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Buffy the Vampire Slayer #16 out this past week from Boom! Studios picks up right where we left off in the previous issue.
Following the conclusion of the Hellmouth crossover, the Scooby Gang are on a break, to quote Ross Geller. Willow’s in England, Xander’s ostensibly dead, and Buffy’s feeling quite alone and full of guilt. Writer Jordie Bellaire uses a dream sequence to draw the reader into the mystery.
In his book The Secret Life of the American Musical, Jack Viertel describes the “recess” number, a classic motif of musical theater. The recess number is usually a fun, noisy song designed to reinvigorate the audience in preparation for the next hour or two of the show. In the Buffyverse, the recess number is the dream sequence.
Bellaire used a subtle moment in issue fifteen to foreshadow a character’s return. Cleverly referencing season three, episode thirteen of the TV series, Buffy’s almost-boyfriend, Robin, calls a toy brontosaurus “Zeppo.” This brontosaurus reappears in issue sixteen in Buffy’s bizarre dream in which she and Xander ride a full-size Zeppo.
Zeppo is what Cordelia calls Xander in the episode of the same name. The name refers to Zeppo Marx, the youngest of the five Marx Brothers. He’s the last-minute stand-in, the one who doesn’t have much to contribute among a group of gifted people.
In this Xander-centric issue, however, he’s not really a Zeppo at all. In fact, he’s a vampire. It’s a heartbreaking twist the seasoned Buffy fan might have seen coming given that he’d already been halfsies and lost his soul completely in issue twelve.
Another motif adapted from the TV series comes in the form of a tarot card presented in the issue by Ms. Calendar. Xander, in an Angel-esque move, assaults Jenny and sets her house on fire, then fights Buffy and Kendra. He flees, leaving Buffy to discover the now charred tarot card. It’s The Fool. Jenny had been giving herself a reading and picked an upside-down Fool out of the deck right before Xander came knocking.
According to The Tarot Guide website, an upside-down Fool portends bad tidings, symbolizing both new beginnings and uncertainty in a current relationship. An apropos card if you’ve been keeping up with the story so far. After all, an evil Xander poses new challenges to the gang’s already tenuous relationship.
But The Fool’s message hasn’t been revealed to the gang. The card gets passed on to a distraught Giles who may or may not later uncover its meaning.
The issue concludes with Willow’s return to Sunnydale. Buffy, post-Zeppo dream, sought out her witch friend’s guidance and revealed that her ex-girlfriend’s in a coma. While the redhead can definitely help Buffy save Ms. Calendar and restore Xander’s soul, her return will complicate matters. We all know that the forces of evil have nothing on teenage drama.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #16 employs all the hallmarks of the Buffy TV series, offering fun and an enticing mystery. There’s a new Big Bad in Sunnydale and he’s got Hell(mouth) to pay.