Buffyverse life is like a box of chocolates: you never know where or when an interdimensional portal will take you. Available now from Boom! Studios, Buffy the Vampire Slayer #25, takes us down a ’90s rabbit hole full of meta-references and a troubling time paradox. #25 is written by Buffy mainstay Jeremy Lambert and newcomer Valentina Pinti. Also returning are colorist Raul Angulo and letterer Ed Dukeshire.
Previously on Buffy, the gang chased after Willow through a portal. It appeared to have dropped them into season three, episode six of the TV series. Now, in issue 25, the gang realizes they’ve entered another dimension of the multiverse—a ’90s dimension. With the group split up, Buffy, Giles, Kendra, and Rose have to find Willow without bumping into their ’90s-era multiverse counterparts. Anya acts as a guide to deal with this unintended consequence of her subterfuge.
The Scoobies wade through cameos and meta-references that’ll make even the seasoned fans’ heads spin. Despite this, Lambert’s story remains easy to follow. But I couldn’t help thinking of all the references as pandering to fans familiar with both the TV series and original Dark Horse Comics. All notions of pandering aside, fans exclusive to the Boom! Studios run will find this issue satisfying.
Artistically, Pinti changes up the cartoonish style established by Ramon Bachs in previous issues. While the characters’ clothing copies costuming from the TV show, they resemble the real-life actors even less than before. Pinti also favors thinner, more delicate lines and uses none of Bachs’ inky blotches and cross-hatching. These choices give an overall naturalistic style to the issue, which is ironic considering they’re in a dimension of the multiverse.
Such irony contributes to the eerie atmosphere of the issue. This dimension is familiar, yet not quite the Sunnydale we know. Pinti’s ironic naturalism plus stark negative space instill a subtle sense of discomfort and confusion, putting the reader in the shoes of the Scooby Gang. Further, Angulo uses more gray, brown, and red than ever before. This color palette feels both naturalistic yet verges on noir in its lack of warmth and saturation.
It’s like suddenly the Scooby Gang has become the other Hanna-Barbera Scooby Gang in a dusty old cartoon local. But Angulo doesn’t completely abandon the familiar background colors purple and blue, choosing to restrict them to scenes involving Anya and the portal. As we’ve come to expect, these colors evoke magic and, in this issue, mark where magic power lies. In that respect, the stark deviation from previous issues is beguiling as much as it is jarring.
For the reader and the Scooby Gang, the dimension’s mystery is distractingly alluring. But they still have to find Xander. Maybe the portal was never the right path to him in the first place. When the gang makes it back to real Sunnydale, the other dimension leaves them with lingering confusion. Is a time paradox the newest obstacle on the way to reuniting with Xander?
The stakes just keep getting stranger and stranger. With the rifts in the Scooby Gang now stretching across the multiverse, it’s more difficult to see any togetherness in their future. But if Buffy the Vampire Slayer #25 proves anything, it’s that the integrity of Buffy and her friends has drastic cosmic implications. What’s next for the Xander recovery mission may not only be saving a soul but saving the universe.