A new story arc, a new Artist and a new dilemma for the Scooby Gang: there is a lot going on in the new issue of Buffy The Vampire Slayer from BOOM! Studios. After the shock ending of issue 4, Jordie Bellaire is taking the series into new territory where nothing feels safe anymore.
The first arc has been a massive success drawing praise from critics and fans alike. So, can the team keep this momentum going?
Warning: Contains spoilers for issue 4. Don’t read on if you are not up to date.
This issue opens with violence and the release of anger. Bellaire channels the emotions of all Xander fans everywhere as she taps into Buffy’s rage and demonstrates just how dangerous she can become.
The pace is then pulled right back as the narrative jumps in time to before Buffy and Willow have found out about Xander’s late night encounter with Drusila. The sequence of events then touches on various relationships that the characters have and, to some degree, how they take them for granted.
In this issue Bellaire is showing the reader how the three central characters react with one another and how important their relationships are. The bound these young people had in the T.V. show was one of the foundations for the show’s success and Bellaire is daring to break that bound. However, by introducing the threat she is also examining the bound on a much deeper level. The reaction of Buffy and Willow and the cruelness of ‘vampire’ Xander all give new insights into their relationships.
This issue of Buffy is almost totally dedicated to this premise giving the plot the weight that such episodes as The Body had during the original series. Bellaire is demonstrating a series of grief reactions in the characters, allowing paternal instincts to shine in Giles, bitterness and even jealously from Drusila, and of course the desperation and anger of Buffy. It is an emotional roller-coaster of an issue.
The art work is by the new artist to the series, David Lopez. It is significantly different to Dan Mora’s work from previous issues and this is evident from page one. Lopez’s style is more expressive and distorted. He uses the dynamism of the moments to express feelings and employs almost minimalistic features to illustrate the character’s emotions.
The fight sequences have chaotic layouts and even the sedated moments seem to have less of an order to panel layout. Lopez enjoys layering his panels, over lapping them and changing their shapes to distinguish and separate moments in a scene. This is especially effective in the opening scene and Xander’s later verbal attack on Willow.
It is worth noting that Lopez does not have the same attention to physical representation as Mora did. Lopez’s art is emotionally driven so some of the characters do not always appear like photo realistic interpretations of the actors that played them. This contrast from previous issues takes some getting used to especially as there are some panels where Lopez over exaggerates facial features for an emotional effect but totally loses the representation of the character.
Lopez constructs a flow of narrative which is exciting with highs and lows. The atmosphere is produced by the color work of Raul Angulo who also adds that extra shock element on certain pages. Angulo is able to lead the reader into a situation, raising their heart rate panel by panel until the shock moment comes, in the same way instrumental music is used in horror movies.
Ed Dukshire adds subtle changes to the word balloons to illustrate emotional, or in some cases, physical alternations. Again this is most notable with Xander however the use of longer tails on the balloons in some panels give the images room to breathe while adding an air of bewilderment or shock to the panels.
This issue of Buffy The Vampire Slayer is a reactionary issue. It takes the reader on an emotional journey, allowing each of the character’s reactions to take on part of the grieving process. The overall plot doesn’t advance which is perfectly fine for this type of story. Unfortunately, the few moments of larger plot development actually feel out of place and stand out too much against the grief element.
The art work also requires some adjustment time for the reader but luckily most of this is taken up in the opening sequence. Some readers may find later character representations difficult to digest but the story is strong enough to carry the reader passed these points.
This issue of Buffy is very effective and an emotional roller-coaster. It continues to propel the series forward but visually isn’t as impressive as the first four issues.