A Slayer Reborn: Reviewing ‘The Vampire Slayer’ #12
by Scott Redmond
Everything that has been building for the last year comes to a head as ‘The Vampire Slayer’ #12 delivers a pitch-perfect ending to the Willow and Buffy slayer storyline, while continuing to build the world in preparing for stories still to come. Everything about this series just works and illustrates perfectly how to modernize yet respect something that is being adapted for a new medium and age.
The world is a painful broken place. Having felt that pain for months, Willow has a plan to fix it. Too bad the plan means ending the world.
All the roads of this series have been leading to this moment, where Buffy is ready to take back the power and destiny, and sense of self, that was taken from her while also doing all that she can to save her friend. For twelve issues this series has been a wonderful reimagining of the world of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which has focused heavily on the emotional character development realm of that world while also tapping into the supernatural aspects that we love about it. Sarah Gailey fully understands these characters and has a unique vision for them and how to piece this version of the world together. So much so that it honestly feels like we’ve spent years with these versions of the characters rather than just a single year.
Even simple things like making it so that this version of Buffy, Willow, and Xander were friends as children or having Spike and Xander being very close and Faith coming into the picture to be great friends with them bring a deeper richness to this world. Character development and relationships as well as the aspects of the show that related to growing up were things that made it such a beloved one for over 25 years now. Gailey took all of that, shook it up, and took it so much further than the show ever could and it’s just so damn good.
Stories where friendship is basically what saves the day are something that people brush off as cliché or whatever ,but it’s not. My heart felt so happy to see Willow able to come back from the dark place she was headed down all because Buffy refused to give up on her friend and basically hugged her back to the side of not scary magic. It takes a great writer to make that a powerful non-cliché moment and Gailey is more than a great writer, they are one of the best around right now and I cannot wait to see all of the stuff that they have coming down the pipeline, both in this series and outside of it.
Before I move on…TARA!!!!! Okay, got that out of my system.
Once again, the work that Hannah Templer is doing on these issues is just so so good. We can feel all that aforementioned emotional weight because it’s clear on the pages and is infused into every single panel. There is weight to this world and depth as Templer fills the pages full of characters and buildings and other details that make it feel very rich, yet also knows when its best to pull back on the detail in order to zero in our focus to the characters or moment that we need to be feeling. On the other side all the magical/supernatural pages instantly feel out of this world and almost weightless, that final page reveal I sort of mentioned a moment ago being one that is just perfect and ready to be put up on the wall if it were sold as a print.
One of the ways to easily set a tone or guide the readers is through choices in the paneling. Many elements would work just fine with the more standard sort of comic book panel styles, but there is just something more powerful about changing it up. A perfect example is one of the early pages where Faith and Buffy are checking in on Spike and Xander through the radio. We get a thin full-length panel with the two Slayers in it, while next to it is a series of horizontal panels that showcase the two men and what they are up to, each panel revealing what their part of the plan is till we’re fully focused on the baby crab god. There are so many others like this, as Templer makes sure to really get the most out of a page layout to maximize what we see and feel and make sure the story is told in the best way possible.
Enhancing that weighty but also light tone and energy in the story are the color choices made by Valentina Pinto with assistance from Ricardo Giardina. There is a lot of grounded energy from most of the colors as they are more natural, one might say toned-down sort of, to achieve that feeling that Sunnydale, for all its supernatural elements, is a city just like most out there. It’s a real-world sort of situation but with a lot more weirdness under the surface. Making that choice not only reflects what the series was like when it was a television series but also helps set up the more vivid side of things.
Because the backdrop of the world is very natural and normal, whatever that word means, the moments where we see magic and other supernatural elements come into play pop and stand out far more. Their vividness or darkness stands as a contrast to the world so that we feel and see it far more, giving it all more impact. Like the pages with Willow using the magic, where she and the Slayers are surrounded by pitch black space surrounded by the almost neon-like green magic, which almost glows because of how dark and barren the landscape is around those colors.
Darkness and light are not just something we see within the artwork and colors, but within the lettering as well. Ed Dukeshire makes lettering sing with the things that are done to make it echo in our minds, allowing us to hear the character’s tone, volume, and even personality. One of my favorite bits is the way that Willow’s dialogue when she’s ‘Dark Willow’ stands apart from everything else. The others get the standard black font-on-white speech bubble treatment, while hers is inverted to be a white font on a black bubble speaking to the blackness that is growing within her. It’s not all dark though, as the border still has a lighter purple element to it because that color is closer to dark than white would be of course, but also speaks to the color and light that is still there within Willow which allows them to talk her back from the brink.
Expanding on this are the moments where the font and bubbles shrink or grow massively in order to really hit hard that the character’s volume has changed, allowing us to really feel it when Willow or Buffy are yelling. Breaking up Willow’s “That’s Enough” still in the dark tones gave it an even firmer scary vibe, giving it that villain-at-the-edge sort of energy. And that moment when Buffy and Faith confirm that together with Willow, they can do anything and Willow gives the powers back to Buffy, the big white and purple “Anything” floating on the page hit me in the heart and I loved it.
Oh, also before I forget, starting off the issue by quoting from John Wick was an absolutely perfect moment in a series that is already pretty damn perfect.
The Vampire Slayer #12 is now available from BOOM! Studios.