Beware The Power Of The Dark Side: Reviewing ‘The Vampire Slayer’ #9
by Scott Redmond
‘The Vampire Slayer’ remains character-driven to its core, pulling at various emotional strings for every character as Buffy’s life hangs in the balance and Willow’s fate moves ever closer to darkness. Every aspect of this series is in perfect sync as the darkness we feel from characters is reflected within the artwork, helping to ensure that we feel exactly what the characters are in these moments.
Even the best of intentions, namely to save a friend, can end up having the direst & deadliest of consequences. Willow Rosenberg, the witch turned into witch Slayer, is finding that out the hard way. The only problem is, she seems to enjoy what could end up destroying her and those she loves.
Willow headed down a dark rabbit hole when it comes to magic is something that was explored within the television series, but Sarah Gailey has approached that idea in a fresh way that has been slowly built in the best way possible. Everything about this series is so character-centric, with every one of the characters having their moment to shine and to really be fleshed out in a rapid but deep way. Some of them even more so than they might have felt in the seven seasons of the TV show, and they were pretty fleshed out most times there.
We see the Hungrus arc mostly wrapped up here, at least for the spider demon that is Hungrus, but those three issues so far of the arc have felt pretty packed. It doesn’t feel like one of those story arcs where you blink and it’s over, there was a ton going on. Splitting it so that we started with Buffy and what she’s going through, then one focused on the gang realizing they have failed as friends, and then this one where it’s an issue-long rescue/fight/character growth moment gave the story weight and importance and made Hungrus feel more than a monster of the week.
Even as the characters descend deep into Hungrus lair, we see some of them coming to pretty huge turning points within the storylines that have been brewing over these issues. Everyone has their own stuff happening, and even their own reasons for undertaking the current mission. Xander makes a pretty huge decision in regard to his relationship with Tony, in many ways spurred by the introduction of Spike, which also causes there to be pushback about how Giles is very disconnected currently in many ways. Faith is trying to keep Willow from going over the edge, and Willow is far too into it all to not go into the magical side of things.
We get an artistic change in this issue as Hannah Templer comes on board to handle an issue that takes place exclusively within Hungrus lair. Templer taps deep into the creepy aesthetic for this issue and it pays off.
We see in several areas, one of my favorite pages in fact, just how vast and cavernous this lair really is (I can’t be the only one that played draw a line through the maze on the cavern reveal panel). With the characters being in a confined space, Templer makes sure that this energy is spread across the pages to have us the reader feeling confined too. I love how on several pages the panels are situated on top of a larger panel that is full of the cave parts and webs, a reflection of that trapped feeling being displayed on the pages. We’re seeing their actions in a panel while overall being within a panel of cave somewhat ourselves.
Speaking of paneling, it’s all laid out in interesting ways that enhance the overall feeling of this story but also play well into the whole human emotional aspect. We get a ton of great closeups that show off the characters’ emotional state and give us powerful looks at things like dark Willow as she taps into the magic and loses more of herself.
Valentina Pinto is still on colors with assists from Riccardo Giardina, and they do their part to create the moody tense atmosphere of this issue. Their palette choices are mostly very muted which plays into the dark and drab visual that is the subterranean lair, which also plays well against things like the use of Willow’s powers and other more colorful moments. Those colors have a bit more vivid pop to them which contrasts against the background elements. We’ve seen a lot of omnipresent darkness overtaking some of the scenes in the previous issues as the darkness closes in on the characters, and that comes to a turning point here because the darkness is all around.
It’s done in a way that again enhances the overall visual and makes us feel more trapped and in the moment, but not so overpowering that it takes away from us being able to see the moments. Effective lighting to some feels like a small thing, but I appreciate when artists really capture the essence of darkness and what it feels like for a lone light to pierce that or create a really heavy authentic feeling night scene. We get that here in the caves as even the lighting upon the characters makes them very washed out and close to gray like their surroundings, because their only light is mostly the flashlights they brought. Such a great detail.
We always see things like emotions and actions, what brings it all together is effective lettering that sets the tone and sound for us. Ed Dukeshire always nails the tone that is needed for a moment, as we can feel the energy and personality within each of the character’s dialogue as well as pick up on the tone that they are speaking in. Seeing the emotions only takes us so far we have to hear and feel them as they are on the page, making it that much more powerful. We get that through the various ways that Dukeshire emphasizes certain words at times, whether shrinking or growing them as needed.
With these issues being big character studies of sorts, there is a ton of dialogue, but it’s spread through the pages in a smooth easy-to-follow way. Never overwhelming or piled on top of each other in a way, placed in a way that lets the eye naturally fall upon what comes next and put the pieces together.
The Vampire Slayer #9 is now available from BOOM! Studios.