Dollhouse, Vol. 1: Epitaphs
Written by Andrew Chambliss, Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon
Pencils by Cliff Richards
Inks by Andy Owens, Cliff Richards
Colors by Michelle Madsen
Letters by Nate Piekos
Cover Art by Phil Noto
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: April 11, 2012
Cover Price: $18.99
Dollhouse, Vol. 1: Epitaphs is the trade paperback that collects the first five volumes of the post-apocalyptic follow up to Joss Whedon’s short-lived Fox series.
For the unfamiliar, Dollhouse was about the secretive Rossum Corporation, who serviced a high-class clientele by providing them with male and female escorts who would be anybody (and do anything) they’d want. To achieve this, they leveraged a technology allowing them to wipe the minds of their escort “actives” and imprint custom personalities to suit the client. After each mission, the actives would get back a docile blank personality and have no memory of their escort mission.
Epitaphs takes place in 2020, ten years after the series’ main storyline, and it fills in the gap between the events in the series episodes Epitaph One and Epitaph Two: Return. Rossum has aimed its technology out into the wild, turning anyone who picks up a phone or listens to a radio into butchers, mindless killing machines.
The book opens on the first day of the apocalypse, and we get to see what “actuals” (those unaffected by Rossum’s global mindwipe) Mag, Griff, and Zone were doing on the day the mind-controlling signal hit. We also meet Alpha, a once deadly rogue active who has since turned to helping the actuals with the aid of Trevor, a boy actual whom he converts to being able to receive custom imprints via USB drives.
We discover the reason Rossum has turned everyone into mindslaves is to find and kill Echo, a refugeee active who holds a secret to blocking Rossum’s signal, a secret that could also be used as a weapon in Rossum’s hands. The surviving actuals and Alpha set out to find Echo before Rossum’s butchers can get to her. This journey makes up the bulk of the collected 5-issue arc.
The book is written by Andrew Chambliss, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jed Whedon, who scripted Dollhouse‘s two Epitaph episodes, so it’s in the best hands possible, and really feels connected to the show. Art is by Cliff Richards, who suitably captures the likenesses of the actors from the show and adds his own panache to epic scenes of post-apocalyptic chaos. Where the book really shines, however, are in scenes when they unleash Alpha, who experiences Gollum-like inner conflicts to keep down his primal rage, conflicts he occasionally loses to graphic, bloody effect.
While this collection may not fully engage the casual comic reader, for a Dollhouse fan like myself, it’s a must-read — a satisfying coda to a television series that ended too soon.