‘The Last Vampire’ is a whole new modernized imagining of the Buffyverse that manages to perfectly maintain the same balance of fun, horrifying, and deeply emotional stakes that made the original television series so beloved. Everything about this series just works, as the characters feel like themselves while going so much deeper and taking new chances with them in every issue. A masterclass of how to handle a modernized adaptation of another work.
If anyone ever wondered whether it was possible to have three teenagers face off against a sentient noodle monster, bucatini to be precise, while also still mining serious relatable drama they now have an answer. As The Vampire Slayer #5 showcases, anything of this nature is possible in the Buffyverse and pretty darn common.
What Sarah Gailey has been doing with this series is just perfect. Through these five issues, we’ve gotten issues dedicated to the different perspectives of the Scooby Gang members but also bore witness to the absolute strain taking the slayer mantle has put on Willow. What seemed ridiculous, in the best way possible, at the start of this issue with Papa Delle the sentient bucatini monster quickly turned terrifying with the whole talk of bucatini eggs being implanted and then sad as we watch Willow and Buffy struggle with their big personal issues.
Willow can’t shoulder the burden she took from Buffy to save Buffy and taking all of that including memories from Buffy has left her in a place where she feels useless and is under pressure still. Friends doing what they think is best to help a friend, only for it to backfire on everyone is something many can relate to. Buffy is going through the sort of arc that Xander went through on the show, feeling left out and useless as others gained lives or abilities while being uncertain of why she feels this way.
When this book was first announced, I wasn’t sure just what it would be handling, but I’m 100% hooked at this point. Gailey is easily balancing the more serious/relatable aspects of Buffy with the wacky and the terrifying for a potent mixture. I hope this book has a good long life ahead of it.
Often shuffling artists in a short span of time can be something that might not help a series, especially with a variety of styles, but in this case, it’s very much a strength. Sonia Liao returns after previously tackling the second issue, and it’s a great choice. Puste was fantastic last issue with the issue that was focused on the three women and their back and forth and basically a day in the life of the slayers type of situation. Liao leans into the horror and ridiculousness of this story with her artwork. There is a bit of a roughness to Liao’s work and plenty of space to let the shadows creep in which helps highlight the horror and emotionally heavy moments of the story while also letting the humorous part of the situation breathe as well.
There is continuity in a way too as Liao handled the second issue which very much dealt with Willow’s trauma, and this issue is a return to that situation and the artistic throughline makes it hit even harder. All that depth and weight of the artwork and the ever-lurking darkness that is inherent helps to boost all the emotions we’re meant to feel from this story.
There are two consistent elements artistically through these issues, one of those being the colors that Valentina Pinto brings to the pages. Last issue Pinto’s colors took on a lighter smoother almost slick sort of feeling to fit the artwork style that Puste brings to the page and the tone of the story. Here they are bright but full of shadows and heaviness as the colors are toned down to ramp up the high emotions and portray the emotional weight even more. Taking on the same sort of ‘rough’ feeling that comes with Liao’s artwork.
Truly, the artistic switches between the lighter and heavier types of issues with Pinto there to switch up colors to match the tone each time is a great system. In many ways, it would be akin to how different writers or directors handled different episodes of the TV series to bring certain tones or moments to life. Here we’re getting a stable of great artists with their own strengths and abilities playing in this world and bringing their A-game every single time.
The other consistent element within the artwork is the lettering work of Ed Dukeshire which fills the pages of each issue. Much like Pinto’s colors, the way that Dukeshire approaches the letters in each issue easily fits the overall tone of the issue. They take on a heavier feel here, emphasis dropped in at the right times to hit the emotional tones, changing font styles and sizes as well as the glorious colored bubbles in many cases just make it all even better.
One thing that I really dug in this issue that I don’t recall seeing that much before, has to do with when the characters are talking at the same time and talking over each other. Here we get a case where the interrupting person/louder person’s bubble overlaps the bubble of the other person and even cuts it off. Often this is depicted with ellipses, showing that someone is cut off, but this visual representation actually might be my favorite way to do that on the page. It’s a small thing but it just works so well and accomplishes the impact in a way that instantly just makes sense.
The Vampire Slayer #5 is now available from BOOM! Studios