Thursday, June 23, 2005

Today is June 23rd.

Excellent. The above (below?) experiment was a success! Hooray! That means that I can make this entry that I had wanted to make with no problem.

Lots to talk about, so be prepared for a longish entry.

We went to the library on Sunday. I am very happy with the selection of books I checked out, so I'm going to gloat about them for a bit.

The 5 books I checked out were:

Tales of the Vampires by Joss Whedon and a bunch of other Buffy writers and comic drawers. I'll be reviewing this later in this blog entry. With spoiler tags!

Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology are Revolutionizing an Art Form by Scott McCloud. This is a sequel to Understanding Comics which I know that Jess talked about earlier this year. I haven't finished reading this yet, but I think that Jess would appreciate it. Also, she'd be MUCH more articulate regarding it than I ever could dream of being, so, um, basically Jess, you should read this book.

Mindscan by Robert J. Sawyer. I started this yesterday (because I left Reinventing Comics at work. Doh!) and I'm only 3 chapters in, but I am LOVING it. Sawyer is one of my favorite authors, and it looks like this work will not disappoint. Finally, some fiction - that isn't a graphic novel - that I can get into again. Yay!

Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology
by Eric Bende. Looks interesting. The author (and his wife, I believe) decide to live an entire year with no electricity at all. Should provide some insight into life off the grid.


Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control
by Derrick Jensen and George Draffan. Jensen is one of the harshest critics of civilization and I've read practically every other book he's written, so I'm gonna give this one a go. Plus, being scared shitless by the amount of surveillance going on by those "in control" ought to be fun. [grin]

I'll let you know my inarticulate thoughts on these books as I finish them. Thus far the only one I've completed is Tales of the Vampires. That was a mishmash, seeing how it was an anthology of short comic tales done by several different artists. But it was Buffy-related, so I checked it out. Here's the skinny on each story.

The book, apparently, was originally released as 4 or 5 issues, each having part of the overall arc as well as some of the vignettes of vampiric tales. I would be pretty pissed to have to spend 3 bucks a pop for something that would be only 15 pages long, but that might just be me. Anyway, the book I got from the libe was all of them collected into one. (Apparently the term is "trade paperback". I'm slowly learning the comic book lingo.)

The varied tales of the vampires are, as I said above, connected by the narrative thread from the beginning, where a group of Watchers-in-Training are being introduced to an ancient vampire that the Watcher's Council has as a prisoner.
And now is the time on P@rix when we use spoilers.

[Begin spoiler for Tales of the Vampires - highlight to view]
Four young Watchers are brought down into a dungeon, where an obviously old vampire, named Roche, is chained up. The premise is that they have been brought to the vampire in order to hear the vampire tell them stories of what vampires are like in the real world.
Roche tells them 11 tales of vampires - 12 if you count his own, where we learn the shocking twist that his sire was actually a young girl, who winds up being one of the Watchers in training.

The watchers in training aren't really developed well enough to care about, save for Edna, the protagonist. As the story progresses, we learn that she is "in love with the baker's boy", and in the very end we discover that the "baker's boy" is working at Giles' Bakery, thus implying that she is going to grow up to be the mother of Rupert Giles. Aww.

[end spoiler]

Now, for the tales that are told...

[begin spoiler for Father - highlight to view]
This story was by Jane Espenson, and was one of the best in the bunch.  It begins in 1930, with a young boy stating that "something bad happened to his father once". It shows his dad being turned into a vamp. When he rises from his grave, he makes his way home, and doesn't kill his young child. (Vamps who show some humanity really do make the best stories, don't they?) Instead, he continues to be a dad, and takes his boy for outings to the Santa Monica Pier - at night, of course.

In 1945, the boy is now a young man, back from the war. He meets a young woman, and they have a night wedding so that his father can attend.

1950, the narrator and his wife have a child, and his mother-in-law gets some bad vibes about the father being around the baby. When the son tells him he can't be around the infant, the mother-in-law goes missing.

Then he doesn't see his father for 50 years. Year 2000, and the narrator is now old, saying he doesn't have much time left, tracks his dad down so they can reconnect. His father - who is supposed to be a soulless monster - takes care of him for 3 years while the narrator is bedridden.

The final pages are heartbreaking. The old man is lying in bed with his father sitting next to him. The narration reads: "This is how we were, right before the door was kicked in." And it then shows a Slayer (I thought it was Buffy at first, but it doesn't look exactly like her) kicking the door in, taking the father, throwing him up against the wall, and staking him.
The Slayer turns to the old man and says, "Was he going to hurt you?"
[narration box] I said no. I said he took care of me.
Slayer: I'm sorry. Was he your son?
[narration box] I said yes. It was close enough.


[end spoiler]

[begin spoiler for Spot the Vampire - highlight to view]
Also by Jane Espenson, but lame!
It's told in verse, and it's pretty awful. The drawing is childish as well, so I guess it's supposed to be like a children's book? I don't know. The scene opens with a bunch of customers at a shopping mall at Xmas time, and the poem is asking you to detect which person is actually a vampire.
Turns out at the end that the whole picture at the beginning was in a mirror, and the vampire was behind you, not casting a reflection. What?

[end spoiler]

Next came Dust Bowl... [begin spoiler for Dust Bowl - highlight to view]
Yet another Espenson tale, this time about
a mother and son in 1933 Kansas.
The mother and son own a farm and are trying to get through the Depression and the Dust Storms of that era. A storm arises one day, and a man is traveling through. The mom invites the man in, saying they couldn't leave him out in the storm. The next morning, the mom is a vamp. She tries to kill her son, and in the process he bites her, thus turning himself.

When he reawakens as a vamp, he's disoriented, and winds up killing his mom. (Accidentally, I think.) He goes out and feeds on a cow, then makes it to the neighbor's farm. He wants to turn the neighbor, but since he doesn't make the "other person needs blood" connection, he only kills her.

He puts up a sign on his farm saying, "Room for rent - cheap" and feeds off passersby.

The end shows the growing stack of dead bodies in the barn with the caption reading, "It's just another kind of ranching."

Yeah, most of these are pretty pointless, when you think about it
.[end spoiler]

[begin spoiler for Jack - highlight to view]
Brett Matthews did the story for this rather pedestrian telling of how Jack the Ripper was actually a vampire. Yawn.
[end spoiler]

[begin spoiler for Stacy - highlight to view]
Joss Whedon wrote this one, and you can tell. I mean that both positively and negatively. Stacy tells the story of a disenchanted teenage girl, and it's peppered with pop culture references and Whedonesque witticisms. (Whatever other faults he may have, he can be pretty darn funny.)
Stacy complains that nobody understands her, and her life was empty until she got turned into a vampire, and now she's alive.
I suppose this could be a metaphor for being in cliques? Or gangs? Religion, maybe? I'm not sure. All of these tales are like little character studies. But they aren't really long enough to give insight into  the characters, ya know?
[end spoiler]

[begin spoiler for Some Like It Hot - highlight to view]
This one was just awful.
It was written by Sam Loeb, and tells the tale of a vampire who, while being pretty happy with the life he has, misses the sun. So he tracks down a mad scientist who takes out his heart and replaces it with a I don't know. Anyway, yeah, it was mandated in that one episode of Angel that if a vamp removes their heart, they can be in the sun for 24 hour hours, and then they go poof. And Some Like it Hot makes mention of that.
But apparently, if you put a piece of silver in the place where the heart was, then they can live forever. (I don't know.)
So this vamp that wants nothing more than to feel the warmth of the sun again, has this scientist do the operation. He then goes out into the sun, starts to sweat, and complains that it's too damn hot.

All that for a stupid one-liner? Lame!

[end spoiler]

[begin spoiler for
The Problem with Vampires - highlight to view]
Drew Goddard wrote this one. It's about Spike and Dru, set in Prague. Um. It was okay, I guess.
[end spoiler]

[begin spoiler for Taking Care of Business - highlight to view]
Written by Ben Edlund. An ancient vampire - even older than the Master! - is the centerpiece of this one. This creature has devolved quite a bit, looking suspiciously like an Ubervamp[rolleyes], which is kinda interesting. Also he is covered with cross marks, as though either he tortures himself or has been repeatedly introduced to crosses.

It begins with CrossVamp in a convince store, buying candy. A man in a priest outfit walks in, buys some candy as well. CrossVamp decides that the priest will be his next victim. Before killing the man, though, he opts to tell his life story. Turns out that CrossVamp has been around since the Inquisition, and that he has made a history of killing holy men. Priests, chaplains, bishops, anyone that was a member of the Church. Because, he felt, he was doing God's work.

The priest listens to all this and just eats his candy. When CrossVamp doesn't sense any fear coming from his potential victim, he questions him about it. The priest tells him that he is God. And he wants CrossVamp to go sit out in the desert until the sun comes up. CrossVamp, humbled by being in the presence of God Almighty, wanders off into the desert. "God" stands there for a bit, and then a police cruiser shows up and the sheriff asks "Hollis" where he got the priest suit (mail order) and if he hasn't been taking his meds anymore. Hollis says he met a vampire tonight. Sheriff says, "Oh, is that so? And what happened?" Hollis replies, "I think my Jesus beat his Napoleon."

Okay, so the payoff was kinda lame. But I really would've liked to have seen more of CrossVamp - like maybe on the show. He seemed sufficiently scary.

[end spoiler]

[begin spoiler for Dames - highlight to view]
This was all noirish. About a vamp in Vegas who spies a woman that he wants to kill. Takes her to a makeout cliff area, is going to turn her, and she ends up pushing him off the edge and taking his wallet. Ends with him at the bottom of the cliff waiting for the sun to come up. It probably could've been better, and maybe I'm not giving it enough credit, but I'm also getting somewhat tired of typing. [wink]
Luckily there's only 2 left.

[end spoiler]

[begin spoiler for Antique - highlight to view]

Second to "Spot the Vampire", this one has to be the worst in the lot.

It has Buffy, along with two other Slayers - so it's post-"Chosen", arriving at Dracula's castle.
The entire thing is basically Dracula trying to frighten the Slayers, and them not buying it. Drac and Buffy fight, with Drac saying how even though she's the Leader of the Slayers right NOW, eventually her power will wane because she'll grow older. Her influence will lessen, and she'll become fodder for stale movies and television shows. (heh.)

Anyway, the reason that Buffy & Co. were at Dracula's abode was because he "has something that belongs to me" (Buffy's words) and she wants it back.
The "something" ends up being Xander.
Xander, who still has the eyepatch, has (re)become Dracula's bitch-monkey. He lurches around, and has stubble and appears very Igoresque. If it's supposed to be funny, it falls short. What it does is ruin the memory of Xander Harris' character.

But, wait, there's more!

Eventually Dracula says that Buffy can take Xander with her. But before he goes, Dracula turns to Xander and says, "I'm going to release you fro you trance now. Please know - I have very much enjoyed your company. This past year has been one of the best years of my life."


It took Buffy and her Slayers a full YEAR to decide to rescue her friend? Granted, maybe they didn't know where he was, and it took some research to determine that it was Dracula that was holding Xander, but Jesus Christ. Xander was held hostage and humiliated for a full year?

I suppose I shouldn't let a comic book interpretation of a fictional character bother me. But it just feels like further salt on the wound of what the Buffyverse became. [sigh]

[end spoiler]

[begin spoiler for Numb - highlight to view]
This is just boring Angel/Angelus torment stuff that we've seen a hundred times before. Nothing exciting here.
[end spoiler]

So all in all, I'd say Tales of the Vampires is okay to check out from the library, if you're a fan of Buffy, but not worth paying for.

In other news, Karen Denise Small (that's her name. I've heard enough messages from her now to have picked it up) - the who left me the message - called today and the receptionist patched her through to me so I could talk to her in person. The conversation went thusly:

Me: "Programming, this is Pat."
KDS: "Um...oh. I just wanted to say that I love the programming on the WB and UPN. Thank you."

Huh. I guess getting hold of a live person was more than she was expecting. [shrug]

In other other news, there are 23 days left until the next Harry Potter book comes out. I guess we better preorder our copy, eh?

Phew. This was a lengthy one.


Amy said...

Well, the most important thing here is ... 2,610.

The second most important thing is that I read all your reviews (Hooray for your general thoughts!) because I have no intention of ever reading Tales of the Vampires. That first one sounds kind of interesting. But man, I read Anne Rice. I'm already set with this nonsense.

You should totally preorder! It's for cheap! And then you can do what I plan to do: completely forget about Harry Potter, until the day it magically appears at your door. Just like magic.

Amanda said...

I completely missed the "Edna will be Rupert's mother" thing. I was disappointed in general with the stories in Vampires, too. I liked Tales of the Slayers much better.

Jess said...

Doh! The question here is, to read or not to read the spoilers for books I will probably never read?

I have indeed read Reinventing Comics, which I thought was at least as good (and relevant) as the first. Now I'm reading Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner, the forerunner of both, and I'm kind of disappointed because it's not as revelatory as the others. I kind of wish I'd bought the McCloud books and borrowed this, rather than the other way around.