‘The Vampire Slayer’ takes everything one might know about the Buffy franchise and brings vivid modern new life to it while maintaining all the same energy and aspects that made the universe resonate so much with the fans. After mostly sitting out the past two issues, Buffy takes a bigger spotlight here as we start to see the effect that having her destiny, power, and life taken away from her is starting to have upon the unsuspecting former slayer.
Back in the ’90s Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one of many popular series that easily fell under the banner of “Monster of the week” as they followed a format of a new threat/monster fought each week and generally defeated before the final commercial break in between all the teenager coming of age stories. There would at times be some villains or threads that weaved through the season to be concluded in the season finale.
The Vampire Slayer has perfectly captured all of this energy while doing something entirely new but also familiar with these iconic characters.
I really appreciate how Sarah Gailey is structuring this series, choosing a different character or characters to really focus on with each issue. In the last issue that was Xander, and here we return to Willow and Faith (like the second issue) but throw Buffy into the mix. The beauty of these types of stories and worlds is that there doesn’t even have to be a monster of the week (though there is at the end, perhaps) to really bring the drama. All the drama comes from the interplay of these three young women, with Giles factoring in slightly, as they are unknowingly dealing with the exact same issue.
Through Buffy’s dreams, what is happening to Willow as she deals with being a slayer, and Faith’s being against this whole plan Gailey is hitting well on the idea that Buffy is the one that needs to be Slayer. It’s done in a way that doesn’t make Buffy better than others in any way, but this was literally her destiny, and no magic spell can stop that. Willow has a whole destiny of her own that she can’t embrace because she’s trying to shoulder that and Buffy’s destiny at the same time. Everyone thinks of Faith as the brash one, but here she is the one that is logically thinking this whole thing through and is actually on Buffy’s side without Buffy even knowing.
Also, Willow and Faith coupling possibility? Yes, please.
Shifting artists can sometimes change the energy of a story a ton, but with the format of this series having rotating artists actually really works well. In this issue, we get Puste on art with Valentina Pinto, with assistance from Ricardo Giardina, still on the colors. There is an inherently fun quality to Puste’s style of art, especially with the panel choices including the ones that I really love where characters are just bursting out of the seams of a panel into others. Also using the space in scenes to really hit home how despite being together how alone these characters are in the moment is just so great as it makes sure visually that the point really hits.
With licensed stuff like this it can be easy to try and worry too much about making the characters appear like the actors but like with the previous issues Puste perfectly captures the look without worrying too much about it being a perfect rendition. They have the look and energy of the characters as played by the actors but are also entirely their own entities.
The colors here match the tone of the story and artwork perfectly. In the last issue, there was a lot of time spent in the magic shop and a cemetery, so Pinto’s colors were darker with heavier shadows to them, whereas here the restaurant they are in is bright and colorful and this adds to the fun of the issue. At the same time, the brightness and lack of shadows work so well with the fact that the overall story and character actions are bringing the darkness/heaviness on their own, creating a sweet contradiction situation.
One constant through many of the Buffy-related stories as of late is on the lettering side where Ed Dukeshire continues to do stellar work. All the character personality/energy is present in the dialogue but there is also a real sort of light/fun energy that permeates within the lettering just as much as the other elements. This is a teen drama story wrapped up in a supernatural situation and it reads that way so well from every angle. SFX is something I love so much and the use of them here is colorful and fun but especially at the end with Faith dealing with someone banging on the door of the bathroom. A big chef kiss to the choice to take the “Bang” SFX that are in the bathroom scenes and incorporate them into Faith’s dialogue over the phone when we’re seeing Giles’s side of the encounter.
The Vampire Slayer #4 is now available from BOOM! Studios