A Whole Lotta ’90s Goodness: Reviewing ‘Buffy ’97’ Softcover Edition

by Scott Redmond

Overview

Strap on the roller blades, grab your Discman, and head on down to the mall for some shopping fun because Buffy the Vampire Slayer is taking a trip back to where it all began in the radical ’90s. BOOM! Studios celebrates a quarter-century of ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ by giving the slayer and her supporting cast of characters their due in a number of well-crafted, fun, emotional, and fulfilling stories.

Overall
9/10
9/10

Comics books are a medium where a great many ideas, especially the fun ones, can find a life that might not work out in some other mediums. Like what if one had the idea to take Buffy the Vampire Slayer and turn the coming-of-age drama series into any other teenage-style sitcom lite series from the ’90s?

Well, that is now a reality with the nintiestastic Buffy ’97 from BOOM! Studios.

It’s clear that Jeremy Lambert is not only having fun playing with these characters in this type of world but just likes these characters overall. While they are the most ’90s-ever versions of themselves in the best way possible, there are elements that pop up that reference thing that we knew from the original show. Spike’s inclusion here pretty firmly sets up where this fits adjacent to the timeline of the original show. Overall, this story is just so over the top and amazing in every single way.

From the way that the characters talk to the emphasis on things like rollerblades, fashion, the overuse of internet lingo, and even the appearance of their version of Tamagotchi like digital pet devices. Serious comics are great, but sometimes one just needs comics like this that are pure fun, especially in the world we’re living in currently.

Marianna Ignazzi and Mattia Iancono’s artwork and colors help make things even more authentic and fun as the imagery/style they are putting down feels ripped right out of the 90s. There is a classic comic feel to the imagery that Ignazzi is putting down, yet it is also modern in many sensibilities such as the paneling and the way things are laid out giving the best of both worlds. The colors are bright and stand out greatly but also are somewhat toned down or given a sort of washed-out feeling which makes it feel like this is a classic story that has been picked up to read now. We’re given a lot of really cool visuals when it comes to the idea of characters being pulled into a magazine, and it just works so well.

Along with the Buffy ‘97 story that headlines this collected edition, there are also a number of stories that are right from the recent Buffy The Vampire Slayer 25th Anniversary Special one-shot. 

Willow and Tara get their moment, in a really touching story from Lilah Sturges, Claire Roe, and Roman Titov. We get a really emotional and relatable moment from Tara’s point of view, about what being with Willow means to her. There is also some great last-minute secret saving and banter from Buffy and Xander, but the two magical women steal the show as they should. Roe’s artwork really brings the emotional and adorable moments to perfect life, while Titov’s muted but still bright at times colors set the mood, especially with the really realistic-looking night we get to see.

While the previous story is more ambiguous in where its set (in regard to the show or other universes), the Xander-centric story is more firmly placed. With this story, we take a trip back to the moments between the third and fourth seasons of the television series when Xander attempted to go on a cross-country road trip which ended when his car broke down.

Thanks to Danny Lore, Ignazzi, and Iacono we now get to see a deeper look at what happened at that moment outside of the bits that Xander told his friends in the show. As the character generally without powers or special skills, Xander was often the audience surrogate and here Lore does some really nice diving into his fears and desires that help boost the overall idea of how he was the true heart of the group.

Ignazzi’s art is quite detailed and nails the facial expressions and meets that perfect space of making the character similar looking to the actor but not a dead ringer. Also, the way the crystal visions were handled with the cloudy-looking panel shapes at times was pretty cool. All the green hues of the visions as well as the very authentic feeling of nighttime colors from Iacono completes the great package.

There are a lot of great stories here but getting to see Spike putting on his disco best as he attempts to go after what he thinks is just a normal disco queen is pretty great. It’s befitting of a very over-the-top personality that the character showcased more often than not.

Spike’s fortuitous adventure comes from Casey Gilly, Bayleigh Underwood, and Heather Breckel. The aforementioned visuals of this story work because Underwood has such a magical and fun style, detailed but exaggerated somewhat for effect. Breckel brings the splashes of color with bold purples and yellows that really make the characters and story stand out great. The panel in the shape of a star on one of the first pages is a solid visual element.

Gilly makes the story fun as the back and forth between Spike and Allegra Valentine is somewhat playful even with the threat the vampire is making, and takes a great turn in the end. Prophecies and destiny are huge things in the Buffy world, so placing one around Spike that he dismisses, but will lead him eventually to where we know he ends up, is a nice move.

Ed Dukeshire pulls big duty in this issue, by lettering every single one of the stories. Within all of them, he shows his usual deft hand at making dialogue flow in a very natural and easy-to-follow way, yet gives the words in each story different energy to match the art or tone of the story. Adding all the right emphasizers and making sure there are differences to different types of speaking are things that he also does so well. Always love the vampire bubbles being rough compared to the smooth bubbles of humans.

Following these stories is a really neat yearbook concept that features artwork from a variety of Buffy-centric comic stories. It features art from Dan Mora, David Lopez, Gleb Melnikov, Eleonora Carlini, Ignazzi, Andres Genolet, Hayden Sherman, Ornella Savarese, Valentina Pinto, Natacha Bustos, Ramon Bachs, Daniel Bayliss, Claudia Balboni, Cliff Richards, Georges Jeanty, Raul Angulo, Titov, Cris Peter, Iacono, Eleonora Bruni, Patricio Delpeche, Gabriel Cassata, Jeromy Cox, and Dave Stewart. 

We also get two selected classic Buffy stories from comics past here. Both of them are written by Amber Benson (Tara from the series) with Christopher Golden also writing the first story, which is another Tara and Willow-centric one. Terry Moore, Eric Powell, and Hi-Fi Design bring this magical story to life, about a Wicca group being murdered after a lonely member summons the Celtic Morrigan. It’s got a good energy to it and the details are striking as some of the deaths are graphic without being overly graphic, and the colors feel very Earthy and grounded. 

Secondly is a shorter story from Benson about a Parisian slayer who is tricked by the man she thought she loved into killing an actual person rather than a vampire. It’s a very stylish and dark story from Ted Naifeh and Stewart with letters by Michelle Madsen. It’s heavy and the fear and anger and pain can be felt on every page with all the darkness that is permeating the world and story. 

Buffy ‘97 softcover edition is now available from BOOM! Studios. 

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