Joss Whedon is a genius. There. I said it. I bet you’re super surprised. And, finally, ol’ J-Dub is getting some long overdue praise this year after a certain critically-acclaimed and billion-dollar superhero movie hit the big screen earlier this month (which, we loved and then later gushed over.)
But the Whedonverse extends far beyond the reaches of Marvel Studios. His television series, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, has had a cultural influence that far outlast the life of the series themselves. And those are only two examples.
Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion collects a series of essays and cultural studies that explore all of Whedon’s most famous works, analyzing them with a critical eye befitting the maturity and significance that those works reflect.
While not a book for the Whedon-uninitiated, The Complete Companion is a must-buy for all of Whedon’s most ardent fans. The book even touches upon (albeit lightly) Whedon’s most recent successes, The Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers. (Although because this book was finalized and sent to publish prior to the release of those movies, these essays are more informational than analytical.)
The tome clocks in at nearly 500 pages, spread over 50 essays that dissect Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and Whedon’s other significant projects. Buffy gets the majority of the book’s focus, although Angel, Firefly, and Serenity get a sufficient examination. The Dr. Horrible section is, unfortunately, quite sparse, but the three essays that take a look at Billy’s aspirations to the Evil League of Evil are excellent.
Having read a number of pop culture collections like this, I’ve noticed a common problem: they often can’t find the happy medium between academic textbook and blog post. Thankfully, the majority of The Complete Companion finds that excellent place where it reads both entertainingly and intellectually. This would find a place as a textbook in some collegiate-level “Whedon Studies” course, while at the same time being a compelling read. (By the way, somebody tell me what college offers said course.) That’s key – I’ve seen some works that are written as if you’ve never heard of subtext before, and I’ve seen some that are so clinically dry they have sucked all of the enjoyment from a source material. The Complete Companion, however, is a good, entertaining read that doesn’t insult your intelligence.
If I do have one complaint, though, it’s with the copyediting. There are some blatant mistakes that should never have made it to print. Joss’s sister-in-law and frequent collaborator is “Maurissa,” not “Melissa.” Peter Parker’s first girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, does not have an “e” in her last name. And most glaringly: “Joss Shedon”? Really?! If there’s one name that should never be misspelled, it should be the name of the guy you’re writing the book about. These incidents are certainly not on every page, but they were noticed.
Ultimately, Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion is an enjoyable experience that will, no doubt, further cement your love for all things Joss. It’s highly recommended for all Whedonites – what better way to learn something than to analyze it with reference to something you already love?