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The Dust Waltz - The Road Not Taken

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  • The Dust Waltz - The Road Not Taken

    I was rereading The Dust Waltz, the first Buffy graphic novel, released in October 1998.

    Hector Gomez's art seems very much in the style of the artists who had formed Image Comics, such as Jim Lee -- all muscles and lots of unnecessary lines on the face. The writer Dan Brereton had solid comic book credentials -- he was the writer of Thrillkiller, an alternate continuity Batgirl and Robin graphic novel set in the 1960s.

    Among the villains is the Biblically-named Lilith, the so-called Mother of Vampires. Of course, she's captured Angel for her ritual.



    Among the supporting characters is Giles's niece Jane -- who Xander is clearly smitten with. He shamelessly flirts with her. I assumed this would place the story in early season two. It definitely has the feeling of something around Inca Mummy Girl or Reptile Boy -- back when the show was doing it's "freak of the week" storytelling, and before the show really grew up with the Angelus storyline.

    But then, it turns out that Cordy is jealous of the attention that Xander is paying Jane. I reckoned that if this was after "What's My Line" that it had to be really early days for the Xander/Cordy relationship -- back when they were deciding whether the kiss was a one-time thing.



    And then, the really surprising thing happened. They mentioned werewolves, and that Willow was dating one.



    What? But Oz didn't become a werewolf until Angel was evil. And as Angel is not evil in this story, this means that it's set in season three.

    I've encountered this season three that never was before. The one Buffy novel I had purchased around this time was Child of the Hunt by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder was set after Angel's return to goodness, but in a world where the status quo was late season two -- except for Angel's morality.

    Of course, the writers would have been scripting these before season three was in production, or at least before the production office was willing to share many details of the upcoming season. So, they wrote what they know -- which was season two. I expect there was a directive to make the novels and comics contemporary to show, and not just set them in the previous season.

    Back in the fall of 1998, I had just sort of realized that these tales didn't quite fit with the show's season three. Angel was not that chummy with all the Scoobies after his return. And the Scoobies didn't even know he had returned until after Xander and Cordelia had broken up.

    But now, I'm more struck by the tonal differences than by the minor continuity gaffes like the relationship statuses or the length of Willow's hair. Buffy Season Three just feels like a tonally different show than much of season two. It grew up over the course of the Angelus storyline. But out of the necessity of when they were written, these comics and novels imagine a Buffy season three where the writers went backwards. That once Angel's soul was restored they'd carry on much as season two had before Surprise and Innocence. It's a Buffy season three where the writers hadn't matured, hadn't transformed the show into something more powerful. I can't imagine this version of the Buffyverse would have received the same critical acclaim that Buffy did back in the day.

  • #2
    Who is the other girl with long dark hair in the Xander scenes?

    I do notice how all the girls are showing a lot of flesh and their outfits are skin tight.

    Comment


    • #3
      I might have this one in one of my Dark Horse omnibuses. I don’t remember this particular story, but there are several with the same artist or at least the same art style, which doesn’t appeal to me at all.
      https://www.youtube.com/c/DoubleDutchess

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      • #4
        It is quite odd in tone and visually the depiction of Willow (? as the other long dark haired person?) is really bizarre. Less so of course if it is just another random new character. I actually don't mind the art but the dialogue is very stilted and awkwardly jumps from one comment to the next. It is an odd combination and definitely doesn't feel like the show.

        It surprises me when I hear about the earlier official comics that were released in advance of the seasons. It's not surprising they sometimes end up with elements that are jarring errors for continuity and/or character tones. I suppose they were just using them in trying to build up interest, but it feels such an odd choice when they end up not sitting against the show well. In the end, it seems they just result in a collection of 'what ifs' that sometimes hits closer to the mark than others.

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        • Priceless
          Priceless commented
          Editing a comment
          That can't be Willow can it? Could it be Dawn? Though she looks the same age as Xander and Cordy.

        • Stoney
          Stoney commented
          Editing a comment
          Probably not. I thought Dawn at first but then as PuckRobin said Willow's hair length was wrong wondered if it was supposed to be her, but that would be colour inaccuracy too.

        • PuckRobin
          PuckRobin commented
          Editing a comment
          It is Willow. It’s have to pull out the actual comic to see if the miscolouring is only from the digital version. That said, I think Willow’s hair became even redder when it was shortened.

      • #5
        Image Comics was founded by a lot of hit Marvel Comics artists who formed their own company in 1992. The artistic style, the cheesecake poses, etc is very much in that tradition. And now, I wasn’t into it back in the day either.

        ”Gee... not having Buffy around is tiring” is supposed to be Willow.

        Not quite released before the season, but very earlier into the season, and clearly written/drawn before the season. It’s not just Buffy. I remember the first Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Ghost Ship didn’t quite align with the show, as it had clearly been inspired by early drafts of the early scripts of a “show Bible” that changed earlier in the show’s production.
        Last edited by PuckRobin; 26-06-21, 12:52 AM.

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        • #6
          The Scoobies in Sunnydale High, where Willow is addressed by name:


          And Willow discussing chaining up Oz:


          I feel like Buffy and Xander look like the actors translated through the absurdly macho 1990s superhero comics prism, but Willow looks really off, and not just the hair.

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          • Priceless
            Priceless commented
            Editing a comment
            Willow and Cordy could be the same person

        • #7
          I don't mind the Buffy and Xander so much, although Xander looks a little too lean, but Willow is terrible and the dialogue is just so stilted, it's far worse than the art to me.

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          • #8
            I remember not being able to tell Cordy and Willow apart in many of these early stories.

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            • #9
              Originally posted by Whiskey View Post
              I remember not being able to tell Cordy and Willow apart in many of these early stories.
              It's a surprising weakness in the art as the actresses are physically very different and their hair/colouring is so distinct.

              Comment


              • Priceless
                Priceless commented
                Editing a comment
                Was Willow's hair darker in Season 1 maybe?

            • #10
              Her hair during season one and the beginning of season two was more brown / less red, but not being able to tell them apart says a lot about the quality of the art. It generally improved a lot when the comics moved on to season three.

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