In Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer #3

I'm liking the artwork, but am not feeling the joy from much else.

The covers: There are eight covers to find if you can protect yourself from the creatures of the night. The Main cover is by Matthew Taylor and has a great image of Cordelia in her cheerleader uniform surrounded by several pom-poms. There’s an image of Spike to her immediate left, but he’s colored so darkly he can’t be made out. This another great illustration undone by the whackadoo coloring. Cordy is in several shades of orange and Spike blends into the background with blues so dark as to be thought black. Why are these covers colored like this? Giles gets the focus on the Spotlight cover by Kevin Wada. Rupert has his jacket off as he’s working in the school library, as evidenced by the wall of books behind him. He’s going through a tome before him by electric light and three candles. He looks up at the reader with a smile, pleasantly surprised by their appearance. This is nice. Another Slayer is again focused upon on the Chosen One cover by Matt Smith. This has a young woman in the snow, wielding a long sword. Before her is a felled knight, though he’s reaching for his sword. Behind her are vampires racing to attack, one with a sword and the other with sword and battleaxe. They, too, are transformed knights. Snow covered mountains are behind all. The coloring suggests night that’s becoming day, due to the bright mountain tops. Think Game of Thrones meets Buffy. This is nice, but, as with last issue’s variant, if I don’t know who this is, why would I care? The Episode Preorder Variant cover by Scott Buoncristiano is the book I was lucky enough to pick up. This features the villains of the series’ frequently sighted scariest episode “Hush.” Three gentleman are above a spooky house. The Gentleman in the middle holds a scalpel, with all three of these creatures before a giant heart. Creepy and awesome. The Variant covers are by Eleonora Carlini, with colors by Walter Baiamonte on the colored edition. Spike and Dru are caught in a tender moment in a back alley, disturbed by the reader. Spike doesn’t look pleased that Dru has stopped in her affection as he gives the reader the stink eye, while Dru eyes the reader like something to be played with; her fingers are talons. I like the art but the coloring is like that of the Main cover and is really 1980’s garish. It’s okay, but not to my liking. Natural coloring would have been better. I prefer the Black and White Variant much more, which shows Carlini’s art in its original state and it’s fantastic. This would be the version to pick up. The Unlocked Cordelia Variant cover by Kaiti Infante just does not look good. I wouldn’t have know this was Cordy looking at her phone while putting on lipstick unless told. On top of that, this is just not good, looking more like a cover from an early 80’s independent book. Very disappointing. Also lackluster is Infante’s work on the Unlocked Vampire Cordelia Variant cover. Cordelia is looking to the right, wiping blood from her mouth. Her hair looks more like a habit. As with the previous cover, this doesn’t look like Cordy. The universal blacks for her hair make it look like a head covering. This is also extremely disappointing. Overall grades: Main C-, Spotlight B-, Chosen One B-, Episode Preorder A+, Carlini Variant Colored B, Carlini Black and White A, Unlocked Cordelia Variant F, and Unlocked Variant Cordelia Variant F

The story: Spike is walking into Anya’s supernatural shoppe to tell Dru what he’s learned about the local teens. He asks with a grin, “How are things going here? You girls haven’t gotten into a fight, I trust–” That’s when the huge bat creature that Dru unknowingly released last issue takes flight roaring, “DESTROY ALL DEMONS! NO SOUL, NO LIFE!” The creature then flies out the hole it’s made in the ceiling. Dru and Anya end their fight when the store owner gives the vampires the charms Dru was seeking to protect them from having their eternal lives killed. The deal is they need to get the creature back. Meanwhile, Buffy is walking down the street talking aloud. “‘Find the jewelry, Buffy, or else I’ll dad you…to death! I demand results, Buffy! I am a scary librarian man! Rah, rah, rah!'” She doesn’t know where to look for the source of the charm that she discovered on a vamp in the first issue. Then she looks up to see the bat-thing flying above yelling, “MUST DESTROY ALL VAMPIRES! CLEANSE THE EVIL!” The story then starts running, with Buffy, Spike, and Dru after the bat. Writer Jordie Bellaire has captured the characters’ voices exceedingly well; they sound exactly like their television counterparts. The action in the issue is good, with the bat and the vamps providing trouble for the Buffster, however there are moments that gave me pause: what Giles is doing, Cordy’s actions (there is just NO way she would be capable of the act in the third panel on 8), and the reveal on 11. I couldn’t get past how normal this danger, seen clearly in public, didn’t cause more panic. Or more how more locals don’t insert themselves in the action, after all the Scoobies are clearly seen fighting back, and it’s justified through dialogue that this sort of mayhem is normal in Sunnydale. No one is going to film the proceedings and post it online? Nope. At least the final page is using digital media well. Dru is too sane for me. One of her many delights on the series was her unpredictability. Here, she’s just another vampire. She’s nothing special. The entrance on 16 is great, but that’s quite the turnaround from the last two issues. I’m liking parts of this story, but shaking my head in disappointment at others. Overall grade: C+

The art: Artist Dan Mora is to be congratulated for the books’ likenesses. The characters, save Anya, look great. He’s able to create these characters from any point of view, which is important in the book’s action scenes. The smug Spike that begins the book sweetly goes to surprise when the bat appears, which looks awesome at the bottom of the first page. The creature is a dark god at the top of the fist page, with a great amount of debris and artifacts flying about it as it spreads its wings. The transition between panels two and three is funny, matching the dialogue wonderfully. The progression among the first three panels on 4 is great as Buffy kicks a can down the street. The point of view that ends this page is a great lead in to the panel that starts 5. The bat’s entrance on 7 is movie quality, reminding me of a Ray Harryhausen film, especially with the lights tangled about it. I am in love with the last panel on 9 — that’s how I want to see Buffy! I did not like the look of the creature on 11; it does not look as detailed as previously shown, with that third panel sketchy. Buffy, however, looks gorgeous in her last panel on that page. The two characters that appear on 16 look incredible! The inclusion of the creature behind one of the characters is so darned cool! All that’s missing is music. After this page the book’s story has standoffs, exits, and conversations. Not exactly the stuff an artist dreams of, but Mora keeps it entertaining reading by having the characters emote sensationally and he moves the point of view around well, so the reader isn’t ever bored with what is being shown. It should also be mentioned that the backgrounds throughout this issue are really well done, with the exterior scenes impressive. Nice bit with the statue in the background if you find it. Mora is the right artist for this book. Overall grade: A

The colors: The visuals start strongly with colors from Raúl Angelo. I love the tease of reds in the first panel and they continue subtly into the second panel with Spike’s shirt, until exploding in the final panel as the bat begins its flight. The color is always associated with sinister action and it is used perfectly here. Having the bat’s exclamations in yellow allows them to stand out strongly against the crimson. Anya also stands out among the reds with her yellow hair, though she, too, is wearing red. Is no one in this opening sequence innocent? The graffiti on the wall on 4 has got some ultra bright violets and blues. I’ve never seen graffiti in such bright colors, unless in 80’s videos. The lights that surround the bat when it hits the street are wonderful punctuation marks in every panel to remind the reader of their presence. I’m still not happy with Cory’s dyed hair. I do like that Angelo doesn’t color every background, such as at the bottom of 9, which allows the reader to fully focus on the character. Pages 12 and 13 are fairly bland because of the blanket background colors and the pale characters. The sky should have been a different color. Lipstick punches up thing a few pages later, but should I be looking at the lips so much, since they’re the only thing that’s bright? The book’s final pages end with these drab colors, overwhelmed by dark cyan. Mix it up more, Mr. Angelo, please. Overall grade: B-

The letters: Ed Dukeshire’s text includes dialogue, bat speech, whispered text, sounds, singing, and the three word tease for next issue. The dialogue is so thin, no one commands any strength when they speak. This is apparent when stress is added to words, which are thickened, showing how large the letters should and could be. There’s a lot of yelling in this issue, but it’s hard to hear as yells since even they are so wispy. Such a thin font works on whispered dialogue, since it’s supposed to be quiet. The bat dialogue is perfect, being executed in large letters. The singing is done with musical notes, rather than words, which had me thinking that the performer was actually whistling and not singing. I still am unsure. This issue’s text struck the wrong chord with me. Overall grade: C

The final line: I’m liking the artwork, but am not feeling the joy from much else. The story seems to be rushing characters into familiar niches and the colors and letters aren’t strong enough. I’m a huge Buffy fan and will see this introductory arc through to the end, but this rebooting from BOOM! could be my only foray following this new Slayer. 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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