There are so many recent comic series I could have talked about: The Avant-Guards, Naomi, Goddess Mode, Nancy Drew, the new lines of Sandman, Die, and Blackbird all come to mind. But I’ll save a few of those for later. Some I want to let cook a bit longer with a few more issues, and other I have fallen a little behind on. But Buffy, an ever present presence in my life, feels ripe for discussion, even with only 3 issues out.
First off, a little background on the Buffy comics. For ages the Buffy comics were being published through Dark Horse and were kind of all over the place. Various runs were used to explore different parts of the Buffy-verse. Some were tales of previous slayers, others told of a sci-fi future where technology, magic, and demons were all part of public life. There were runs that focused on side characters like Jonathan or Riley. One run told the period before Buffy come to Sunnydale, essentially reworking Joss Whedon’s original film script back into canon. And eventually the gained some focus and ran in seasons to pick up where the shows left off, giving us seasons 8-12. But after 20 years, Dark Horse has lost the license to Buffy and Boom Studios has picked it up.
Boom’s run comes at an interesting time. The show has been off the air for 16 years, and though there’s a reboot/sequel show in the works there isn’t currently driving a Buffy revival for new fans. Boom’s new Buffy comic is a reboot but uses versions of the original cast. This makes the book a bit strange. For existing fans, like myself, it is a mixed bag. I’m overjoyed that the best character in the series (it’s Anya and you know it) has already appeared. But it’s also strange to constantly have to stop and check my knowledge of the show when certain fundamentals are flipped. Like how Willow is both out and a bit more confrontational than her television high school counterpart. Or how Cordelia is… legitimately nice?
That said, this comic is really good and I hope it finds and audience. Jordie Bellaire‘s writing, while sometimes cheesy (but let’s be honest, so was the source material at times), is smart. The alternate takes on the characters is a really interesting way of re-framing their roles in a more modern setting. Xander, for example, still feels like an outsider in his own circle of friends, but deals with it in a more honest way when alone. There’s more hurt there, and I can see it developing in a number of possible ways, from the “nice guy” path the show took to a darker “men’s rights activist” direction.
The art is also great. Dan Mora does a great job bringing in the familiar faces of the TV cast to the page, and then doing more. He manages to make their facial expressions both bold enough for the page but realistic enough to never lose their features. He also does a great job at balancing some really realistic work with some great horror and fantasy elements. I also adore the clean lines and geometry of the settings.
Another change I’m eager to see develop is the imaginary budget. This is something that the Dark Horse seasons 8-12 had to deal with, and it sometimes didn’t work. The imaginary budget issue is that the comic is based on a TV show. When it comes to TV production, each special effect takes a toll on the budget. But when Buffy jumped media from TV to comic, suddenly things like vampire transitions and monster effects didn’t cost any more than a shot of a human. This led to a sometimes jarring change in story focus. Suddenly things could be, and were, much more epic. And with that change in scope the stories experienced… growing pains, to put it politely.
That’s something Boom’s run on Buffy will have to contend with. But they have an advantage, and is the comics are starting with their unlimited effects budget from the very beginning. Jordie Bellaire will be able to grow the characters, world, and plot at her own pace and in tandem. I’m kind of nervous and kind of excited for a version of Buffy that can weave a monster-of-the-week high school metaphor right next to a full on globe-trotting apocalypse adventure.
Issues 1-3 are currently out now, with issue 4 dropping on April 17th.
And you can likely read them all for free! Check to see if you library offers access to Hoopla and check yourself out some comics!