Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Jordie Bellaire
Artist: Dan Mora
Colorist: Raúl Angulo
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Release Date: 22nd May 2019
After securing the rights for Joss Whedon’s iconic Sunnydale vampire slayer, BOOM! Studios decided to add their own little wrinkle to proceedings by setting their new series in the present day. Jordie Bellaire, who had already cemented her writing chops with her stellar work on creator-owned series Redlands, was handed the reigns alongside BOOM! artist extraordinaire Dan Mora. On sale next week, this first volume collects the first four issues of the new series, and serves as a gentle (re)introduction to these characters and the new-yet-familiar world they inhabit.
So, all the pieces are in place. We have a talented and passionate creative team and a blank slate for them to carve out their own distinctive Buffy niche. And as a massive Buffy fan, I was definitely excited to see what the new team would come up with. However – and maybe it’s the burden of expectation, or maybe there’s just something I was looking for that wasn’t here – I unfortunately didn’t find myself enjoying this first volume quite as much as I’d expected.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why this series didn’t ‘pop’ for me like I hoped it would. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a fun, lively Buffy adventure, but with the modern day take and a clean slate for Bellaire, Mora and co. to stamp their own unique mark on the property, it feels like they’ve played things a little too safe for my liking. Buffy slays vampires and struggles with the burden of responsibility. The Scoobies provide the back-and-forth banter and emotional support. Giles is the stern, paternal mentor. To be honest, aside from the use of cellphones, there’s really nothing here that we haven’t seen before in the various iterations of the well-established source material.
If that sounds a little harsh, it really isn’t meant to be. As I said, this is a ton of fun, and Bellaire does a great job of capturing the distinctive voices of the key characters. Mora’s artwork is every bit as fluid and energetic as those familiar with his work on other BOOM! Studios properties like WWE and Klaus will have been expecting, and the whole thing crackles with a real sense of energy and enthusiasm. It’s just that it feels – to me, at least – that it’s lacking that one signature moment to really draw the reader in (at least until the very last page).
The inclusion of Spike and Drusilla – brilliantly rendered by Mora – as the first arc’s “big bads” is a solid choice, and their mixture of silliness and genuine menace lands right in the sweet spot for the tone this series seems to be going for. For me though, the most interesting character in this first volume is Xander, who seems to have gone from a cheesy comedic foil on the TV show to someone with some real depth here. Aside from Buffy herself, it’s his story that really pulls the narrative along, and his mental health struggles and masked fragility help give the story a much-needed extra layer.
The final pages hint at a significant change for a key character, as well as featuring a fan-pleasing cameo, but this feels like business as usual rather than an opportunity seized. At the end of the day though, Bellaire, Mora and co. have put together a perfectly enjoyable Buffy series that will likely hit a lot of the right spots for long-time fans of the character, but I was really hoping for more given the wealth of talent involved in its creation.
It’s not “bad” by a long shot, but nor is it quite as great as it had the potential to be. Here’s hoping that now the introductions are out of the way, things pick up a little in volume 2. I’ll definitely be sticking around to find out.