In Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer #5

A change in artists for this issue hurts worse than a vampire's kiss.

The covers: Nine covers to take back to your crypt if you have to have them all! The Main cover by Marc Aspinall looks like the cover to a 1970’s pulp novel. Within a giant light blue circle is Vampire Xander holding his neck with Drusilla cradling him from behind. Below them is Buffy holding a note with one hand and the other on Williow’s shoulders who is on her knees in sorrow at seeing human Xander on the floor inside a circle surrounded by candles. There’s a lot of empty space within the rose colored background; a larger logo would have helped fill it. This is okay, but not an image I love. The Spotlight cover by Kevin Wada features Angel with his hands behind his back and head tilted slightly to the right. The point of view is him looking out a window, because the shadow of the frame of the aperture is on him as well as a tree limb. Behind him are out of focus lights that could be from many candles. This is going to be the cover that fans will want. Though it has nothing to do with this issue, the Chosen One cover by Morgan Beem really caught my eye because it looks as though it’s from a B.P.R.D. comic. The top left states THE PHILIPPINES, with 1910 below it. There is a fantastic illustration of woman wearing a massive puffy coat and tight long skirt holding a stake in her left hand. She’s got her other hand on a vampire’s skull that’s on a table and there’s a animal tail (or a worm?!?) protruding out of the skull’s upper mouth. There’s a lion sized slug creature on the floor beneath her that’s smiling. On the right is a large bookcase containing jars, skulls, and drawings of all things arcane. This is colored in sepia tones to give it an aged look. This looks stunning and I would buy a series with this Slayer if it looked just like this. Becca Carey has created the Episode Preorder Variant cover that’s a strong crimson with Willow’s head in the center. However, her face can’t be seen because it’s got a whirlpool swirl on it. The title of the book is at the top and the word Doppelgangland beneath it. This looks like anyone could have cranked it out on a computer in twenty minutes or less. There are two Variant covers by Yasmine Putri. The Color Variant has Xander on the floor with his back against some lockers that have been battered and torn open. He’s holding his right arm before him which has sprung some vampire nails. On the floor shadows of Willow and Buffy can be seen, with the latter holding Mr. Spikey. Very cool. The Black and Variant Variant is the same image sans colors. This makes me appreciate the colors on the previous version which do a lot of work on this image. The Unlocked Buffy Retalier Variant cover by Kaiti Infante features the Slayer turned to the right with a smile. Her left hand disappears as if it goes off the frontpiece and her right hand is held low in a fist. She looks happy about something. This is not a good image of Buffy, looking more like Vanessa Bayer than SMG. The Unlocked Vampire Buffy Retalier Variant cover by Infante connects to the previous cover by having Vampire Buffy with her back to the reader as she puts her left hand out to the left where it disappears. She, too, is smiling, but she is obviously a vampire. This is also not a good look for the Slayer. I couldn’t find online a copy of the Showcase Variant by Simone di Meo, so good luck, collectors! Overall grade: Main B, Spotlight A-, Chosen One A+, Episode Preorder Variant F, Variant Color A, Variant B&W C, Unlocked Buffy Retailer Variant F, and Unlocked Vampire Buffy Retailer Variant F

The story: The first five pages have Buffy fighting several vampires, exchanging barbs as they battle. After the credits pages, Jordie Bellaire has Buffy experience something that should have happened a lot more often on the television series. Someone comes looking for Buffy at night and their conversation is the best thing in the book: I loved what each character said with the tone excellent. The pair head to someone’s home where the serious aspect of the book begins. I love the additional character who’s in the house; I can’t get enough of this individual. The reaction from a character at the bottom of 12 and first two panels on 13 are perfect. I love the response written on a note that’s read. I didn’t like either of the characters on 15 and 16 because they’re so unlike how they’ve been in every other form of media I’ve seen them, which is quite a few. The dialogue on 19 and 20 is good, with the first panel on 21 going extra icky. The last page shows one character’s appropriate response to information and I like the tease of immediate danger in this person’s future. I enjoyed this, with exception to the villains who were not true to their pasts. There also wasn’t Anya in this issue, which is good, because I haven’t liked how she’s now written. To cut to the quick, I’m just not liking the villains. If you can’t believe the villains, you can’t buy into any threats in the book. I like more than not, but still have issues with the changing of certain characters. Overall grade: B-

The art: David López is the artist this issue (a new artist after only four issues?) and his style does not work for me. I do not like artists that blur their visuals to create speed. The first three panels on Page 1 are supposed to capture quick gestures, but they look sloppy. Better is the close up in the third panel, though the source being struck is not seen. The final panel on the page would make more sense, especially to new readers, if the victim of panel three would have been shown. Buffy’s face in the top right of Page 3 look inhuman, like she’s related to Abe Sapien. I really dislike the speed lines in the large panel on 2 — it’s like her knee was smeared. I do like the antagonists on 5, which all look fantastic. What is up with Willow’s face in this issue? Her eyes are so far apart or bugged out in a cartoonish fashion. I also do not like the way the villains are illustrated. Look at Buffy, Xander, and Willow on Page 17. Look at Willow on 19. This is just bad. Now the change on 20 is good as is the look of this character after the transformation. The character that’s on the final page is another overly cartoony interpretation. This is not working for me. Overall grade: D-

The colors: The first three pages have some fairly bright colors, but after this colorist Raúl Angulo goes pretty dark with very bland colors. It makes sense things are pretty dark on 4 and 5 due to the light source being far from Buffy and the nature of 6 demands it’s dark. Violets are used for the night sky, which allows the visuals to be clear when characters are outside, but the characters dim on 9 after being brighter on 8. I do like the sepia colors for the quick flashback, which look neat. Notice how the characters brighten considerably when they reappear on 10 — what happened? I don’t understand why the primary setting for the remainder of the book is so dark. There is a massive light on in the left and a ridiculously smaller one on in the right. Why aren’t the two wall lamps on? There’s no reason explained for some, but not all lighting, being used. Yes, it makes it scarier, but it left me wondering. I really liked the blues at the top of 21 — very cool. Thankfully, the last page has bright colors, but the book has been so dark I’m almost blinded by the light. Overall grade: C

The letters: Ed Dukeshire creates dialogue, sounds, whispered dialogue, an editor’s note, a yell, and the three word tease for next issue. I’m really beginning to dislike the tiny, thin font of dialogue. It’s difficult to read and I’m willing to bet this is the smallest dialogue font of any comic book series I read. When this font shrinks to become whispered dialogue I’m really straining to read the text. I’ve always liked Dukeshire’s work, but this is not working. Overall grade: D+

The final line: A change in artists for this issue hurts worse than a vampire’s kiss. The story is neat for having one of the Scoobies in trouble, but the villains are so different from the way they’ve been portrayed in the past they come off as poor substitutes. The new artist in this issue is not consistent with this characters, especially on Willow, and the blurred images for speed look horrible. The colors are also really dim, making the art lessen further. And I continue to find the dialogue font to be practically unreadable. I did not like this issue. Overall grade: C-

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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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