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Book Review: Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion

05.01.2012by: Ammon Gilbert


When I was a sophomore in High School, I distinctly remember a certain little show that everyone couldn’t get enough of: BUFF THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. After getting past the fact that it was a show based on a goofy-ass movie, I decided to check the show out and was, more or less, hooked for a couple of years. I wasn’t a freak about it, but I dug it for a while, and for high school themed TV dramas, that’s all you can really ask for. Jump ahead 15 years, and BUFFY is regarded as one of the most memorable and influential TV series in history, all in-part due to series creator Joss Whedon. In the year’s between, Whedon has gone on to make more TV (ANGEL, FIREFLY, DOLLHOUSE), movies (SERENIRY), comics (THE ASTONISHING X-MEN), and even an internet-only series (DR. HORRIBLE’S SING-A-LONG BLOG). He’s now writer/producer of the horror-hit THE CABIN IN THE WOODS and is the director of a little up-coming flick you may have heard of: THE AVENGERS.

Due to his resume and his pop culture-laced writing style, Whedon has a backing of fans that is like no other, of which is essentially showcased in JOSS WHEDON: THE COMPLETE COMPANION, a collection of essays and short papers devoted to Whedon and his body of work. Split into sections by series, movie, comic, or blog, each chapter dives into one of the many acclaimed Whedonverse’s, of which are thoroughly explored by multiple authors with varied opinions or takes. But one thing is clear after plowing through a reference novel such as this: people love themselves some Joss Whedon.

Beginning with BUFFY THE VAMPIRE slayer, the book discusses its importance to pop culture and to TV as a whole. The series apparently changed the way we know the hour-long TV show (a different animal back in the early 90s), gave women a hero they could look up to, and created a world that lasted through seven seasons on TV and one season in comic book form. From there, the book goes through the life of the series (and later ANGEL), then moves on to the (short) life of FIREFLY, the movie-version SERENITY, his comic book ventures, his experimental musical blog, and his over-zealous and (again) short-lived series DOLLHOUSE.

Because it’s a compilation of numerous authors for a variety of publications (from heavy academic research papers to internet-based magazine articles), no stone about the Whedonverse is left un-explored. And for a guy who essentially jumped off the Whedon-wagon after the third or fourth season of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, it was enlightening to see the kind of influence Whedon has had through varied avenues of the entertainment industry, providing me with a bit more light to see where all the peeps out there who love themselves some Joss Whedon are coming from. And while I’ve never seen an episode of FIREFLY, DOLLHOUSE, or DR. HORRIBLE’S SING-A-LONG BLOG, nor have I picked up a single entry of THE ASTONISHIGN X-MEN, after plowing through this book, it made me want to seek out each and every one of his series on DVD and check them out. A guy with this much fandom around his work has to be pretty awesome, right?

While the content is fascinating, JOSS WEDON: THE COMPLETE COMPANION isn’t a flawless book. In some cases, the articles selected where a little-too heavy and a little-too academia based for my liking. I felt like I was back in college, reading through one boring-ass academic article after another—the whole time, thinking I should be highlighting, referencing, and compiling the work for some larger Whedon paper that I’ve been assigned to write. For a book around such a pop culture hound-dog who specializes in entertaining his audience, it’s an odd choice to essentially be such a heavy-loaded book. And while all of the articles are interesting, a few are a little too long in the tooth for my liking (especially the stuffier white papers), but as no stone is left untouched, I suppose it nails what it sent out to do.

There’s also a severe lack of pictures. I’m sure it’s a rights thing and I get that, but having an image of Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy while talking about BUFFY would have been useful, as well as every other chapter and series. There are some articles that dive way deep into lesser-known characters of these series, and it would have been nice to see a headshot of said character so I would know who the hell they were talking about. Plus, it’s a book about TV, movies, and comics for f*ck’s sake, it should be filled with photos—I would have been happy with crappy black and white (vs. glossy color) if that’s what it takes, but with nothing at all… a definite sore point for me on the book as a whole.

JOSS WHEDON: THE ULTIMATE COMPANION hits every show, movie, comic, blog, and just about everything else that Whedon has touched over the years, painting a picture of a man who has a following that may be bigger than any other series creator in the history of the medium (second to only George Lucas… maybe). Explored by a collection of articles, papers, essays, and interviews, THE ULTIMATE COMPANION will make every schmuck out there a fan of the guy (including yours truly), even if they haven’t been immersed in his work. And if it can convert someone into being a fan, I can only speculate that it’ll do wonders for those who area already Whedon fans (hell, there’s even a few papers on the fans and the fandom surrounding him). So while it’s a bit heavy here and there, and it could have benefited from a collection of pictures to go with each chapter / paper, THE ULTIMATE COMPANION still essentially hit the mark of what it set out to accomplish, making it a worthy buy for fans of TV, movies, and Whedon alike.

Rating: 3 out of 4 Stars




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