{Review} Joss Whedon's Dollhouse: Volume I (Epitaphs)

I adored the television series Dollhouse and was thrilled to learn that it’s continuing in graphic novel form—unfortunately, this first installment disappointed. 

If you’re not familiar with Dollhouse, the television show developed a cult following in 2009-2010 with it’s captivating stories of an evil corporation that ran an underground network of “dollhouses” that allowed wealthy clients to rent people whose personalities had been wiped out and replaced with temporary personalities and skills. Basically, clients could order up anything they wanted from the menu. The show centered around one “Active” (what the people who’s personalities had been wiped) named Echo, who remembers small amounts from each personality temporarily placed in her mind. This excellent Joss Whedon-lead show explored fascinating themes about identity and individuality and also had kickass scifi and action elements. 

(Please note, this review contains spoilers for the TV show from this point forward, so if you don’t want to be spoiled for the show, go hit up Netflix, get caught up on Dollhouse and come back to this review.)

The graphic novel series, published by Dark Horse, takes place before the two episodes of the show that are set after the two episodes (Epitaph 1 & 2) that follow the technology that creates the Dolls spreading like a virus, creating a legions of zombie-like people that can be controlled by Rossum Corporation. In this post-apocalyptic world, there are only a few survivors who are trying to save humanity. 

Much of the action centers around Alpha, the seriously screwed up rogue Active who became obsessed with Echo in the television series. And therein lies my problem with this contribution to the series story.

I simply don’t care about Alpha, he served his purpose in the series, but when I think “Dollhouse,” I think “Echo.” 

While Echo does make an appearance in this graphic novel, she’s only a minor mention until two-thirds of the way into the book, which means we’re spending all of our time with other characters, including multiple Ivies (which is one of the more interesting elements, since in the television series Ivy’s fate—if I recall correctly—was left ambiguous). Echo’s character development addresses the core themes of the television show, so her absence takes away much of the magic from the original Dollhouse story.

Additionally, the artwork didn’t rock my world.

It’s the same artist as the Buffy comics, and the style is very recognizable if you’ve seen that television series continuation. It’s like because the art is familiar to me that it didn’t stand out, but I would have loved to have seen something with a bit more “wow.”

What I did love, however, was the alternate art at the back of the book—it was fascinating seeing different artists’ interpretations of the characters. You’d think that since they’re based on real actors there wouldn’t be loads of variation. However, while each was immediately recognizable, they were completely unique. 

Ultimately, hardcore Dollhouse fans will likely enjoy this addition to the story. But, for people like me who really, really enjoyed the television show—particularly Echo—but aren’t superfans, this installment will probably disappoint. 

Verdict: Meh 

{Preorder Dollhouse Epitaphs from Amazon}

Publication Date: April 24, 2012

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley. No compensation or other “goodies” were received in exchange for this honest review.

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