Issue: Dollhouse: Epitaphs #2
Release Date: August 10, 2011
Writer: Andrew Chambliss, Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon
Pencils: Cliff Richards
Inks: Andy Owens
Colors: Michelle Madsen
Cover A: Phil Noto
Cover B: Massimo Carnevale
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
We know from the “Epitaph” episodes of the Dollhouse TV show that Alpha managed to evolve and escape his more homocidey tendencies, but the Epitaphs comic series gives us a glimpse of the early days of the evolved Alpha and the struggle that he (they?) had to go through in order to gain control and become the shepherd of empty vessels that we see in the year 2020.
The narrative of Epitaphs #2 is split between the band of survivors who are determined to wipe out any tech that they come across and Alpha and the Ivies on their hunt to find Echo, convinced that Echo is the answer to all of their problems.
One of the things I like most about the Epitaphs series is that it overcomes the biggest problem with the Dollhouse television series, and that problem was the focus on Echo instead of giving us the ensemble show that would have worked much more effectively.
Zone and Mag’s story lacks a certain amount of suspense, as we know that they survive to find the Dollhouse and help save humanity, but the story of Alpha and the Ivies is great. The idea of having multiple Ivies is one that I love, and Chambliss seems to be having great fun writing it. The character of Ivy wasn’t hugely fleshed out in the TV series, so Chambliss can fill in a lot of the blanks as he sees fit. And he can apparently do it multiple times in this case.
The polar opposition of Alpha and The Ivies is almost so brilliant that you don’t even realise what Chambliss has done. We have the situation with The Ivies, where one person inhabits many different bodies, and each of the Ivies is reacting to the other Ivies differently. And we also have the situation with Alpha, where many different personalities inhabit one single body.
While Alpha has evolved somewhat at this stage, and has learned to control the darker forces of his many natures, it’s an uneasy balance and you get the feeling that Alpha has to constantly resist losing control. So when he gets attacked by a one of the Ivies who has been imprinted and is now carrying Imprint Tech, it’s a double-edged sword. Part of Rossum’s plan is downloaded to Alpha’s already cluttered mind and it gives him and the (remaining) Ivies a lead as to what Rossum is up to. But the extra personality dumped into Alpha (even if it is basically a Tech-Wielding Active) manages to fracture the not-a-knife-wielding-maniac persona that he’s built.
The issue ends with Alpha killing the Tech-Wielding Ivy and a feeling that things might get worse before they…. keep getting worse.
Andrew Chambliss was a great choice of writer for this comic series. He wrote for the television series and he has a great handle on the Whedon-esque dialogue, something that can make or break a book like this.
If there is one drawback to the book, it’s the overall artwork. I find it difficult at times to tell the difference between Alpha and Zone due to the fact that they’re both of similar build, look and colouring. Any time that the scene switches from Alpha and The Ivies (I’m seriously thinking of starting a band with that name) to Zone and the survivors, it takes an examination of the setting and the surrounding cast in order to tell who is who. But that’s a minor quibble about a great book.
I enjoyed Dollhouse in its entirety on television, but the “Epitaph” episodes were always the highlights and the comic book carries on that tradition nicely.