Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion: The TV Series, the Movies, the Comic Books and More ed. Mary Alice Money
While in college, I wrote a paper on Buffy the Vampire Slayer for my "Girls and Culture" class, and a paper on prostitution in Firefly/Serenity for my Gender Studies senior seminar. Obviously, I've read a few critical pieces on Whedon already, but I was still excited about this book. As it says above, it focuses on all his work, including comics, Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog as well as the usual suspects. Though it was compiled last year, it even includes short articles on The Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers, though these obviously deal less with analysis of at the time unseen pieces, and instead basically mention their existence, and Joss Whedon's skill at working with ensembles.
Overall, I definitely enjoyed reading the analysis, and the different articles. I especially enjoyed the analysis on Dollhouse, and certain aspects of Angel since most of the analysis I've read so far has focused on Buffy. As a result, I quite enjoyed reading perspectives on these other works of Whedon. The editor tried to give voice to a large range of readings, and while this definitely was nice, it also left me wanting more since several articles were a bit short. There were also a few articles that were drawing conclusions before I even knew what they were trying to argue. Overall though, it was a good collection and nice intro to the analysis of Whedon. I wasn't quite as interested in some of the articles that dealt less with the text and more with the behind scenes work. It is not that some of that wasn't good to know, it just didn't grab me in the same way. However, since all the articles were rather short, that also meant that topics I was less intrigued with were handled quickly. I also was mixed on the articles on the comics, mostly because that is the area on Whedon where I am weakest. I haven't read any beyond Buffy Season 8, which I didn't necessarily enjoy that much. However, I think the editor realized this would be a weak spot since most of those articles read more as intros to the work rather than deep textual analysis.
I find it hard to say much about this book since it is a collection of such a large variety of short pieces. I certainly enjoyed many of the essays but I can't say that one in particular stands out as a favorite (there were, however, one or two where I wanted to tell the author "I don't think that's what the line of dialogue meant/was referring to"). They all emphasize Whedon's ability to develop characters, and how he goes for the unpredictable, and will show how people aren't static, showing growth, development, and blurring the lines between right/wrong, moral/immoral, good/bad. For example, his heroes occasionally do the wrong thing for the right reasons and don't always win. I also liked the articles that vindicated Dollhouse. Now, I know the show had its flaws, but apparently there were some complaints about it being sexist. Obviously, the women weren't empowered like Buffy was (especially in the beginning) but it seemed like that was the point. By focusing on their oppression, Whedon shows the sexism of the system. I mean, it's not like people are going to say Mad Men is sexist - the characters and the time period were, but I don't get that impression regarding the actual show. While there are several books already devoted to Whedon and his works, this is a good one for including all his projects, and includes a bit of a "where to go from here" section at the end. I would say that while there is honest assessment in this book, and the writers admit when certain seasons etc. didn't work, this is probably a more celebratory guide than some of the other available Whedon-studies books which include some articles with more negative interpretations. I'm not saying the negative ones are right, but they certainly add a different view. I would definitely recommend this for any Whedon fans, though.