Kendra has always been a bit of a cipher in the Buffyverse. First introduced as a mysterious new Slayer that upended the status quo in Season 2 of the hit TV show, her life and tenure were tragically cut short by an encounter with Drusilla. Having made her return to the rebooted series, we’re finally getting a bit of biographical sketch of the new slayer in town here. TLDR: Kendra is a young Jamaican Potential living with her Aunt Vea, and her Watcher is the handsome Zabuto. In her final days in Jamaica, Kendra is faced with a mysterious problem: a whole lotta tourists are turning up as vampires. Despite a rocky relationship, it’s up to Kendra and Zabuto to get to the bottom of things.
This issue is a bit of a mixed bag for me from the writing standpoint. Jordie Bellaire’s Kendra is not the subservient, shy Slayer from the past iteration. Instead, her relationship with Zabuto is contentious and confrontational. While I like that Kendra is feisty, it’s a bit of a bummer, because one of the things I really liked about the original Kendra/Buffy dynamic was how different they were, highlighting that Slayers were not just clones of each other. I also really liked how they learned from each other and established a begrudging respect for each other. To be fair, that is not to say that there still can’t be an interesting, new dynamic in the future. In fact, I fully expect it, given the unprecedented circumstances the Scoobies find themselves in post-Hellmouth apocalypse.
Speaking of Slayers, I think that Bellaire playing a bit fast and loose with the terms “Called” and “Chosen One” kind of muddies things up a bit. It’s been established that only one Slayer should exist at a time (Chosen ONE!), but there are several moments that imply that Kendra is already Chosen, despite other parts that say otherwise. It’s confusion that could’ve been avoided by just more careful wording. Where I think Bellaire is much more successful is in the introduction of Kendra’s antagonist/foil. She literally tells us why #StoriesMatter, touching on the devastation of local cultures and erasure of histories by colonialization. Furthermore, shining a light on the problematic patriarchal structure of the Slayer/Watcher dynamic also deserves kudos, though I wonder if we’ll revisit this in the near future.
Rosemary Valero-O’Connell takes over art duties, and her whimsical style pairs well with the story setting. In particular, I really appreciate Valero-O’Connell’s vignettes of life in Jamaica with some really nice shots of food and the market. To go back to my earlier point about why stories matter, the frames of foodstuff made me consider how local cuisines can tell such a wonderful, historical narrative of a people without words - how they talk about confluence and fusions. Food really is the most democratic history of a nation and its peoples.
The artwork is given a beautiful lightness by the colors by Raúl Angulo and Eleonora Bruni. After the darkness and heaviness of the previous arc (fitting, by the way), the airiness and prettiness of Caribbean underscores the ultimate sacrifice that Kendra must eventually make: leave her idyllic homeland and assume the mantle of the next guardian of the Hellmouth, where she’ll inevitably serve until her death.
Overall, while some of the dialogue surrounding the metaphysics of the Slayer mythology seem a bit dodgy, Bellaire et al succeed in crafting a monster-of-the-week issue that shines the spotlight on one of the team’s less-understood characters.
Creative Team: Jordie Bellaire (writer), Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (artist), Raúl Angulo and Eleonora Bruni (colorists), Ed Dukeshire (letterer)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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