“Dollhouse” might be best remembered (if at all…) as the unfortunate post-script to Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku’s respective TV careers, but to those of us who stuck with it, it did eventually turn into an interesting and thought-provoking series shortly before it was cancelled. The question, of course, is whether a show that was conceived as a vehicle to showcase Eliza Dushku’s acting talent could be translated to the medium of comics without losing what made it interesting in the first place.
Writers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen have opted to set the comic at a point between the season’s chronological ending and its “epitaph” episodes, which were set in a post-apocalyptic future where Dollhouse technology has run amok. At this point, the survivors (including Mag, Felicia Day’s character who stars in both Epitaphs episodes) are on the run, hoping to save other “actuals” like themselves. Admittedly, this setting was the more interesting of the two explored in the show, but it’s also replete with characters we barely know and hardly care about.
This issue appears to be our first proper look at the event that kicked off the post-apocalyptic future, and the start of the devastation that was to come. Unfortunately, aside from a particularly brutal and unexpected murder, it’s hard to get invested in the actual events of the story. After all, we already know how it ends. As a prequel, it’s flat, and as a lead-in to a miniseries to come, it’s wholly unengaging.
From a technical perspective, there’s nothing particularly objectionable. The writers are competent and the artist (Cliff Richards) is more than capable of telling a story. It just doesn’t leap off the page. Worse still, if you’re new to “Dollhouse” (as some of the readers will surely be) then it’s hard to imagine you’ll even understand what’s going on for the bulk of the issue.
Some of this issue’s quality and approach can be excused by the knowledge that this was originally created as a DVD box set extra, but the fact that it wasn’t intended to be published solo doesn’t mean we can’t judge it by those standards, if that’s how it’s released. If Dark Horse thinks publishing this limp pseudo-adaptation is going to excite people for the forthcoming miniseries, they’ve got it wrong.
Of course, maybe they do know what they’re doing. The creative team of the “Dollhouse” miniseries is going to be completely different from this issue, and that means when the series does come out, I’ll give it another chance all over again. It’s hard to imagine that there are “Dollhouse” fans out there who won’t buy the comic anyway, but if by some miracle you’re reading this review first, take my advice and wait for it to turn up in the bargain bins before you waste your money.