As a big fan of Dollhouse, I was extremely curious about an “Epitaph” one-shot comic. For those of you who haven’t been following the television series closely, there were episodes at the end of each of the two seasons (“Epitaph One” and “Epitaph Two”) that showed the devastation of the future in roughly 2019. So they still tied in with the current storyline, but gave an in-depth foreshadowing of the future so the audience can fully grasp the destruction that’s going to happen.
I wasn’t sure if the comic was going to just be the same as the episodes that were already aired or if it was going to present more information. This issue appears to be a prequel to the TV “Epitaph” episodes, focusing more on the character’s lives right before and then after that fateful day when the signal was sent through the phones, imprinting a mass of unsuspecting innocents into “Butchers,” who go crazy and kill anything that moves.
The people who didn’t answer the phone when the signal was sent through are the only survivors, the “Actuals,” who still retain their memories. Todd Griffin, Maggie and Zone are mostly the only Actuals you’ll see throughout the issue. At some point, a little boy named Trevor is introduced, but he splits paths with our hardy trio after their brief encounter. Instead, Trevor teams up with… well, I’m not going to ruin the surprise, but we’ll just say it’s a pretty important character.
The artwork was overall decent. The one thing that kept bugging me was that, through most of the comic, the reader can’t see the eyes of the character due to the shading. It just seemed odd. I’m not sure if Richards was trying to pull off a tone that failed or — well, I’m not sure what the reasoning was behind the extreme shading, but there wasn’t too much added in the way of background, either. Occasionally you might see a tree or a car, but most of the panels are just variety of different colors. I could see doing that in a few spots to accentuate the importance of what the character’s saying, but the lack of detail in this amount just seems like laziness. I will tip my hat to the consistency of Richards’ artwork, though. He did wonderfully on specific things, like how Maggie’s hair looks messier after the attack happens and the scuffs and bruises don’t magically fade and reappear between panels. There was one panel that made me laugh a little: right after Todd and Maggie meet Zone, for some reason (and just in this one panel, Zone looks a lot like Patrick Swayze. It must just be the angle he was drawn at, but it made for a few giggles nonetheless: chaos, destruction, people dying… and then there’s Patrick Swayze.
I will admit that when I started watching “Epitaph One,” I was more than a little lost. There wasn’t really much of a basis for switching to a future storyline, so the change in characters and the obvious shift to the future threw me off, but by the end of the episode I was on fire with curiosity about what would happen next. Not only do the futuristic episodes foreshadow what’s coming for the current storyline, but then give an in depth view of what would happen even further beyond that. I had figured that the technology would culminate and blow up, figuratively, in some way, as it always seems to do, but I hadn’t really thought much of what would happen after that. This issue gives the new characters additional background that helps the reader understand a little better who they are and what they went through.
Personally, I enjoyed the “Epitaph” episodes; they were excellent at driving home certain plot points, but I do know a few people who didn’t even watch them because they were only interested in the current storyline. If you haven’t watched the episodes yet and want to, it would be a nice idea to start off reading the Epitaphs one-shot since it’s a prequel to the episodes and it’s a smooth read. I would recommend this to any Dollhouse fan that enjoys the “Epitaph” episodes, but it’s not significant read for anyone not already into the series.