In Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer #2

Character development throughout, with several changes to shake up veteran fans, but little action.

The covers: Eight covers to track down for this second issue. The Main cover is by Matthew Taylor and has Buffy sitting at a desk covered in books. She’s leaning on one of her hands in frustration. Behind her, emerging from a rose colored orb, is Darla. I’d like this more if it had traditional coloring. It comes across as sloppy with these colors, especially on Buffy’s face. I do like the sticker at the bottom of her laptop’s screen. The Spotlight cover is by Kevin Wada and it’s the one I had to pick up. I’m a huge fan of Willow and this has her looking in her bathroom mirror before going to school. She’s a wearing blue denim jacket that’s sporting several pins and looks cool, though more suited for her senior year. She has a lot of confidence as she looks at herself and this is how I like to see the character. There’s also some neat little character traits shown through her choice of pins and the burnt candles near the sink. So cool! The Chosen One cover by Celia Lowenthal is different. It has a woman on horseback racing through the woods nocking an arrow to shoot at the vampires running to her left in the foreground. I like the setting, the characters, and the coloring is exceptionally strong. My concern is who is this? If I don’t know who this is, why should I care about the character? If this is a Slayer in the past, cool, but I need more information. Ryan Inzana creates the Episode Preorder Variant cover and it’s cool. It’s gradutation day and a familiar looking serpent raises itself above a banner celebrating the day. Buffy is front and center, in her cap and gown, sporting a stake to take down the vampires coming at her. To her right is Willow with a flamethrower and on her left is Xander with a bow and arrow, with the tip on fire. The moon is being eclipsed, creating a dark tone on everyone. Neat. The Variant covers are by Audrey Mok. The colored version has Buffy in the foreground. She’s got her right hand in a fist and Mr. Pointy in her left. Behind her is the outline of a vampire in profile. Within the shape is a graveyard at night. Blood pours from the vampire’s mouth. Neat design and coloring on this. The artwork can be more clearly seen on the Black and White Variant. I like this version even more. The Unlocked Giles Variant cover is by Miguel Mercado and has been getting a lot of buzz online. This features Giles tightening his tie, looking at the reader as if they were a mirror. The background is black. This looks great. Generating even more buzz is the Unlocked Vampire Giles Variant cover, also by Mercado. The Watcher has been turned. His eyes are yellow, he smiles showing fangs, and he’s pulling off his tie. Giles looks incredible on this. Gorgeous cover. Overall grades: Regular C, Spotlight A+, Chosen One A-, Preorder Variant B+, Color Variant A-, Black and White Variant A, Unlocked Giles Variant A, and Unlocked Vampire Giles Variant A+

The story: Buffy is walking down a blood red hallway that’s more The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari than Sunnydale High. Walking forward she finds the severed heads of Willow and Xander sitting in a pile of gore. A locker opens and an elongated Willow emerges. Slender Man Xander follows the witch. Both are telling her that she didn’t try hard enough to be friends. Giles, covered in maggots, is behind her and grabs the Slayer by the neck, lifting her from the ground. His mouth extends to a sickening length as he says, “A Slayer has no future.” The ground cracks open and fire streams out. “There’s no stopping fate…,” he continues, “…and hell will always find you.” The flames blast up consuming the pair. Buffy narrates this horrific start, ‘I have a reoccurring dream. The small details change…but the end is always the same. I don’t make it out.’ She wakes up with a start and goes downstairs to find her mother Joyce and her boyfriend (?!?!?!?) Eric. Buffy doesn’t want to talk and leaves, making Eric think he’s said too much. He’s been living with Joyce for a year and Buffy still hasn’t taken a shine to him. This is just the first major change for Buffy fans in this issue. At school Buffy goes to the library to talk with Giles and that’s when Coredelia Chase interrupts them. Cordy then hits the hallways where she encounters Willow and her girlfriend Rose. Words are exchanged, with a Scoobie feeling left out. Writer Jordie Bellaire has Buffy working off some energy at school and meeting a possible friend. An iconic villain meets one of the Scoobies in the woods, while this individual’s partner is busy causing trouble for another famous character at the spell shop. Page 21 is fantastic — that felt like a Buffy moment. The final page has the solo Scoob unhappy and sharing feelings online. There’s not really a common story in this issue, just a furthering of characters, what they stand for, and what they want. It’s fine. It’s readable, to be sure, with several changes for those familiar with Buffy’s exploits, but it’s not a thrilling read. I’m all for more and I’m hoping that these characters are going somewhere, together. Overall grade: B

The art: Dan Mora’s art is really impressive. When one reads a comic book based on a film or television property the reader wants the characters in the comic to resemble the actors who played them. Mission accomplished by Mora. That is Buffy walking through her nightmare and the hellish versions of Willow, Xander, and Giles look as they should, even if that trio is twisted. The cry that Buffy wakes with on 4 is great and I like that the protagonist is holding her throat, a good visual memory of how monster Giles held her. There’s a neat subtle bit of action with the final two panels on 5 to show some intimacy between characters. The first panel of Buffy in the library will be familiar to fans of the series. I was surprised by the choice for the point of view in the first panel on 7 as it hides most of a character’s face; however, there is quite a bit of dialogue in this panel and it’s not necessary to clearly see the speaker. The entrance on 8 is good, with the character being so small and completely out of place. The reaction in the fifth panel on 9 is perfection. I am in love the seventh panel on 11 — Thank you, Mr. Mora! That character looks great. The character who ends the page could have been in a larger panel, but it’s necessary to make this person so small to have the final page of the issue resonate. The positioning of the characters at the top of 13 is great, as is the close-up and the eventual scooting over. The smiles on the page that follows are great, with Buffy looking embarrassed. The appearance on 16 is a good entrance, but the character is emotionless. I was hoping to see a little more of…something during the conversation, though this character is probably just doing recon. There is slight smile on 18 and the character’s exit is a memorable visual. My only grouse for this issue is the look of the character that ends Page 18: this character looks nothing like the actor that portrayed this character. Even when the character becomes empowered, I would not recognize this character unless named. The antagonist in this scene is fine. The reveal on 21 is good, with it being the largest panel of the issue. I’m looking forward to seeing what Mora gets to do with this next month. The last page is fine, it being text heavy, but I would have wanted to be closer to the final image for a stronger emotional punch. Overall grade: A-

The colors: The book opens drowning in reds by Raúl Angulo. This creates an instantly sinister aura. A turn of the page and the Slayer’s creepy friends speak with red dialogue balloons, solidifying their horrible states. By coloring Buffy’s narration blue, the reader knows that all will be well. The second panel on 4 has a nice sunrise effect due to the colors — very neat. The library is really dark, more so than on the show. I’ve worked and been in many high school libraries, I’ve never seen a school library this dark. It does allow Buffy to stand out with her yellow hair, but Giles is practically invisible against it in his dark suit. The arrival of the character on 8 is fantastic because of the colors that instantly mark her as an outsider. Rose’s skin is giving me issues because it starts dark on 10 and then goes more pale than Willow’s on 11. Which is it? I need to know if she pops up again and isn’t named. The school colors on students’ PE clothes make them eye catchers. The sunset on 15 is beautiful. The objects that a character is chasing on this page really stand out. The colors are a knockout on 18 when a character slinks into the shadows — excellent job! The reds for the opening nightmare return for the spell shop, which is a good backdrop for the antagonist and her white suit. The oranges, yellows, and greens at the bottom of 19 are great. There needs to be more of these in this location, otherwise the setting is a blur of crimson. The violets and whites on the final page create the evening and sadness well. Overall grade: B+

The letters: This issue’s text includes narration, dialogue, a scream, flyer text, tee shirt text, a unique character’s speech on 21, and computer text. All are created by Ed Dukeshire. I wish the vampire speech was a unique font, but is instead separated from regular dialogue by the shape ofthe dialogue balloon and the coloring. The scream is the largest utterance by anyone in the book and is large. I like the printed text (flyer, tee shirt, and computer), which are realistic each time they appear. The exclamation on 21 is good for being so different from other forms of speech in the book and suited the speaker well. Hopefully next issue allows Dukeshire to mix it up some more, such as employing his sensational sound effects. Overall grade: A-

The final line: Character development throughout, with several changes to shake up veteran fans, but little action. I enjoyed this, but didn’t love this. I need to see some more Slayer action. There’s also a lot characters being thrown at the reader right away, with teases of what they are capable of. The visuals are good, with my favorite character still not looking like herself. I want more, but my expectations aren’t high. Overall grade: B+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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