(w) Jordie Bellaire (a) Dan Mora
Taking on a beloved property such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a bold move. It’s even bolder to reboot it for present day and make changes to characters from their original incarnations. Stan Lee once said that readers don’t really want change, but rather the illusion of change. Over the course of their Buffy run, Jordie Bellaire and Dan Mora have challenged that notion, making actual changes to the Buffyverse. Some have been good, some not so much. However, it is clear that the duo are not interested in retreading the same stories, but rather forging a brand new path that will keep readers guessing.
Given that the first three issues comprise a tight introductory arc, this issue is mostly setup for what is in store for the series’ next arc. If Buffy #4 is comparable to any episode from the show, it would Season 2’s “The Zeppo,” as Bellaire’s script navigates Mora’s imagery via Xander Harris’s internal monologue. The character was always the one unremarkable member of the ensemble, possessing no powers or affinity for magic, and it looks as though the creative team has doubled down on that while improving on his characterization.
Xander remains insecure, but Bellaire has removed a lot of misogyny that could be found in his early season dialogue. Unfortunately, this comes at a price. While Xander was and continues to be a controversial member of the “Scooby Gang” to fandom, his initial character flaws (especially his “nice guy” persona) provided room for him to grow and mature over the course of the show’s seven seasons. It is in hindsight one of the more satisfying character arcs of the show. His new characterization may be an improvement on the surface, but there is little room for genuine growth.
The changes to Xander are highlighted by the changes made to Willow, now with the confidence of her latter season self in addition to being a physically capable fighter. She may not possess the powers of the Slayer, but this Willow can hold her own in a fight. If she can bring both the brains and a physical presence that surpasses Xander’s to the table, it raises the question as to what purpose does he serve in this new continuity. Is he anything more than the face of brave, everyday people in a fantastical world? Is he going to be this book’s version of a perpetual damsel in distress? Hopefully there are answers in the coming issues.
The remainder of the issue is actually a lighthearted and enjoyable affair. Given the night off from patrolling for the undead, Buffy and her friends plan a night of fun and potential romance thanks to a reimagined character from the show’s later seasons. Bellaire’s writing does a great job capturing the energy of the teenage cast. Their dialogue and emotional reactions to circumstances come across as authentic. They are paired perfectly with Dan Mora’s art. His renderings are expressive, and each character has their own unique quirks that give the book a lived-in feel that overshadows the at times sparse settings.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #4 is a solid entry to the series, though a bit of a letdown after the high-octane action of the previous issue. As a quieter, character focused issue, it exposes some of the potential faults in the changes made to the series’ cast. However, if Bellaire is able to execute on these changes and stick the landing, the new Buffy has the potential to be as well regarded by the hardcore fans as the material it’s based on.