Book Review: Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion
On March 10, 1997, I was not where I wanted to be. Instead, my VCR was recording a mid-season replacement that I was curious about. As silly and light as BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER starring Kristy Swanson happened to be, it was entertainingly fun enough to watch a series based on its clever premise. When I finally got around to watching the series pilot starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy, I was hooked. From then on, not an episode was missed. Then came the Buffy spin-off “Angel” with David Boreanaz and then the short lived “Firefly,” featuring modern day geek hero Nathan Fillion. Joss Whedon quickly became the go to guy when it came to genre television.
Whedon has been a part of fanboy admiration ever since those early days. Never more so than now with his latest film, THE AVENGERS… you may have heard of it. He has a knack for sharp writing, emotional drama and quirky characters. Even a horror/comedy he co-wrote - along with the film’s director Drew Goddard - and produced called THE CABIN IN THE WOODS received some shockingly positive word of mouth. It is no surprise that Hollywood’s current golden boy would find himself the subject of a book. Yet “Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion” is not a biography, nor is it one person’s view of the screenwriter/producer/director. This is a series of articles, interviews, class essays and much more that delve into all of the ever expanding Whedonverse.
The Complete Companion covers every single detail in Joss’ career from ALIEN RESURRECTION on. Of course it truly begins with Buffy. For many critics and fans alike, the series changed television. Much like “The X-Files” and “Twin Peaks,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” went away from the norm, creating a smart, funny, tear-inducing and oftentimes sexy story of the “Chosen One” and the “Scooby Gang.” The book full of articles delves deep inside the meaning and the myth behind the series. One of my favorite chapters deals with what is arguably one of the best episodes from its seven season run. In season two’s ‘Passion,’ a beloved character is killed off in a violent and deeply horrifying way. The scene to follow is filled with rage, desperation and of course… passion. The chapter discusses this particular episode in detail examining all aspects of Jenny Calendar’s (the lovely Robia LaMorte) sad demise.
While much of the book is an analysis of the Buffster, nearly all facets of Whedon’s career are explored. One of the most interesting is the focus on his work in comics. This was probably the most fascinating section for me aside from the Vamp Slayer. I had only a slight knowledge of his work in the world of comics so there was much to learn here regarding “The Astonishing X-Men”, “Fray” and more. This fully loaded Whedon companion explores it all. This may be one of the shortest sections – along with “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog” and “Dollhouse” – yet there are a number of worthwhile chapters that explore their importance in his esteemed career.
And then there is THE AVENGERS. While there is very little written in this Companion about his latest superhero flick - which managed a 207 million opening weekend - it is certainly covered. One chapter explores the six reasons why Joss was the perfect choice for directing THE AVENGERS. The article – written by Matthew Hurd – makes the case that Marvel made the right decision by giving Whedon the job. It is a fascinating read and it includes several reasons why I personally was happy he took on the gargantuan project. Among the reasons include the example of SERENITY. The feature film which continued the story started by the all too quickly canceled “Firefly” proved that the writer/director could do something creative and entertaining on a limited budget. While the film wasn’t a massive box office hit it earned an impressive shelf life on home video, much like the series that inspired it.
Most of Joss' fans would love to indulge in a series of writings dissecting his works. Yet many of the chapters feel a bit too textbook-ish for the average reader. Its fine to philosophize about his many television shows and films yet reading the droning passages occasionally can be a bit of a task. This can sometimes make for a chore to sift through as a few chapters offer over-bloated and pretentious examinations of “Buffy” as well as his other work. I appreciate that people take “Buffy” and “Firefly” so seriously, yet having to actually read through some of the drivel is a challenge to put it nicely. Yes, I get that you are educated, but this is supposed to be enjoyable. When reading about your favorite series equates to being forced to read “Moby Dick” in high school there is a slight problem.
Thankfully, this “essential unofficial guide to the Whedonverse” is primarily an enjoyable experience and a must own for fans. You can pretty much tell at the beginning of a chapter how good of a read it will be so you can always pick and choose depending on interest and readability. Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion explores this modern day geek icon with the seriousness of a college course, yet it makes time for the entertaining more often than not.
|Extra Tidbit:||What is your favorite "Buffy" episode?|