While Dark Horse Comics spent a number of recent years creating canon comic book seasons of Buffy (5 in total) under the watchful eye of Buffy creator Joss Whedon and employing some of the best talent in the industry (including Brian K. Vaughan, Christos Gage, Georges Jeanty, Rebekah Issacs, and more), late 2018 saw the license transfer over to popular comic book publisher BOOM! Studios. While Dark Horse continued the story told in the popular '90s TV series, BOOM! has decided to pursue a "soft reboot," re-imagining the cast of characters in various ways and bringing the origin story into 2019, complete with cell phones, social media, and, of course, modern-day vampires. The concept has been described by series editor Jeanine Schaefer as similar to Marvel's re-invention of superhero team of The Avengers with The Ultimates (a modernization and re-imagining of the Marvel Universe that set much of the groundwork for the versions of the characters seen currently in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - You can read more about that in Schaefer's interview with The Comics Beat.)
BOOM's Buffy reboot is being crafted by Eisner Award-nominated writer Jordie Bellaire (Redlands) and Russ Manning Award-winning artist Dan Mora (Klaus, Go Go Power Rangers), and the first issue of the series wastes no time establishing that this "new" Sunnydale has a lot of familiar elements, but a number of big changes, as well. The slayer's origin story (move to Sunnydale, meet friends, reveal of slayer status, etc.) follows the expected path, but a number of characters like Anya, Drusilla, and others get a new "spin" courtesy of Bellaire and Mora. While Bellaire's certainly got a knack for Whedon-esque dialogue and Mora's re-designs are cool and cutting edge, the "re-invention" will most likely end up being a mixed bag for fans. Starting the series off with Willow already "out" as a lesbian (and with a girlfriend, as well), Xander's blogging habits, and the immediate introduction of Anya in the first issue all stand out as positive examples of this new version of the story, but the decision to convert Willow into a sexier, punkier, and, at least so far, perfectly confident individual seems like a major misstep given what the character's meant to the shy, less-than-cool introverted individuals who specifically don't find themselves until after the high school experience.
Mora's artwork is fantastic and kinetic, especially in the action-packed fight scenes, and the first issue of Buffy easily proves why he was added to the creative team of the book. Mora keeps his character likenesses close enough that readers will be able to identify each character, but the depictions are less photo-realistic and more just damn good comic book art. The colors are vibrant, the characters are emotive and expressive, and there's surely more to love in the upcoming issues given the preview pages BOOM has released. As a reader who can remember Buffy's non-canon Dark Horse days, Mora's vampires do remind me a little bit of when the DH team thought they could make the iconic Buffy "vamp faces" cooler and scarier, but I'm sure a number of new readers will dig them even though I tend to prefer the bumpy foreheads I know and love.
- I really dig that the vampires in town are spreading rumors regarding how the Slayer is working at Tunaverse.
- There's a nifty feature at the end of this issue where two members of BOOM's marketing team shares personal experiences regarding what Buffy has meant to them. It' s a great extra tidbit that demonstrates the power and impact of the character, but I was left wondering why we weren't hearing this from the creative team or series editor. I loved hearing what both individuals had to say regarding Buffy's presence in their lives, but I do hope we get to hear the same from those who are more intimately involved with creating the actual narratives between the covers of each issue.
- On a personal note, I did want to take a pause to thank all of the readers and Buffy fans that have followed my Buffy and Angel comic reviews over the past seven or eight years, both here at Fanbase Press and, previously, at Whedonopolis. Buffy and those around it have meant a lot during the years I've spent with them and, as Whistler once said, "The big moments are gonna come, you can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that count. That's when you find out who you are."
So, who am I and what is this little deviation in my review about? Well, I am a Buffy fan through and through, but I'm not willing to be a gatekeeper and I don't want to become a cranky, aging fan who believes everything was better "back in the day." One truth is that I was very invested in Dark Horse's continuation of the TV series, I enjoyed having my favorite characters enter and struggle with adulthood alongside me, and I was never really looking for an updated version. The second truth is that there's a whole crop of new readers and fans who probably are ready for an update, could benefit from the presence of a little Buffy in their life, and, most importantly, if you want the characters and stories you love to live on for further generations, those characters/properties need to be able to evolve and grow beyond you. I will always have my Buffy, and I will continue to follow BOOM!'s new comics as a fan, but I do think it's time another carries the title of Fanbase Press' Buffy comic reviewer of choice.
Again, the series is off to a strong start, so we'll be sure to find one among us to take up the task of reviewing the upcoming issues as it goes forward. We promise to not leave any Buffy comics fans out in the cold. As they say, every generation has a slayer and someone has to review those comics.
Other than saying "thanks" for following me on such a lengthy and geeky journey, the only thing I would add would be a challenge to my fellow older Buffy fans out there. It seems simple, but I feel it needs to be said, one fan to another: Don't destroy what we all love. Toxic fandom had a banner year throughout 2018, and the last thing we need to do is start off the new year by tearing down the new in a misguided attempt to protect the old. Who knows what surprises lie ahead? Who knows what prosperous time may be just around the corner for the Buffy fandom? Who knows what new fans will become new friends?
Again, it's what you do afterwards that count. That's when you find out who you are. Remember that.
FINAL VERDICT: BOOM's Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 is off to a solid start. There are several elements that will specifically appeal to fans of the original series, but the book does seem a bit more geared to new or casual fans. While some things have changed, Bellaire, Mora, and Schaefer all seem to be making a genuine effort to stay true to the heart of the show while still having plenty of room to play in Buffy's sandbox. (Aha! I got to make a sly reference to the old show, too!) Even if you're only remotely interested, now would be the time to jump into the new series and see if you like the flavor.
Creative Team: Jordie Bellaire (writer), Dan Mora (art), Matthew Taylor (cover art)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Click here to purchase.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 hit shelves today, Wednesday, January 23rd, so be sure get out to your local comic book retailer and pick up a copy if you're interested.
'Till the end of the world (even if that happens to be tonight),
Bryant the Comic Book Slayer