Buffy may be the Chosen One at this point in the Buffy mythology, before Kendra, Faith, and the Potential Slayers muddy the rules, but what about origin stories? Can the franchise have more than one of those?
That’s what Boom! Studios is about to find out, having taken over from Dark Horse as the publisher of Buffy comics. Dark Horse’s run was a continuation of the Joss Whedon TV series and lasted for five seasons (8-12). Boom! is going in a different direction and taking Buffy back to high school, but with certain plot points changed, like how Xander and Willow meet Buffy for the first time.
It’s not a butterfly effect. One event hasn’t been changed, creating a ripple effect through the original series. Instead what writer Jordie Bellaire (Redlands), has done is created a Buffy where you can’t depend on your previous knowledge. Enough is the same that it’s still Buffy (Sunnydale’s still on the Hellmouth) but a lot is different, too. Certain elements have been moved forward (Willow may have a girlfriend). Others give off familiar vibes (Buffy’s job at Tunaverse feels a lot like Season Six’s Doublemeat Palace).
Along with inspiring major hair envy artist Dan Mora (Go Go Power Rangers) has done an amazing job with the character designs. It’s not news that Alison Hannigan has great hair in real life, but Mora went for Willow’s season three cut and it’s voluminous in colorist Raúl Angulo’s red hue. Then again, Angulo colors all of the characters like they are movie stars in their best light, whether they’re in a graveyard or a seafood restaurant parking lot.
Rather than introduce Jesse (Xander and Willow’s friend from the pilot), only to kill him off when he’s turned in Episode Two, Issue #1 has Buffy’s first encounter with her best friends be saving them from a vampire attack. No getting to know them at school first, before they find out she’s the Slayer. It’s faster that way, but means Xander and Willow aren’t immediately involved with helping Buffy research. Instead her slayer life and friends are kept separate and while it probably won’t last, it’s less interesting to see her compartmentalize (like when a superhero is made to choose between saving people or romance).
Bellaire pulls off two surprise twists, though, and if a twist lands without feeling telegraphed these days, that’s a huge accomplishment. One is a fun, new introduction for a fan favorite character (and not the character you might have been tipped off to by their appearance on a cover for Issue #2)
The other is too early to say but could be a place where the comics decide to stray from the series in a big way, depending on where Bellaire decides to take things. It does set you up to form the wrong idea about another character, who it’s easy to assume is responsible.
Change is always hard, but change is also what makes revisiting a series like Buffy worthwhile. All involved appear to be huge fans of the TV show (this issue is sprinkled with inside references, like Xander imitating the Mutant Enemy vampire or Ed Dukeshire using lettering that matches the logo for “To be continued…”), but it’s a good sign that the central mystery, involving an unknown necklace, is the strongest part of the story so far.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 goes on sale January 23rd from Boom! Studios.