Review: Dollhouse Volume 1: Epitaphs TPB
For anyone that was a fan of the television show Dollhouse, this comic is right up your alley. It is a continuation of what happens prior to the end of the show. What exactly is Dollhouse? It is a sci-fi series created by Joss Whedon, which originally aired on Fox. If you have not seen the show, don’t fret. This comic stands on its own, but it does help if you are already familiar with the characters. The comic is written by the original writers of the show episodes “Epitaph 1” – which did not air in the US but can be found on the DVD release of Season 1 of Dollhouse– and then it’s companion, the series finale, “Epitaph 2.” The setting is prior to the events of what occurs in both “Epitaphs.”
Minor spoilers to the comic are ahead, so read at your own risk!
From Dark Horse – “The Rossum Corporation’s Dollhouse technology has gone viral with a synchronized phone call that wiped the minds of everyone it reached, turning them into mindless killers. Those who avoided the call–including show favorites Echo, Alpha, Mag, Zone, and Griff–must try to survive in the sudden apocalypse and be wary of Rossum’s expansive technological reach. This is only the beginning! Collects the complete miniseries. Written by series writers Andrew Chambliss, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jed Whedon. Pencils are done by Cliff Richards, Inks done by Andy Owens and Cliff Richards, Colors by Michelle Madsen, and Letters by Nate Piekos of Blambot.”
The series name, “Dollhouse,” comes from the plot of the show. People sign their lives over to the Rossum company, the Rossum company wipes their memory, essentially making them living ‘dolls.’ People then pay an exorbitant amount of money to hire these ‘dolls’ to do whatever they want for a period of time – be it an afternoon, a weekend getaway, etc. They are ‘uploaded’ with the appropriate personality for the client, and then once the assignment is finished, they return to the Dollhouse, have their memory wiped, and are plain-Jane dolls once more. Each doll was named after the NATO code for letters, such as ‘Sierra’, ‘Victor’, ‘Echo’, ‘Alpha’, and ‘Whisky.’ ‘Echo’ is the main doll the show follows, which is played by Elisa Dusku. ‘Alpha’ is played by Alan Tudyk. Now, let’s get onto the review.
The art style of the comic is very gritty. If you are not a fan of blood and/or violence, then this might not be the comic for you. It begins with a bang, and that’s putting it lightly. The Rossum Corporation has been successful in transmitting the high-pitched frequency to wipe the minds of humans by just a simple telephone call. All phones rang in the United States at around 10:07 am, and anyone who answered their phone, snapped and began to kill anything in sight. We see one of the characters we met in “Epitaph 1 and 2,” Mag – a character played by Felicia Day (of Dr. Horrible and The Guild fame), in a conversation with a few of her girlfriends, when all hell breaks loose. As I stated, this is not a comic for those that have a weak stomach, as there is much carnage and death following the telephone calls. We focus on her story and meeting up with the other two characters from the “Epitaph” episodes – Zone and Griff.
The second storyline that takes place in the comic is about a boy named Trevor, who he meets, and what they do together. At the same time that Rossum sent the signal out, one of the operators that had helped ‘jail-break’ the system, Ivy – an assistant programmer who used to maintain implanting the dolls with their personalities – sends her own personality to any and all that could pick it up. We see one family – Trevor and his uncle Wendall – in a garage workshop. Wendall is one of the lucky recipients to receive Ivy’s implant, rather than the killing machine implant of the Rossum Corporation. Trevor is about 10-11 years old, and is extremely brave. Per the orders of his uncle, or Ivy, he heads to Dodger Stadium where he meets with Alpha.
I love the concept of Ivy sending her personality out to whoever could pick it up – and I’m pretty sure the writers loved it too, as they have a lot of fun with her personalities. I won’t give anything away, but let’s just say that there is a very….awkward situation in which we find the Ivy personalities in later in the comic. Definitely a much needed comic relief.
When Trevor meets Alpha at Dodger Stadium, Alpha modifies his head to accept downloads of things Trevor never knew how to do before via a flash drive. Unlike Alpha, who has many, many personalities in his head, Trevor just has to upload one thing at a time to learn what he wants, when he wants it. He learns hand-to-hand combat, firearms, etc. via a flash drive. However, he needs to lose something in order to gain something, which will come into play later in the comic. Once their bond is established, we see that the Rossum dolls try to attack them.
Alpha states that they need to find Echo, who holds the key to end all of the mayhem that is going on by what lies in her own mind. The group then heads towards D.C. – which is the last place anyone had seen Echo.
The other story, with Mag and Zone, shows them struggling in Hollywood, trying to find a way to get out and/or stop the drones from killing. The drones have accessed the radio tower, and begin to broadcast via emergency channel frequency, trying to find and kill Echo. They make it their mission to try and take down the radio tower, so that the drones will stop responding to the high pitch frequency.
After being stopped by the next wave via the emergency broadcast system, Alpha decides they should head to Tucson, where the Rossum corporation headquarters is located. We meet a couple of more characters from the television show while in Tucson. Who do we meet? Well, this is where you’ll have to pick up the comic and find out.
As a huge fan of the show, this miniseries helped give me closure on what happened after the Rossum Corporation wiped people’s minds. I always felt that there was more to the story, but because it was canceled, I was going to have to just accept their fate. It was so nice to see the original writers of the show set up the story for this, as opposed to another writer. This is a true miniseries in comic book form. It is a must-buy for any Dollhouse fan. Again, even if you’re not a Dollhouse fan, this comic does stand on its own, as it talks about each of the characters (i.e. – Alpha), and why they are the way they are. If you haven’t watched the show, and you’ve seen Joss Whedon’s other work (Buffy, Angel, Firefly), then check it out. It’s a really neat show, with a very cool concept which is brought to light again in this wonderful comic.