Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
Note from the Underground

by Scott Lobdell, Fabian
Nicieza, Cliff Richards
(Dark Horse, 2003)

Note from the Underground is the new Buffy the Vampire Slayer graphic novel from the pens of Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza. A family reunion of sorts, it includes an old friend of Buffy's, a character not seen in the Buffyverse for a very long time. Unfortunately for Willow, Giles and Spike fans, however, the story takes place between the sixth and seventh seasons, while those three characters were away from Sunnydale, so they do not appear in this story.

The story begins in Los Angeles, where Angel and Cordelia are investigating the appearance of a new drug called "soul drops," which is apparently harvested from unborn babies -- just the sort of thing that Angel Investigations would want to put a stop to. Unfortunately, the Powers choose to grace Cordelia with a vision while she and Angel are undercover, leading immediately to a rousing fight, and a little later to Angel arranging to get incarcerated Slayer Faith released to his custody for 24 hours for a quick trip to Sunnydale, the origin point of the drug.

The action then switches to Sunnydale, where we learn that Buffy, Xander and Dawn have been held captive underground for weeks while Buffy fights a neverending succession of monsters in gladitorial combat with pauses only long enough for Buffy's slayer powers to heal her. But none of them know why, or who has imprisoned them.

The story is relatively straightforward, with no twists, unless you count the appearance of that aforementioned old friend of Buffy's, because it's not who it first appears to be (more's the pity). The villain is actually an old -- but improved -- one, who appears in something of a logical manner that may or may not make him easier to defeat.

The storyline was enjoyable enough, but it was the artwork that gave me problems. The detailed artwork of the cover is not practical to recreate for the interior -- it would be too time-consuming and doubtless too expensive. However, I found the simplied artwork a little confusing. It was easy enough to distinguish between say, Buffy and everyone else, but I had problems telling Dawn from Anya or Xander from Angel. It was a simple enough matter to go back and study the context, but that disrupts the narrative flow and is distracting.

With its crossover storyline, Note from the Underground makes a good introduction to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. Longtime fans of the television series should enjoy the story, even if they've never read a graphic novel before.

- Rambles
written by Laurie Thayer
published 9 August 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.