‘The Vampire Slayer’ takes its character-focused nature to a whole new amazing level, proving why this is one of the best Buffy adaptations we’ve ever had. A dark harrowing tale that delivers on every level, a culmination of everything that has been building for almost a year.
Slayer. Witch. Friend. These are just a few of the ways that one could describe Willow Rosenberg as a person. Now it seems possibly villain or world destroyer might have to be tacked onto that list.
One thing that has greatly stood out about this newest series bringing the characters and world of Buffy The Vampire Slayer to comics is how character-focused it has been through its previous nine issues. We kicked off the run with a number of character spotlight issues, while still focusing on the Scooby gang, and threw a few more in along the way. This one though might take the cake on character-focused issues. Sarah Gailey is a master of developing and diving deep into characters; in this issue, they just go all out.
How so you might ask. Well, this entire issue is centered around Willow having destroyed Hungrus, the spider demon being that eats Slayers, and reaching some new level of uber-power consciousness as she touches the minds of her friends and monologues about them. There are a few bits of actual dialogue, chiefly in Faith’s pages (as she is able to sense Willow in her mind, intriguing!) but mainly it’s a full narration caption-heavy story. Basically, Gailey takes the character work they have been doing this whole time and takes it to a meta-level as Willow lays out who these characters are, their issues, their flaws, her opinions of them, and so much more. It’s delicious stuff and culminates in the most caring yet utterly terrifying conclusion.
Imagine your friend gaining powers beyond compare and judging you, and the world, deciding that there is too much pain and suffering in this world and the only way to make everyone stop hurting is to wipe out all of existence. Some deep dark scary stuff there wrapped up in the created justification of caring.
An issue like this is truly earned after having done the work to build up and flesh out a world and characters (even ones that come with decades of fleshing out), and Gailey has certainly done the work. There is a reason that I continuously champion them as a writer and jump at any chance to read their work, it’s a true delight. I’m on the record all over the place, in and out of my reviews, of being someone that loves these types of comics where the usual action or battles or whatever can be skipped, and we can 100% get some character moments and development. Sure, we read many of these comics to watch heroes do their hero thing, but we tend to follow characters because we like something about them and that comes from allowing them to be developed.
Because this is a narration-heavy issue, the visuals are carrying even more of the power to express what is going on, since the captions can’t capture every detail, but that’s not something that is even a speedbump to Hannah Templer, who continues on with the art following the previous issue.
As I noted in the previous review, Templer knows how to really dial up the energy on the page to hit the tone of the issue. Last issue we were feeling very tight and confined since it took place in Hungrus’ lair underground, but here things are wider and freer because, in some of the pages, we’re with Willow as she has left reality and confinement well behind. Templer is great at carving out the right spaces to focus on elements or emphasize others, giving us lots of really great closeups of faces and hands and other parts that point to the power and issues that are surrounding Willow and her friends at this point.
Choices in paneling help with this as there are so many pages where something of focus, say Willow crackling with otherworldly power, is centered in the overall background panel but there are smaller inset panels of other interesting bits or pieces that enhance everything else because it gives us the overall view of things but also those necessary closer looks. It allows for even more to be shown on the pages as we hear Willow’s narration and can see what she’s referring to or infer things that she’s not specifically trying to tell us at the moment. Oh, and the horror scenes that are mixed in are just gross and scary and perfect in every way, as Templer doesn’t shy away from anything in making sure we know just how far Willow has fallen at this point.
Personally, I’m very partial to the broken mirror aesthetic for a shot of Spike, really showcasing the duality of this character as we delve deeper into the struggles of this vampire that wants to kill a Slayer but has also found a true friend in Xander. It says so much visually without even needing to look at the narrations. A ton of the panels/pages are the same, telling a story of their own where the words could be taken away. Which is the mark of great art for sure.
We get a quartet of coloring work here as Valentina Pinto remains on board, with assists from Riccardo Giardina as usual, but is joined by Francesco Segala, who is assisted by Gloria Martinelli. There is a seamless quality to the colors as they move through the pages, so there are no real apparent spaces where one can tell that the work changed hands. We get a color palate that is toned down in quality to really play into the darker elements but also feel grounded in a way, despite the metaphysical and supernatural elements at play. There is plenty of bright vibrant stand-out colors but they are not so bright that they overwhelm, just enough to really stand out against some of the more standard colors/elements and be felt.
One of the colors that heavily plays into things is the sort of bright, not quite neon, green that surrounds Willow and features as glowing tendrils across many pages. It is the brightest element on many of the pages, bringing some flash to darker scenes, and really feels ominous as it surrounds the characters, pulling on them and the world/universe as a whole.
One of the places where a lot of emotion gets infused into the story where we can actually hear it is the lettering, mainly through dialogue. As stated, there are only a scant few bits of dialogue, but Ed Dukeshire still makes things work and feel that emotional energy through the captions. There is a powerful flow to the caption boxes, moving through the panels and pages in ways that either guide our eye along the page or are supplements to the big wide panel they might happen to be settled upon in that moment. Willow is resolute in her mission to save everyone (by wiping them out) and we can see and hear that in the words, but that bit of care I mentioned is clear too in the ways that Dukeshire emphasizes certain words.
The Vampire Slayer #10 is now available from BOOM! Studios.