In Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 11 #1

The quality of this series continues to rise above the competition. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: The premiere issue of this season has three covers for completists to track down. All are excellent. The Regular cover is by Steve Morris and it is the image I’ve chosen to accompany this review. It is a gorgeous cover featuring the Slayer holding her scythe ready as she’s about to take a swing at the monstrous Chinese dragon that looks to entangle her in its lengthy body. Morris has made Buffy a dead ringer for actress Sarah Michelle Gellar and the dragon looks as though it’s flown out of a classical screen. The coloring is fantastic, with the yellow background making the blues of the beast and Buffy’s flesh pop. The Variant cover is by Rebekah Isaacs with Dan Jackson and Comicraft. For this season Dark Horse is featuring “deleted scenes” on the Variant covers written by Christos Gage. They’re not going to spoil anything from the issue and are intended to give a “tiny bit of added content,” in the words of editor Freddye Miller. Buffy and Spike are in a sewer looking at some bodies, unaware that a huge worm-like creature has risen up behind them, it’s maw wide and hands ready to grasp. It looks like something in the classic movie monster mold as the two protagonists don’t realize It’s right behind them! The art is great and the coloring sensational, with Jackson giving the piece an excellent creepy tone with the neon green in the logo and the violets of the creature’s mouth great sources for focus. The Dark Horse 30th Anniversary cover is by Karl Moline. This is an image from the previous season’s conclusion, with Buffy wielding her scythe to deflect the magic being hurled at her by D’Hoffryn. The Slayer is standing on the unconscious bodies of the Scoobies as she tries to save the world once again. This is a good illustration, but the colors have the top being really bold and the bottom very drab, giving this a top heavy feel. A major plus to this cover is that it features the Dark Horse Presents logo giving it a modern, yet retro, feel. Overall grades: Regular A+, Variant A+, and Dark Horse 30th Anniversary B+ 

The story: The story on the Variant cover continues, as Spike and Buffy are trying to take the sewer monster down. The two make a great team, with some nice romantic banter between the pair after the creature is beaten. The arrival of Officer Dowling on the scene with two others provides a good opportunity by writer Christos Gage to provide some references to the previous season while the characters converse. Best among this talk is the moment that Spike has with Dowling in which his final words on Page 3 have some great weight. The scene moves to the apartment that Buffy shares with sister Dawn and best friend Willow. The witch is holding a meeting with six people who are interested in Wicca. She tells the gathered that her focus with them is to find “…oneness. Happiness. Fulfillment. And the many ways to find it.” Yes, they will cover spellcasting, but there will be other meetings for that. The final panel on 4 has a visual that hints at something that may come to be. Buffy and Spike arrive and go upstairs to the roof where the rest of the gang are gathered. If one has never read a Buffy comic (And Wow! have you missed some cool stuff!), this issue is the perfect introduction to the characters and their world. Gage doesn’t overwhelm the reader with backstory, but has the characters in conversations that reveal their natures so that novice readers instantly know these individuals. Long time readers will also enjoy the read, as the banter and the emotions are as strong as any episode of the series. For those wondering if there’s any action beyond the opening pages, yes there is, and it goes far beyond anything the Slayer and her friends have every encountered. Page 18 begins something often overlooked in comic books and its inclusion brought a strong level of reality to the proceedings. You know something is going to be major when Xander says, “Dawn…Don’t look.” Spike closes out the issue by warning of something big that’s coming, while the final page shows a threat that the Slayer has never had to face. I loved every page of this story. Overall grade: A+

The art: The reader is thrust into the thick of things on the first page from artist Rebekah Isaacs as Buffy and Spike are caught in the coils of the monster. The characters look great and the monster outstanding: Isaacs has an impeccable track record in designing creatures for this series. The graffiti that decorates the sewer walls also looks great. The first panel atop Page 2 is a super conclusion to the fight, and it’s wonderfully countered by the romantic close up in the third panel. Isaacs also excels at showing emotion on her characters’ faces, which the final panel on 3 demonstrates. The six individuals surrounding Willow look great, commanding full personalities in their quick appearances. When the story goes to the roof, take a look at how well Isaacs moves the point of view around, introducing each character and allowing time to spent on each to define them for readers new and old. The absence of a setting in the final panel on 7 gives that conversation the right amount of emotional punch to make their dialogue between the two characters meaningful. The magic that Willow wields on 9 is awesome and when the witch goes to full battle mode it is spectacular. The creature that causes the problems is a joy to look upon and its action are gloriously Toho-esque. Page 13 should be studied by artists to see how tiny characters should be shown battling monstrous ones. My favorite page of the issue is 17, showing the creature and two of the protagonists in action: its scale is epic and the heroes beautifully demonstrate teamwork. The four pages that follow this are dramatic and very real. The final page introduces three new characters who could be Buffy’s greatest threat yet. I loved every page of this artwork. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Dan Jackson continues to be the perfect match for Isaacs’s artwork. The first panel instantly connotes a sewer with the grays and sickly greens. The dull yellow of this story’s title is wonderfully highlighted, which draws the reader’s eye, as does the grotesque violet used for the monster’s mouth. Notice that when Spike goes to bite the creature the background goes red, making the violence stronger. Jackson also nicely paints some characters in black and white down in the sewers to show how they’re in the dark or not the focus of the panel. Willow Rosenberg’s magical creations wonderfully glow under Jackson’s direction, being both beautiful and strong. The sunset seen behind the characters on the top of the building is one to be envied. The lighting effects that Jackson creates are excellent: take at look at the middle panel on 11 and how the energy is casting its power onto the characters. The details in the large antagonist are also great, with colors used to give it depth. Jackson succeeds in every level on this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: The story’s title, Spike’s vampire dialogue, dialogue, sounds, scene settings, yells, and the tease for next issue are by Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt. I so appreciate that when Spike is in vampire mode his font gives him an extra visual difference from non-vamps. The sounds of this issue are outstanding, putting in every punch and scream in the battles. Each “SHKK“, “THNK“, and SKREEK” is awesome. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is an excellent introduction to and continuation of the Slayer’s adventures. Accessible to new readers and faithful to its followers, every contributor has brought their A game. The quality of this series continues to rise above the competition. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

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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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