Out now, Buffy the Vampire Slayer #21 continues the collaboration between writers Jordie Bellaire and Jeremy Lambert, and illustrator Andres Genolet. Rounding out the team are colorist Raul Angulo and letterer Ed Dukeshire. With new characters complicating the situation, the creators seem close to a crisis point for the Scooby Gang.
In previous issues, a new slayer, Faith Lehane, and her watcher, Wesley Wyndham-Price, were introduced, compounding the Scooby Gang’s problems. Now there are three slayers, two watchers, and, lurking in the background, a secret fourth slayer and a demon operating under the leadership of Anya. As the character count grows, so each character moment intensifies. Thus it is in issue #21, an Anya-centric issue.
Taking cues from the TV show and Dark Horse continuities, we’re introduced to a slightly different Anya in this issue. She’s still a vengeance demon, but Lambert and Bellaire give her a backstory as an erstwhile watcher who was fired for defending her slayer from the Council’s deliberate endangerment. For long-time fans of the character (myself included), such a decidedly feminist change feels so satisfying. Furthermore, the choice gives us a chance to root for a character other than Buffy in an otherwise unlikely scenario.
In the Buffyverse, the Watcher Council often seemed an enemy greater than demons and vampires. Because they were so feared, Buffy was the only one to stand up to them. Therefore, it’s refreshing to see Anya as a former Watcher, defying members of the Council to their faces.
However, this issue takes the conflict a step further with Anya and her not-so-dead slayer, Morgan, threatening not only the lives of the Watcher Council, but Buffy’s closest friend and father figure.
On an artistic level, Genolet matches the scope of Bellaire and Lambert’s drama through his use of close-up, wide-paneling, and instances of no panel delineation at all. It’s a big, intense issue. Angulo’s color palette of warm orange fire and cold blues accentuate the feeling that we’re drawing closer to the underworld. By contrast, Dukeshire’s lettering shows restraint with SFX and allows for an exposition-heavy scene to feel more like a movie than a novel.
Now, we have all the players, the subplots have dove-tailed, and the threat is clear. The only question is whether Anya will make it out of the impending climactic battle as a friend or a foe. It looks like all that’s left for the Scooby Gang is to find their way out of the Ring of Fire.