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Examine Joss Whedon's entire career -- so far -- in 'Complete Companion'
on June 24, 2014
It might seem excessive to produce a nearly-500-page book of essays on the career of one man, especially one whose career seems to be picking up speed. But then again, this book is about Joss Whedon, and his fans (and detractors) can't seem to say enough.
If all you know about Whedon is that he wrote and helmed The Avengers, the movie that buried theaters in piles of money, "Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion," from Titan Books will be an eye-opener, and possibly a back-strainer. 45 essays analyze his career from the TV shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse) to the webseries (Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog) to the comics (Fray, The Astonishing X-Men, the Buffy 8th season, Runaways and Sugarshock!) to his movies (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alien Resurrection, The Cabin in the Woods, The Avengers).
If you're unfamiliar with any of those, each chapter has a concise "101" to help you catch up. There are also excellent interviews with frequent collaborators Jane Espenson (writer, Buffy, Angel, Firefly), Alexis Denisof (Wesley Wyndham-Pryce in Buffy and Angel), Harry Groener (The Mayor in Buffy) and Tim Minear (writer, Angel, Firefly).
It's a book of essays, so it's going to be hit or miss as far as your personal tastes go. I'm not generally one for the picking-apart-to-death style of criticism (an attitude explained nicely by Whedon himself in his song in the Dr. Horrible commentary, "Heart, Broken": "We're gonna pick, pick, pick, pick, pick it apart...") and there's certainly plenty of that here. A few of the conclusions I read I flatly disagreed with, and a few more bewildered or, frankly, bored me. But there are also essays that speak more to the heart and themes of his work.
Ronald Helfrich speaks to religion in "Note to Self, Religion Freaky: When Buffy Met Biblical Studies." "I'd Be Very Still:Anthropology of a Lapsed Fan" looks at the reactions of fans who loved the show because of a character (Oz) and how they reacted when he was gone. Kristin M. Barton examines Whedon's penchant for killing off beloved characters in "TV's Grim Reaper: Why Joss Whedon Continually Kills the Characters We Love."
Don Tresca follows the character growth of Anne in Buffy and Angel, someone who should have been a minor, throwaway character. Michael Bailey looks at the ethics of Malcolm Reynolds. Nikki Faith Fuller psychoanalyzes Illyria and Kevin M. Brettauer parallels Dr. Horrible to Spider-Man, in reverse. Raz Greenburg compares Whedon's original script for "Alien Resurrection" to the finished movie. There are essays on sexuality, feminism, love, memory, identity, empowerment, dystopias, fandom and much more.
And "Nathan Fillion Misbehaves All Over the Whedonverse" is as self-explanatory as any essay you'll ever see, ever.
"Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion" isn't a book you pick up and zip through, but you may find yourself returning to it again and again.