Until now, the Scooby Gang never thought that the greatest force they’d have to face would come from their own ranks. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer #24, the Gang takes on a darkness out of their control. This issue is written and illustrated by long-time contributors Jeremy Lambert and Ramon Bachs, respectively. Also returning are colorist Raul Angulo and letterer Ed Dukeshire.
#24 picks up right where the previous issue left off: the Scooby Gang all engaged in a battle against two of their own. While Buffy’s knocked out on the ground of Sunnydale High, new slayer Faith kills a beloved member of the Scooby Gang in self-defense. Or did she?
With the help of a magic portal, the Gang fall into the astral realm, hoping to save the soul of their friend. Robin and Faith are the only two left behind. And so it seems we’re heading into a new chapter: out of the Ring of Fire and into the darkness.
Not With A Bang…
Given the climactic nature of the issue, Lambert uses minimal dialogue in service to the action. Nonetheless, what little is said packs an emotional punch. No panel feels out of place either, as Lambert gives Bachs ample space to hone in on character expressions. The reader sees each character’s pain, blood and tears.
Another noteworthy aspect of Lambert’s writing is that he’s actually adapting a plot point from the TV series. Without getting into spoilers, the character who dies has a similar arc to one of Buffy’s love interests in the show. Yes, some might find the use of a familiar storyline frustrating or limiting to the comic book series. But Lambert changes enough character motivations and emotional beats for this to stand on its own.
Moreover, Bachs’ extra scratchy cross-hatching and deep black shadows cement the tragic mood of the whole issue. Each action is also accented with lines that match the scratches on Buffy’s body as she takes a hit from Dark Willow. This dramatic choice both contrasts and complements Bachs’ typical Archie-meets-pop-art style. Bachs’ harsh lines and shadows, against cartoonish character designs, represent the impact of adult tragedy on such a young group.
But A Whisper
Meanwhile, Angulo’s contrasting cold blue and grey against warm purple and red emphasize the Gang’s feelings of shock and sadness. The purple also represents Willow’s immense power and dominance over the situation. Despite the utter tragedy on display, the colors and illustration are aesthetically pleasing as much as they are affecting.
Dukeshire’s lettering parallels Lambert’s minimal dialogue. All the dialogue is in small font, as if the character’s are whispering the entire time. Most of the bubbles are also centralized, which allows room for the action to speak for itself. Unique to this issue, Dukeshire does not include any sound effects, another choice that makes space for action. Thus, each panel flows smoothly from one intensely emotional beat to the next.
Thanks to its emotionality and artistic agility, Buffy the Vampire Slayer #24 might be my favorite issue so far. Wherever it leads them, I’m ready to follow the Scooby Gang down this dark path.