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Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1

This past year, BOOM! Studios took over the Whedonverse licenses from Dark Horse Comics, and this comic is their first take on Joss Whedon’s most iconic creation (and my favorite TV show of all time), Buffy the Vampire Slayer. With seven seasons of a TV show plus tie-in comics and five seasons of sequel comics, it seems like almost every narrative stone has been unturned. And, for the most part, this is sadly true.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 comes across as a remake of the first season of the television show and treads many similar beats: Buffy’s combative relationship with Giles, her growing awkward friendship with Willow and Xander, her keeping secrets from her mom, and fighting inconsequential small fry bad guys with a side dish of ancient jewelry. Writer Jordie Bellaire and artist Dan Mora do throw in some new wrinkles like their take on Anya, who appears way before she played a role in the television show, adding modern technology/clothing style, and giving Buffy a part time job at a place that makes the Doublemeat Palace have Michelin stars. However, these things plus a fun Easter Egg about another Whedon property and the “surprise” appearance of another character don’t detract from the fact that this comes off as a Xerox copy of copy of the television show.

Some of this is immediately evident in Bellaire’s dialogue, which is all Whedonesque cuteness and reveals none of the traits that made Buffy, Willow, and Xander unique and enduring characters. It’s more entertaining than the platitudes that are Buffy’s narration captions though. At the end of Buffy #1, they are immediately friends, in on her secret, and having slumber parties. It makes you miss Buffy Season 1’s pilot, which managed to have life or death stakes, bring the Scooby gang together organically, set up the Big Bad and mysterious love interest, and was paced naturally thanks to its almost feature film length. There are too many moving parts in Bellaire and Mora’s Buffy “pilot” comic as they set up Buffy’s personal struggle with identity, try to make her best friends with Xander and Willow, and at the end, remember they have to have a “Big Bad”.

Where Buffy #1 falters in story, characterization, and dialogue, it actually succeeds in visuals thanks to the storytelling skills of Klaus’ Dan Mora  and the steady colors of Raul Angulo. Mora cares more about dynamic panels and cartooning than making his characters look like Sarah Michelle Gellar et al. His work especially shines during the action sequences with angular leg kicks and power poses mixed with some teenage awkwardness. I also cracked up a lot at the reactions Mora draws for Willow as she watches Xander repeatedly put his foot in his mouth. Honestly, she comes off pretty well in this first issue even though the reference to her future career as a witch is super-shoehorned and comes across as fanservice and not part of her arc. And to top things off visually, Angulo adds a shadowy palette to the night sequences to make it more classic horror than suburban SoCal.

When I first read about BOOM! Studios’ plans for their Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, it reminded me a lot of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley’s Ultimate Spider-Man or Stjepan Sejic’s sadly shortlived Switch. These comics were contemporary takes on the classic characters, Spider-Man and Witchblade respectively, and introduced their mythos to new fans. However, cheesy effects and bad fashion choices aside, “Welcome to the Hellmouth” does a better job of introducing Buffy, Willow, and Xander than this comic so it fails at being a gateway to these pop culture icons for a new generation of fans. Dan Mora is one hell of an artist though.

Story: Jordie Bellaire Art: Dan Mora
Colors: Raul Angulo Letters: Ed Dukeshire 
Story: 5.5 Art 8.0 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass

BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review