Lightning Reviews are back! If you’re new here, welcome! This is where we run three miniature reviews of three titles. They could all have a theme or be completely different in every way possible. This time, we have two different graphic novels with one having a very familiar face. We also have some nonfiction on screenwriting.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Vol. 1
author: Jordie Bellaire
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Volume One: High School Is Hell collects the first four issues of the new Buffy comic by Jordie Bellaire. This is not to be confused with Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season Eight – Twelve, a series published by Dark Horse that continued the story past the TV show’s finale. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a reimagining of Buffy with the same characters set in the present day. There are a lot of significant changes: Willow is much more confident that her TV counterpart and is openly dating a girl, Buffy’s mom has a lovely boyfriend who shows no signs of being a killer robot, Anya is an adult who runs the Magic Shop, and Cordy is popular but also quite nice.
I was prepared to loathe this (my loyalty to the TV Show knows no bounds) but I found it to be wonderful. Everyone is different but they feel right at the same time. The tone, both verbal and otherwise, is spot on. Everyone feels familiar and comforting even though they may be doing different things. It feels just like watching the original actors in the original show instead of watching a reboot or a replacement. At the same time, the things that have changed (such as having more diversity, and introducing some characters at different places in their character arcs than we saw on TV) feels like a relief instead of a rip off. It feels fresh, and corrects some of the more problematic aspects of the TV show (lack of racial diversity and an astounding amount of slut-shaming) while retaining the humor, action, and emotionality.
You can buy Issues #1-4 as a collected volume or Buffy Issue #4 ends on a huge cliffhanger. Issue #5 comes out on June 5. I usually wait for the trades (the collected volumes) but I think I’m going to have to snap up Issue #5 the minute it comes out. It’s that good!
– Carrie S
Save the Cat
author: Blake Snyder
In Waiting for Tom Hanks, the heroine refers to Save the Cat, a famous book on screenwriting. I checked out a battered copy from the library and concluded that this guide to screenwriting is dated, obsessed with blockbusters and making sales, and irritating. I also found that when I tried applying ideas from the book to stories that I like, they fit perfectly. I recommend this book for people interested in story structure in any medium who are willing to take the advice as a good introduction to the form, remember what they like, and toss the rest aside.
In this short book, Blake Snyder talks about structure and about how to pinpoint common flaws in a script. I especially liked his breakdown of movies not into genres like science fiction or romantic comedy, but into broader categories (Monster in the House, The Golden Fleece, Out of the Bottle, Dude with a Problem, Rites of Passage, Buddy Love, Whydunit, The Fool Triumphant, Institutionalized, and Superhero). I also liked his observations about keeping everything tied to primal needs and desires, and his observations about arcs and emotional beats. Anyone trying to sell something (anything) will appreciate his advice with regard to developing a logline (a one or two sentence description of the story you want to sell).
If you are the kind of person who likes to dig into story structure, or you get lost for days on end on TVTropes.org, or you are trying to finesse and/or sell a story, check this book out – it’s strictly for people who like the nuts and bolts of things.
– Carrie S
Sleepless, Volume 1
author: Sarah Vaughn
Sleepless is an inventive and incredibly gorgeous romance told in two volumes, both of which are out now. It features one of the best love stories I’ve read in comics and with every page I exclaimed, “That dress tho!” The setting, a fantasy kingdom, is inspired by the Italian and Moroccan Renaissance. The heroine is a woman of color with a pet fennec fox. The hero is her bodyguard. Every page is frameable.
The heroine, Poppy, is in an awkward position at court. She’s the only child of a deceased king, but she’s illegitimate. Her mother lives in exile and her uncle, who holds the throne, demands that Poppy stay at court where he can keep an eye on her. Poppy has no desire to make a claim for the throne but everyone is suspicious of her anyway.
Poppy is assigned a Sleepless guard named Cyrnic. The Sleepless are an elite group of guards who literally never sleep until the one day their sleeplessness catches up to them. At this point, they fall asleep for a period of time as long as the sleep they missed while awake – usually forever. The two fall in love while trying to navigate court politics, manage Cyrnic’s increasing physical problems with sleeplessness, and avoid assassination.
In addition to having fabulous art, this comic has a fabulous romance. Poppy and Cynric’s loyalty, mutual respect, and protectiveness of each other is touching and they have great chemistry. The reason I’m giving this an A- grade is that in Volume 2 I found myself to be confused by a couple of plot twists that seemed to come out of nowhere. I would happily read this comic again and again for the romance and the lush, detailed, and inventive art!
– Carrie S
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