Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Dust Waltz

By Dan Brereton, Hector Gomez & Sandu Florea (Dark Horse/Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-84023-057-4

Terrifying things are in our blood. Scary monsters, rabid maniacs, Armageddon, being stuck at school: all trigger our visceral, panicky fright, fight or flight response and thus always feature highly in our mass entertainments.

These days the slow-building tension and cerebral suspense of the genre has been largely overtaken and by shock-values and surprise action, with the mix liberally doused in a hot sauce of teen alienation, unrequited love and uncontrollable hormones – all making for a heady brew indeed.

This transition was very much the result of a clever, witty, breakthrough TV show and the long-lived comicbook tie-in which refocused the international zeitgeist, so here’s another look at Dark Horse Comics’ interpretation of the cult global mega-hit TV franchise Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Dark Horse won the strip licensing rights in the USA, subsequently producing an engaging regular series, a welter of impressive miniseries, original Graphic Novels, spin-offs and specials. Moreover, when the beloved TV iteration finally died, from 2007 on comics delivered creator Joss Whedon’s un-made continuity-canonical Season Eight and beyond to the faithful fans and followers.

In case you’ve lived in a bubble all this time: Buffy Summers was a clueless Valley Girl and hip teen cheerleader until she suddenly turned into a monster-killer: latest inheritor of a mystic, unpredictable genetic lottery which transformed mortal maids into human killing machines: Slayers.

Living in the small California hamlet of Sunnydale on the edge of a mystic portal – The Hellmouth – she and a close band of friends battled devils and demons and every sort of horror inexorably drawn to the area and who/what/which considered humanity a snack and Earth an eldritch “fiver-upper” opportunity.

The Dust Waltz, scripted by graphic horror maestro Dan Brereton and illustrated by Hector Gomez & Sandu Florea, was the initial comics offering, released in 1997 as a slim, full-colour, all-original graphic novel which firmly established the tone and timbre of the forthcoming series. The following year Titan Books reprinted the tale for the British market and – if you really need to know – the tale is set during TV Season 2 (which ran from Autumn 1997 to Spring 1998)…

It all begins in ‘Promenade’ as a brace of ancient vampiric horrors slowly cruise towards California and a showdown in sleepy Sunnydale, whilst at the local High School Buffy is still insolently resisting the stern admonitions of mentor Giles, a Watcher of the venerable cult tasked with training and assisting the Slayer in her anti-arcane endeavours.

A merciful interlude is offered when the Watcher invites Buffy and her gang – Willow, Xander and Cordelia – to accompany him to the Baytown Port to meet his niece Jane, imminently due to disembark from a world cruise.

It also offers the squad their first, albeit unsuspected, glimpse of Vampire “Old Ones” Lilith and Lamia, who have travelled to the Hellmouth with their puissant, bloodsucking Champions to indulge in a savage ritualistic combat dubbed the Dust Waltz

Events kick into high gear that night when Buffy, on monster patrol with reformed vampire boyfriend Angel, encounter and destroy one of those ancient Champions.

Deprived of her weapon in the ritual, Lilith decides that Angel will be his replacement – whatever it takes…

In ‘Moondance’ the tension intensifies Buffy hunts for the vanished Angel, with Jane tagging along in defiance of Giles’ wishes. The Bloody Sisters have brought all manner of beasts and creatures with them, however, and soon the gang is captured and dragged to the Hellmouth even as the Watcher frantically tries to discover the true purpose of the dark ceremony…

Buffy however is far more direct and simply marches straight into the monsters’ midst to deal with the threat and free her friends “slayer-style” in the blistering action-packed eponymous conclusion ‘The Dust Waltz’.

Of course even after trashing the vampire hordes there’s the small problem of un-summoning the colossal elder god the battle has aroused…

Visually engaging, sharply scripted and proceeding at a breakneck rollercoaster pace, this smart and straightforward action-fest perfectly captures the brittle, intoxicating spirit of the TV series and remains an easily accessible romp even if you’re not familiar with the vast backstory: a creepy chronicle and torrid thriller as easily enjoyed by the most callow neophyte as by the dedicated devotee – and besides, with the shows readily available on TV and DVD, if you aren’t a follower yet you soon could – and should – be…
Buffy the Vampire Slayer ™ & © 1998 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.