Dollhouse: Epitaphs #5

By Juan C Pineda

Dollhouse: Epitaphs #5

Writer:Andrew Chambliss, Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon
Penciller: Cliff Richards
Inker: Andy Owens
Colorist: Michelle Madsen

Another Whedonverse property has been given the comic book treatment, Dollhouse. If you were young and foolish, you probably are not aware of the TV show this comic book is based on because it aired Friday nights at 9pm on FOX. If for some reason you were home on Friday nights then you might have blinked and missed it, it aired from February 13, 2009 until January 29, 2010 for a total of 27 episodes.
Let’s say you are like me and you just got some fancy new DVR technology and decided to watch a few episodes because: a) it spawned from the mind of Joss Whedon b) it stars Whedon stalwart and nerd goddess Eliza Dushku c) Eliza Dushku d) see b and c So for the benefit of those who aren’t like me and actually had a life on a Friday night or didn’t waste precious hard drive space on a DVR, let me sum up the premise of Dollhouse. The Rossum Corporation runs several establishments called Dollhouses. Inside a dollhouse are “dolls”, people who have temporary personalities and skills imprinted into their brains for hire. Wealthy clients would go to Rossum to hire a doll for different purposes…from what you would automatically assume would be the first thing you would do to a doll that looked like Eliza Dushku to other nefarious purposes. When dolls are not on the job, their minds are wiped cleand and they live in the Dollhouse as a blank slate, just wandering around like a little child until the next gig comes along.

People volunteer to become Dolls for five years in exchange for money and other incentives while their original personalities are stored on hard drives. Dushku’s character is named Echo, prior to being made into a Doll she was Caroline Ferrell. She uncovers Rossum Corporation’s shenanigans and tries to bring down Rossum until she was captured and made into a Doll. Echo then becomes their most popular Doll. However, since she is the hero of the show, she develops self-awareness and is able to retain skills and memories after supposedly being wiped clean. She then tries to bring down the evil Rossum Corporation and their Dollhouse operations around the world. I didn’t stick with the series long enough; I just wasn’t hooked on the premise. I thought that if our hero is trying to bring down the evil corporation and would be successful then how long can these shows last? If there is no more Dollhouse, then no more Dolls and no more show, right?

So when I got the chance to review Dollhouse: Epitaphs #5, I was really lost. I had to read it twice. The first time to just read it…then realize I don’t know what the heck was going on or who half these characters were…then the second time after doing some research and refreshing my memory on the characters and plotlines on the show. I was still lost though. Dark Horse’s Dollhouse: Epitaphs comic book series bridges events between the main tv series and two TV episodes; “Epitaph One,” an
unaired episode that was released only on the Season One DVD and “Epitaph Two: Return” which served as the series finale. It turns out that Rossum’s imprinting technology led to the Apocalypse. In the year 2020 the technology has gone viral, turning everyone into mindless killers. The fifth and final issue of the series opens with Wash and Trevor finding Echo. Wash was the main villain of the TV series but now he is a good guy, as he explains to Echo. Trevor is a little kid that Wash implanted with technology to block any imprint attempts. Meanwhile in Hollywood, another group is trying to bring down the broadcast tower that is behind the Hollywood sign. It really isn’t fair for me to comment on the writing team because I came in so late. It would be like criticizing a movie based on the last 20 minutes. The dialogue was natural even though I had no idea what they were talking about. The artwork however I can comment on. Cliff Richards can draw Eliza Dushku as Echo, sometimes Alan Tudyk as Wash and Felicia Day as Mag but it really seems like he is copying their likenesses from headshots. Sometimes it doesn’t quite hit the mark on a medium or long shot. There isn’t any real distinction between male characters on a long shot, they all look generic unless in a close up. A couple of panels, I couldn’t distinguish between Wash and Paul Ballard even when close up. But then again…I’m lost because of being unfamiliar with these guys.

The art team is tasked to draw a post apocalyptic world, but their backgrounds don’t have much weight or substance to them. It looks like they are running around in an Ed Wood movie with cardboard cut outs for scenery. I was surprised where Whedon (Jed, not Joss) and wife Maurissa and Andrew took the premise of Dollhouse. If I had known they were going towards an apocalyptic disaster, maybe I would have stuck with the TV show until the end. Dollhouse had decent ratings, averaged about 4 million viewers the first season, 2 million the second season, which is way more than most comic books so there has to be a market for this series out there. So there has to be a Dollhouse fan out there that doesn’t know that there are further adventures in comic book form. I think they would totally love to see what happens. If you know of any, give them a heads up. Fair warning though, from what I gathered Echo doesn’t appear until the last couple of issues of “Dollhouse: Epitaphs” so they might be disappointed. If you’ve watched the entirety of Dollhouse but didn’t know about the Dark Horse series, pick it up and
the back issues, I think you will dig it. And feel free to email me any smacks upside the head for missing out on it. However, if you were like me, a casual Dollhouse TV show watcher but a hard drive full of Eliza Dushku pics, you may skip this series. Otherwise you’re going to be wandering around the wasteland with a blank slate like I was.

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