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‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer #4:’ Advance Comic Book Review

It would appear that we’re at the end of the first arc, and all signs seem to point to a ratcheting up of the ante. For one, the final main cover is actually slightly different from the solicited version, which hints at some degree of secrecy on BOOM!’s part. For another, I’ll note that the entire final page of the advance review copy I received was redacted, so it really seems that BOOM! wants everyone to be surprised when the issue drops this Wednesday. For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the most recent Buffyverse news, there will be a surprise book that you’ll want to pick up on Wednesday, as well. (Hint: He’s a big Buffyverse fan favorite, and methinks the redacted page is also meant to hide his backdoor reentry into this rebooted series.)

Anyway, moving on to the meat and potatoes of the issue. The Scoobies are on the defensive after their initial encounter with Drusilla and Spike in the previous issue. It’s been a couple of weeks of quiet on that front, but in the meantime, Buffy and her friends have been keeping the vampire population down. It’s kind of cool to see Willow and Xander train in hand-to-hand combat, something the original series never actually explored. Also interesting, Giles may a bit more of a badass than his earlier iteration, though it remains to be seen if he has a bit of that Ripper streak in him, too.

After the rather dramatic confrontations of the last issue, this one seems to take a quieter route, focusing instead on internal conflicts, specifically on the Buffy and Xander front. My favorite scene with Buffy is between her and her mother’s (recently) live-in boyfriend Eric. Aside from being generally lovely to Joyce, he also seems to actually care about Buffy, and they share a great moment which is a nice update on how kids of divorced families can relate to, as well as connect to, their new parental figures. I’m generally a fan of how Jordie Bellaire has handled Buffy’s update in this reboot; it feels organic and largely earned.

Where I’m a little more apprehensive about is Bellaire’s treatment of Willow and Xander. While I like that Willow is starting out as identifying as queer, she really hasn’t had much development so far, which is a far cry from how Willow was treated as a character in the original iteration. Perhaps there’s more to come in the future, but as a general Willow fanboy, it seems as if things are coming too easy for her right now and nothing really seems earned. I’m not saying that she needs to be tortured, but Willow’s queerness was always a journey, even through the metaphor of becoming more confident in her nerdiness, or discovering her magical aptitude, or love of girls. Speaking from experience, queerness is a journey, and it’s the representation of a familiar challenge that connects more than just someone who has it easy. Furthermore, while Xander has commented on Willow’s smarts, we haven’t actually been shown of an actual instance in where her intelligence has actually come into play. In other words, it’s been a lot of tell (and assumption, based on previous iteration) than it has been shown.

Speaking of Xander, he has been a focal point of this arc so far, and he’s definitely a point of interest in this issue. Unfortunately, I don’t know if I buy his angst just yet, and a big part of this doubt has been the nebulous nature of Xander’s “outsiderness.” We know that he and Willow grew up together, but he has spent (at least some of) his summers in LA. How is that relevant hasn’t been shown yet (other than the factor of size of cities). Despite being the emotional – and ironically – the cipher of this whole arc (the Xeppo), Xander has really been underdeveloped. His attraction to Buffy largely relies on our recollection of the past iteration, and, once again, it occasionally feels that just because something is a reboot means that select traits are expected to be taken for granted instead of fully rebuilding a world. Reboots allow rebuilding and recontextualizing the world; you can’t just rely on past knowledge to fill in the blanks, especially when you take great lengths to change things, because that’s lazy, and, more importantly, it confuses things.

Artwise, I think that Dan Mora continues to do solid work. There are moments of broad comedy (the Scoobies reacting to Giles’ suggestion of taking the night off) to some wonderfully tender moments, such as between Buffy and Eric. I’ve also enjoyed the consistency of Raul Angulo’s colors and Ed Dukeshire’s lettering so far. I’m hoping the future art team works as well together.

Overall: The end of this issue will likely have major implications moving forward, and we’ll see what those are in June, when the series resumes after a month’s break. I’m still invested in these characters, but I’d really like to see them become more defined moving forward.

Creative Team: Jordie Bellaire (writer), Dan Mora (artist), Raul Angulo (colorist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Click here to purchase.

Wenxian Tan, Fanbase Press Contributor



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