11 to throw a major monkey wrench at everything that happened on 10. Complicating things further is a character that has some pull on Roux. The reveal on 15 is fantastic. And then the final three pages were the cherry on top. I wanted — needed — those final three pages to happen. Yes, there’s a monster in this issue, but it’s the character moments that propel this into the stratosphere. Giving Roux a backstory has made her incredibly likable, relatable, and unquestionable lovable. Overall grade: A

The art: Jon Lam gets a terrific story to illustrate, showing the budding attraction between Giles and Roux and all the horrors that the vampire has endured through her supernatural life. The book opens horrifically. The first panel has a horse angrily rearing up near a shack that’s surrounded by mist. An eclipsed sun is in the sky. This ominous imagery then becomes real terrors, with three men, two muscular twins and a skinny man with a knife (looking very much like actor Bill Moseley), who are responsible for immense carnage shown in the final panel. These three images clearly show that this is going to be a grisly tale. Thankfully, a reprieve to this gruesomeness is given with the top panel on Page 2 with Giles casting his spell to see what Roux is going to tell. This is quickly followed with Master Remy’s fate and the last four people alive at the bottom of the page. This is a terrific illustration with the emotion on the characters’ faces chilling and the villains’ entrance shown through shadows. It is incredibly cinematic. The top of 3 has the same image, though with silhouettes of Roux and Giles before it, pausing the image so that they can speak briefly. The reveal on 4 of Roux’s apartment was completely unexpected and gave her character depth just from the visuals around the individuals. The arrival on 5 is like a dark god arriving from Heaven. The design of this new character is is terrific: his face is partially covered, though his eyes, brow, and pointed noise can be seen. His talons for fingers also make him threatening. When the character is completely revealed on 6 is awesome; he is a terror! The third panel on 7 is great. I really enjoy when fictional characters make their way through history and Lam gets to do a lot of that, with my favorite at the bottom of 8. Page 10 is fantastic, beginning with beautiful linework and slowly pulling into the pair. This sets the stage for 11’s reveal wonderfully, with Roux going into full vamp mode. My favorite image of the book is on 15, which echoes something that happened to Dark Willow. The full page splash on 16 is awesome. However, I fully admit to getting goosebumps just from the visuals on 21. These visuals matched the story flawlessly. Overall grade: A

The colors: Look out how the colors from Dan Jackson accentuate every aspect of the visuals. The cool, dim colors of the first panel put the reader in an deliriously awkward situation: the colors are dim, pulling the reader into the art, only to deliver them into something frightening in the next panel. I love the red eclipsed sun in that first panel and the sensational job done with the fog that surrounds all three panels on this opening page. The bodies in the final panel are wonderfully obscured by the colors, but the reader rightly gets pulled in closer to the book. The colors when Giles casts his spell on 2 have him bright, while Roux, the undead vampire, almost blends into the background, which is a nifty way to differentiate them. The blue of Giles’s spell appears throughout the book and is delightfully luminescent. The red used for the cloak on the most monstrous character of the book perfectly draws the reader’s eye every time this character appears. My favorite colors of the book are in the bottom panel on 11: look at how the colors create the lighting for the scene, with one object glowing amazingly. That said, the pages with fire are also beautiful, as are the overpowering yellows on the penultimate page. Jackson is on fire as much as his colors are. Overall grade: A

The letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt create this issue’s scene settings, sounds, dialogue, narration, the story’s title, French dialogue, vampire dialogue, a whisper, screams, and yells. The scene settings are a strong font that thrusts the reader into every era that Roux retells. The sounds are big and powerful, giving the book some terrific auditory moments. I like that the narration is differentiated from the dialogue, that the vampire dialogue looks as ferocious as their speakers, and the excellent screams and yells. This duo always creates winning text. Overall grade: A

The final line: Focusing on characters, this issue will resonate with readers. Absolute goosebumps for the feels and thrills. I’m officially on board for much more. 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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