Technology may have come a long way since the 90’s but it’s nice to know that when Giles and Buffy need information on a necklace that prevents vampires from being staked, they can still turn to the books in Sunnydale High School’s library.
This artifact is at the center of writer, Jordie Bellaire’s, new take on Buffy for Boom! Studios, and this issue (like the first) is at its best whenever characters are trying to find out more about the necklace and where it came from (Bellaire particularly pegs Anya well in her scene with Drusilla, and I hope we get to see the full fallout of their interaction instead of dropping in at the end come issue three).
Issue two begins and we’re inside Buffy’s nightmare. Immediately colorist, Raúl Angulo, lets us know something’s wrong, by limiting the colors to red, black, and purple, but it’s seeing Xander and Willow’s maggoty faces inside a locker (the place bullies always stuff nerds in teen movies), that cements it. I hope artist, Dan Mora, gets a horror comic out of this because his images here are petrifying. Walls covered in scratches, maggots everywhere (the bug man from season two’s “What’s My Line” would be proud) and the skewed proportions of Willow’s long, spindly leg stepping out of the locker to pursue Buffy.
Ed Dukeshire’s lettering is unexpected during this sequence, as well. There’s one page where Dark Giles’ speech bubble and Buffy’s are very similar except Giles’ has sharp edges and Buffy’s has curvy edges and it’s the difference between a threatening speech bubble and a wobbly, gasping for air one. I also love the idea that in school you’re taught to write on lined paper so your letters are level, so the ultimate sign of villainy is for the letters to be skewed, at different heights. The red shade for these speech bubbles is very modern, too, and not what you’d typically associate with horror, but computers, like the blue for Xander’s blog posts.
Xander’s narration sticks out a lot this issue. Part of that is being aware it’s him this time but also, in the first issue, when Xander’s narration could pass for Buffy’s, Buffy was always there. It made sense that we were reading her internal monologue. With Xander, sometimes his narration makes you aware that he’s there, which is how he’s feeling – overlooked and alone – but it’s also this tonal flux of sadness you’re not expecting. If you’re a fan of the show, Xander’s someone you’re attached to, so it’s upsetting to hear him talk this way. He’s struggled with not having superpowers before, but even if you’re not familiar with Xander, his high school experience is one a lot of people have gone through, and the dangers of depression are important to address.
I do wish he wasn’t so isolated. This goes back to reading the comics as a fan, but you don’t get a yellow crayon speech without Xander and Willow and their friendship doesn’t seem as strong here. We meet Willow’s girlfriend this issue (which is fantastic) and she’s not as dependent on Xander’s friendship as she was on the show (which is healthy) but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be tight.
Buffy #2 goes without a few commonplace Buffy things. No vampires are slayed this issue. We don’t see Buffy on patrol and other than a text, the Scoobies don’t talk in person. Instead, Cordelia gets a big entrance, but she’s not the same Cordelia from the show either. As Willow says, this Cordelia’s nice, and not nice like she’s working an angle (though she is running for student body president) but genuinely nice, which is the opposite of tactless.
There’s a lot Buffy is getting right, and a lot that’s the same, too (with Mora nailing Buffy’s facial expressions when she’s forced to deal with her mother’s boyfriend) but this creative team are taking risks, and I guess my question is whether you’d be able to give this comic to someone who’s never seen the show and tell whether they’d enjoy it? I’m not sure. Change in this instance is good (why go back to the well otherwise?), but it can also be distracting and while there’s no avoiding comparisons altogether, issue two could do more to take our minds off what’s different and towards Buffy’s necklace problem instead.
Buffy #2 goes on sale February 27th from Boom! Studios.