In Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer #4

This is the best issue of the series yet.

The covers: A massive eight covers for the Slayer’s fans to track down. The Main cover is by Matthew Taylor and features Xander wielding a stake confronting two vampires. He doesn’t notice that behind him he has Darla, Angel, and Spike all in vamp mode. I’m not liking these covers because of the monocoloring. It seems like a way to disguise lackluster art. Better is the Spotlight cover by Kevin Wada. Xander is online with his computer camera showing what he’s doing. He’s got on his headset, a bag of open Cheezies in his lap, and a Red Bull off to his right on a paper covered in doodles. I like that the bottom left corner says @theXeppo. A fun cover that captures this supporting character well. The Chosen One cover by Feifei Ruan continues to show Slayers throughout history. This one features an Asian Slayer who is in profile to the right with leaves falling upon her against a pink and blue sky. She’s holding a wooden stake in her hand that has a really neat design. The bottom of the illustration has trees growing skywards, with a full moon containing two bats in the dead center. Nice, but as with previous covers, I don’t know who any of these past Slayers are, so I have no buy in to purchase these covers. Paul Mann has created a stellar frontpiece for the Episode Preorder Variant cover. This is from “Once More With Feeling” and features great head shots of the cast on a violet and blue background, with only Sweet’s entire body shown. This is also the cover to the recent released vinyl collection of the soundtrack. I am a tremendous fan of Jenny Frison’s artwork and her Variant Color cover featuring Willow is outstanding. Showing the character from just above her waist, Willow carries a book and has a backpack over a shoulder. Just another day for the soon-to-be witch. I love the look of the character and the colors are fantastic. There’s also a Variant Black and White cover by Frison that features the same illustration, just without the colors. This is equally impressive. The Unlocked Xander Variant cover by Miguel Mercado has the character also dressed for school, sporting a blue sweater with a yellow stripe bordered by red stripes running across his middle. He’s got a backpack over his left shoulder and he’s winking and pointing with both hands at the reader. Yeah, this is Xander, for sure. The Unlocked Vampire Xander Variant cover by Mercado has the character in the same clothes, but with a hand beckoning the reader to come closer. He’s in vampire mode as he smirks at the reader in the dark. Like all previous Unlocked Vampire Variants, one to search for! Overall grades: Main D, Spotlight B+, Chosen One B-, Episode Preorder Variant A, Variant Color A+, Variant Black and White A+, Unlocked Xander Variant A, and Unlocked Vampire Xander Variant A+

The story: Jordie Bellaire starts the issue with a smooth way to show the passage of time, with Buffy and her friends shown in school, training, and battling baddies. It’s mentioned that Spike and Drusilla haven’t been seen in a while, though they are shown that they’re aware of what the heroes are up to. During training one day with Giles, the Watcher says that since it’s been quiet for a week Buffy should take a night off. This surprises all three teens. “With everything being so quiet for so long, I fear something big is headed our way. Take some time and rest to recover…and prepare…Because I know that while this time has been uneventful, it is still burdensome,” Giles says. With the trio gone, Giles decides to train for awhile on his own. What follows is Willow setting Buffy up for a double-date and Xander once again ignored. There’s a good moment at the Summers home where Eric points out he’s noticed something about Buffy. Alone and depressed, Xander receives a text to meet up privately with the Buffster and when he arrives for their rendezvous he’s greeted by two foes. The last six pages are painful to read for the emotion on the page. There’s also a reveal at the that will leave fans screaming. This was an improvement over previous issues because one character gets a strong focus. Overall grade: A

The art: The first two pages of this book contain nine panels which allow Dan Mora to show a wide variety of characters, actions, and settings. This is some great work! Reading each row horizontally focuses on one character, with even a villain touched upon. The third page shows the training studio for the Slayer and the Scoobies, resembling how it looked on the television series. The teens’ reactions on Page 4 are perfect, and having a band-aid on Xander’s face made me laugh. I love the exit on Page 5 that’s only missing a cartoon gunshot for the leaving. I do not like the final panel on the page that shows Giles kicking; the line work makes him look like the Flash. The hallway scene at school is good, with the backgrounds detailed and peopled realistically. Buffy’s facepalm made me smile and laugh. Buffy’s back and forth with her mom and Eric is good, with the final panel on 11 overdue…that must mean something terrible is going to happen to one of them soon. I don’t like when Buffy plops herself into a chair — she’s got that blurred look to her feet. Why, Mr. Mora? Why? I’m not liking Dru’s clothing, making her look like the Black Queen from X-Men comics. The characters’ emotions are clearly stated to the reader through their backsides on Page 16. I was impressed by the amount of emotion Mora was able to create on 20 – 22, which raise the quality of the visuals considerably. Plus, those last two panels make me hungry to see what happens next issue! Overall grade: A-

The colors: Raúl Angulo’s colors on this book are cool. I really like the first two pages having one color dominate each character’s panels: Buffy gets red, Willow dark green, Xander tan, etc. The colors within the training room look the same as the series. The characters’ clothing has the leads stand out at school, with Willow’s violet top, Xander’s blue shirt, and Buffy’s iconic red jacket sharp. It also helps that Angulo colors the other students and the hallway in tans to make the leads pop. The characters’ clothes also pop in the Summers’ living room: Buffy in violet, Joyce in teal, and Eric in a white tee on a dark brown sofa. The dark blue sky sets the tone for the last few pages of the book with orange used well for someone’s eyes. Overall grade: A

The letters: I am really not liking Ed Dukeshire’s dialogue on this book. It is too thin to hold emotional strength when characters speak. Even when stress is given to some words, so the reader can better hear the characters speak, it looks weak. The narration looks good, as do the sounds and phone texts. That dialogue font has got to be changed. Overall grade: C

The final line: This is the best issue of the series yet, due to one character getting some solid focus. In fact, this issue is entirely character driven with no slaying whatsoever. I liked how uncomfortable Buffy was in trying to be social and the Scoobie on the final seven pages is spectacular. The visuals remain strong, though I don’t like the stylized blur used by Mora. The dialogue font is also very limp looking. These are really minor nicks, because this an enjoyable issue. 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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