"Dawn and Hoopy the Bear"
Writer/Artist: Paul Lee
Publisher: Dark Horse
From start to finish, this issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a laugh riot. Paul Lee opens with a Whedonesque surreal, urban supernatural scene, and the way Mr. Lee sketches the antagonist, you just know that Mr. Cockup is about to knock on his door.
Despite being a comedy, the demon in question still exhibits an intelligence that would have made him a very impressive Slayer foe and perhaps archfoe. Sadly, his acolyte simply is too inexperienced to deliver the goods.
As you may surmise from the cover, the focus is on Dawn, and how she becomes the focus is a clever twist on the themes of fantasy vs. reality. Furthermore, all the story makes sense since it comes from her point of view. It never ceases to amaze me how many people forget that Buffy's actual history is unchanged. Only the memories of actual events have been altered to include Dawn. This also kills the stupid, stupid idea that what we see on television is the product of a poor, insane girl trapped in an asylum. It was a trap, people!
Dawn's characterization is quite winning in the story. The author/artist nicely seesaws back and forth to her status as an innocent little girl who likes to hold tea-parties with her stuffed animals and a Slayerette who enjoys kicking monster-butt on her videogame machine. Her dialogue perfectly captures her youth and innocence. I also like how the bear seems to respond to Dawn in a very honest way. His intentions are always good, and this garnishes reader sympathy toward his sad but funny end.
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