- Quippy, authentic dialogue
- Beautiful artwork
- I got nothing
(w) Jordie Bellaire (a) Dan Mora (c) Raul Angulo
Welcome to the Hellmouth! And for longtime Buffy fans, welcome back. After much buildup, the new Buffy the Vampire Slayer series from BOOM! Studios is here. Good news: it doesn’t suck. Better news: it’s really good. Similar in the vein of the publisher’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers books, this new series effectively relaunches the franchise in a modern setting. But unlike the other series, Jordie Bellaire and Dan Mora are taking things all the way back to the beginning.
Like the celebrated television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 more or less occurs after the events of the less-celebrated 1992 movie. But make no mistake, this is not the world of Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, and Paul Reubens. This is literally as if the show started today, as evidenced by the likenesses of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anthony Stewart Head, and the rest of the show’s cast. In fact, almost everything about this book looks good, thanks to the artwork by Dan Mora and Raul Angulo. Though his renderings of Buffy and Anya (more on her in a minute) are too similar, it is perhaps the only notable blip on the radar in terms of visual errors.
If anything, readers should be spending time scouring each page for the many fun, little details Mora has planted throughout. Three of the more notable references are “Spider-Man: No More,” Firefly, and Joss Whedon’s production company, Mutant Enemy. As fun as the Easter egg hunt may be, it means nothing if the artist is incapable of being a visual storyteller. Mora, however, has proven time and again to be capable. Look no further than his work on the badass Santa comic, Klaus. But as impressive as his work has been in those stories, it is arguably even better here. In terms of sequential storytelling, Mora’s work is phenomenal. Should readers to choose to simply look at the artwork and ignore all Jordie Bellaire’s words, they would still be able to follow the issue from start to finish.
With that said, Buffy is a Joss Whedon creation, and as such it requires a healthy dose of wordplay. Jordie Bellaire proves up to the challenge. Bellaire is adept in finding each character’s voice early and giving them authenticity that will hold up under the scrutiny of the most hardcore of Buffy fans, which she herself admits to being. Whether it’s Xander and Willow talking about that weird-looking guy that tried attacking them, or Buffy lamenting her responsibilities to Giles, the script reads like something these characters would actually say. This was probably the biggest problem facing the series under Dark Horse, so for BOOM! Studios to get that right in the first issue is one hell of a win. But for the most part, these characters are written in a welcoming and inviting manner for the uninitiated, while longtime fans will find comfort similar to slipping on their favorite sweatshirt. In fact, the only character that seems to be taken in a completely different direction is the wish-giving demon Anya, who now runs a shop full of all manner of mystical objects. How she factors into the creative team’s long-term plans remains to be seen, but it’s a welcome change which I personally cannot wait to see unfold.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 successfully revamps the franchise in a manner which should please almost everyone. It isn’t flawless, but it’s as close as you can get from a first issue. Bellaire and Mora have built a great foundation for this series to thrive well beyond the foreseeable future. While certainly containing a fair share of action, the duo understands that Buffy has thrived and resonated on the strength of its characters, and that’s what is presented here. This is a strong, character-driven issue that exceeds the loftiest expectations.