In Review: Hellmouth #1

A solid start with several changes to the classic television adventures.

The covers: There are eight covers I was able to locate, but there may be more out there. The Main cover by Jenny Frison is a masterpiece. A bust shot of Buffy is surrounded by flames. She’s looking to the left and has a stake ready to take down any vampires that attack. She looks incredible. Frison can do no wrong with anything she creates and this is beautiful. I love this. The next cover features Sunnydale High School is in the lower left, a huge explosion of red and violet exits from its roof and swirls around the upper third of the book. In the center is a photo realistic illustration of Buffy holding Mr. Pointy. To her upper right is Angel, below him appears to be Anya and Spike kissing hardcore (?!?!?), and at the bottom is vampire Xander, Willow, and Giles. Excellent work on this Variant cover by Kyle Lambert. I had to purchase the Hellmouth Connecting cover by Kelly and Nichole Matthews because I love the design of the characters, and have loved this pair’s work since their Toil and Trouble series. In the foreground is a worried Xander, behind him is a smiling Willow looking at the reader, and behind her is Cordelia looking to the right with a smile. Behind her is a giant head shot of Spike. A snake winds around them. A giant bat is in the bottom left corner. Gorgeous art and stunning colors, with pinks dominating. I couldn’t find the Unlocked Foil Variant cover by Kyle Lambert online, so best of luck to you! The Black and White Variant cover by Frison is the same as the Main cover, but without the colors. I love Frison’s art, but I prefer it colored. I couldn’t find a copy of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fun 2019 Variant cover by Lambert online, so good luck, collectors! The Blank Sketch cover has Mr. Pointy and the credits within on the right in orange, while the rest of the book is in white so an artist can create a one of a kind original sketch or one can have the creators sign this. A good idea for a cover, but pretty boring on its own. The Second Printing cover by Dan Panosian is reason enough to track this down! Buffy is in silhouette, though her top, her hair, and the blood that covers is is colored, standing atop a mount of monstrous dead vampires in bat form. Behind her is one of these monstrous beats as well as tons of tentacles that spewed out of H.P. Lovecraft’s mind. Great cover and great colors. The Third Printing cover by Eleonora Carlini features the large image of Drusilla that ends this issue. She’s been moved slightly over to the left so the black Mr. Pointy that contains the cover’s text. I really like this illustration, so I really like this cover. Overall grades: Main A+, Hellmouth Connecting A+, Black and White Variant A, Blank Sketch C, Second Printing A+, and Third Printing A

The story: Drusilla is the narrator on the opening four pages. She speaks about hunger, ‘Stronger than the boredom…The anticipation gnaws you from within. But soon, my feast begins. And I will tear this world apart.’ Having activated the Hellmouth in Sunnydale, a series of images shows terror striking the city: a dog barks at growing, glowing cracks in the concrete, giant hands reach to grasp a pair of young moviegoers from behind, a living rooms splits, separating a family. Giant creatures flock on the edges of this burg to bring it down. Witnessing from a window the coming chaos, Of this sight, Dru says, “Pretty.” Spike is on the ground, holding the wound she gave him to activate the door. Meanwhile, Giles runs from the location to warn others, starting with Anya, but she’s emptied her store to go to safer pastures. Buffy, Robin, Xander, and Cordelia are in the library at Sunnydale High, where someone enters and gets everyone’s attention. This is an okay tale from Jordie Bellaire and Jeremy Lambert, though I’m missing the Master in this opening chapter. There’s a quick scene between Buffy and Xander that’s fun, but she’s soon off chasing this new guy who’s running to the basement. The dialogue between them is good, and I like that Buffy’s not going to play second fiddle to this character. They encounter and battle several supernatural obstacles, until Buffy is confronted by reality on 19. Page 20 is an outstanding tease for the next issue and the rest of the series. The character that ends the issue and what she says is excellent. I enjoyed this story, but I’m having a difficult time adjusting to the changes. I do want to see where this is heading, but I’m not on fire for it. Overall grade: B-

The art: The first page has four panels that wonderfully show how horror has come to Sunnydale. Each could have been a few pages long. The second and third page is a double-paged splash that shows the gigantic monsters beginning to swarm the city. I don’t like this work as much because the buildings are sketchy and the creatures, save the flying monsters, are teases from a distance. I’ve liked Eleonora Carlini’s work in previous books, such as AfterShock Comics’ Backways. I’m liking the faces on several familiar characters, such as Spike, Cordelia, and Xander, with the later having a Bruce Campbell chin. Buffy and Anya don’t resemble their television personas, but they’re recognizable when named. The character that becomes Buffy’s partner in the bowels of the high school looks much younger than he was on television. Dru looks incredibly different. I was initially not liking Carlini’s take on this classic villain, but by the final pages came up, I found myself really enjoying this new look. It takes a lot to impress an “old” Buffy fan like me, so my hat’s off to her for accomplishing this. The entrance atop Page 10 is excellent — that’s how to make an entrance! There’s a good text free panel that ends 11 and it’s also strong. I really like the layout for 12, with each panel showing the danger growing. 14 has a lot of blank space in the lower right; it does increase the mood, but I would rather see what’s in the location than imagining it. The fighting on 16 is good, but I really wanted more of this. After all, it is the first time this pair have fought side by side — it should be a moment. The reveal on 19 is good, filled with some great emotion, but it’s undercut by the coloring being slightly off. 20 and 21 are incredible set pieces, with the transition between panels on the latter brilliant, reminding me of the classic episode “The Gift.” There are two more pages after this, with an excellent illustration ending the issue. I’m liking the majority of this book, but am not thrilled with the title character and companion. Overall grade: B+

The colors: Cutting to the chase, the colors by Cris Peter are too dark at times. The first page is good, with the orange streaks in the concrete threatening and the bottom panel killer. I like how Dru’s narration is given a deep red so the reader may identify it as her thoughts. The second and third page are too dark, with the computer effect coloring for the explosion is unreal, even for a comic book. I like the cool blues that begin in Anya’s shop, but then they go violet for no discernible reason. I wish they had stayed blue to maintain the emptiness. The library is really dark. Yes, the lights are out, but in comic books cheating with reality should be the rule, even with colors. I really like page 12’s colors, but the two pages that follow are too dark, making it difficult to see the artwork by Carlini. Reds and oranges explode sensationally for the fight on 16, but the aftermath on 17 is again too dark. I love the black and whites on the character on the next page, but the item that’s the focus should have remained consistently colored. 20 and 21 are also too dark. Thankfully, the book ends with an explosion of violent oranges. I need brighter colors to see the artwork. Overall grade: C-

The letters: Ed Dukeshire creates the book’s narration for Dru, signage, dialogue, whispered speech, sounds, yells, and the tease for next issue. I love Dru’s unique thoughts, giving her that crazy lilt that Juliet Landau gave her. The signs are fitting for their locales. The dialogue is easy to read, and it’s shrunken to give characters whispered speech, and enlarged for yells. The sounds are good when they appear, but there’s not enough of them during the chaotic scenes, such as on 16. The tease for next issue uses a font that makes me incredibly happy to see. Overall grade: B+ 

The final line: A solid start with several changes to the classic television adventures. The meeting that occurs is good, but is hard to see at times due to the coloring. I like the art, though the two leads look nothing like the actors that played them. I’m open to more of this series, but it’s not knocking my socks off. 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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