I have to be completely honest here: I know near nothing about the world of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Well, let me be more specific: I never watched the show. I have seen a handful of episodes, more out of curiosity than anything else, and I’ve been meaning to catch it on DVD at some point in this lifetime, again mostly out of curiosity than anything else, but I’ve yet to do it. So I picked up WILLOW: WONDERLAND: PART 1 with some trepidation – I didn’t know if I’d understand much of it, much less the world and situations therein … but, to my surprise, I think I got most of it. Sure, I’ve no doubt that my understand and appreciation of the character probably would’ve been heightened if I had a better grounding in the world, but, as a new initiate, I found quite a bit of what I read to be modestly delightful.
(NOTE: the following review will contain minor spoilers solely for the discussion of the characters, settings, and situation. If you’ve looking for an entirely spoiler-free assessment, then please skip down t the last two paragraphs. However, if you’re accepting of some minor plot dialogue, then read on, merry traveler.)
Magic has died. It’s completely abandoned the world as we know it, slinking away to a nether region where it can live out its days in a kind of forced solitude, but that doesn’t sit right with Ms. Willow Rosenberg. Armed with a magical scythe, Willow has entered in Wonderland, and, by hook or by crook or by blade, she’s bound and determined to locate the source of magic, take it within her grasp, and bring it back to the land of the living. Plus, she’s about to hook up (NOT that way) with a half-man-half-animal conjurer who might be able to point her in the right direction, so long as she can escape the jaws and clutches of any monster hoping to eat them alive!
What you have here with WONDERLAND is your modern day fairy tale. There’s a warrior princess (Willow) and her noble sidekick (Marrak), and, together, they’ll face down any measure of beasts in their quest to be re-united with magic. Using whatever tricks they have up their sleeves, they’ll battle the forces of darkness, all in hopes that, as a team, they can vanquish whatever obstacles they find in their path … and maybe find something harmless to eat and drink on their way.
I’ll admit that, as a beginner to this world, I wasn’t all that put off by any of the elements. Clearly, there’s one sequence that deals with some heavy flashbacks – some of Willow’s previous challenges rear their ugly head when she samples water from a magical pond – but much of it passes so quickly and so effortlessly that I believe I caught what I needed. Besides, it was a small bit – one that promises to lead to a greater (and more deadly) pay-off if the last panel was any indication of things to come.
Otherwise, the artwork here is pretty impressive. Wonderland is pretty simply conceived – it’s essentially a magical forest one would expect in any fairy tale – so that’s a plus for the uninitiated. It moves briskly – like a fable – and, as this is only the first issue in a developing arc, it’s very hard to say more or predict where it may all head. Still, I’d hang for the ride; even though uninformed, I slipped with ease into these few characters and situations, and I’ll admit that my curiosity is piqued just a bit. Willow is an engaging heroine – maybe even a bit too big for her britches – but, then again, aren’t all princess?
WILLOW: WONDERLAND: PART 1 is published by Dark Horse Comics, and the character of Willow is the stuff of Josh Whedon’s world. He serves as Executive Producer here. The script is from Jeff Parker; the pencils by Brian Ching; the inks by Jason Gordes; the colors by Michelle Madsen; with letters by Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt. This issue shows at No. 1 in BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER’s Season 9, and it has a cover price of $2.99, a bargain if you can get it.
RECOMMENDED. As I’ve tried to be clear, I’m an uniformed novice to all things Buffy. While I may not be the best critic to tell you how well WONDERLAND: PART 1 gels with the entire Whedonverse, I’m very comfy saying that I enjoyed it. It has a certain inescapable whimsy – along with what I’ve been assured is a benign snarkiness common to characters and situations created by Joss and his court of merry men (and women). Like a fairy tale, WONDERLAND introduces us to a winning princess in the form of Willow, and she’s on a quest to find a source of magic so that she can return it to the realm of the living – or “our world,” for all intents and purposes. That’s a mission even a jaded cynic like I can get behind … or in front of … or jazzed about.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me a digital copy of WILLOW: WONDERLAND: PART 1 for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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