Into Every Generation A Slayer Is Created: Reviewing ‘The Vampire Slayer’ Vol. 1
by Scott Redmond
‘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. Every aspect of this modernization of the Buffy mythos just works because it not only knows and loves the characters but brings them into the 21st century with graceful ease.
When it comes to long-running well-known franchises, the older they get the harder it becomes to find something truly unique or new about those characters or their world. It can feel like everything has been done or said by others over those years, especially the characters/worlds that become so prolific and ingrained within the minds of generations of audiences.
Sometimes though, with the right team of creators something different and unexpected can be achieved with known properties. Enter BOOM! Studios’ The Vampire Slayer.
Back in 2018, BOOM! Studios gained the license to publish Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel comics and fully rebooted those series before closing them out in 2021 and 2022. Those were versions that saw everything reimagined, keeping foundational elements from early Buffy seasons, and went huge with multiversal sagas by the end. When the series ended, it was clear something would take its place very soon, and what did was quite a revelation.
Taking a page out of the relaunched limited Angel series from 2022, The Vampire Slayer is completely separate from the previous BOOM! series and far closer to tone and pulls some from the continuity/canon of the television series. This is not something that is just ripped from the show mind you, but it’s clear that writer Sarah Gailey pulled some foundational stuff from that show before putting their own awesome spin on the whole thing.
One of the major changes is that this series kicks off with Willow as the Slayer and Buffy as one of her friends, oblivious to the fact that she was ever the slayer. Because this world has depth and history to it, we can believe when we’re told that Buffy had been struggling for years as the Slayer and her friends needed a way to help her. Turns out taking her powers and destiny away aren’t anywhere near as helpful to her (or to Willow as we’ll see) as they had hoped. It’s such a fun, different, and dangerous twist that adds layers to these characters and their world.
These characters and their world feel familiar to what the audience of old will remember, while at the same time are without the weight of needing to know anything but the basics which makes it very reader-friendly and refreshing. This is not just nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia though, as Gailey takes these characters and finds ways to modernize them and their world in ways that feel natural and not just tacked on to be tacked on. Faith just comes into their world now rather than when they were in high school to become pals with Willow (maybe more?), Buffy works in a bar and is dealing with a lot of issues, Xander is a phlebotomist and he’s in a relationship with another man while becoming friends with (and clearly crushing on) Spike when he enters this world too. None of this needs to be shouted from the rooftops within the series, because it’s all just part of the story and part of who these characters are.
Within these first issues I love that Gailey gives each of the main characters their own issue to really focus on them, to give us a deep peek at what they are going through and helps flesh out the world far more. Sure, there are action beats with vampires and worms and other things to fight, but at the end of the day this is a character heavy series which is perfect. Gailey is a tremendous writer (seriously go check out Eat The Rich if you haven’t yet) with a powerful voice that has the ability to distill these characters down to their basics while also making them feel deeper and far richer as characters than they even felt on the television series.
Not only does each issue have its own energy from the shifting character focuses, we have shifting of artists going on through each of the issues. With the first and third issues art comes from Michael Shelfer, with Sonia Liao on the second issue, and Puste rounding out with the fourth issue of the series. There is more continuity on the color side of things as Valentina Pinto is there to color all four (and more after that) issues in this collection, with Riccardo Giardina providing color assistance across the issues. It all kicks off though with a short prologue story that was featured in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer 25th Anniversary Special from Gailey with Carlos Olivares on art and Pinto on colors.
With that prologue short, Olivares hits the notes of cute, realistic, and dark all at the same time with the artwork in this story. Comparing the two mediums is not usually something to do, but there is almost an animation type of energy coming from this work. Pinto’s colors add extra depth and weight to the world, going for a middle ground where they can be bright and deep but also dark and heavy/shadowy at the same time.
Shelfer’s art has a lightness but weight to it, and meets that great middle ground where the characters resemble what we know without sliding into that far too close to the actor’s likeness realm. Plenty of depth and detail but also plenty of panels where the background focus is faded right out to make sure that the foreground is the focus it needs to be. Things are partially serious but there is a lot of that previously mentioned fun energy permeating this artwork. There are a ton of great paneling choices on display, using white space to divide panels and guide the reader while also letting panels overlap each other in really great ways.
While Shelfer’s artwork has a lightness to it (with weight and depth) which fits the monster of the week sort of focus of that issue, Lee’s artwork has a slightly rougher quality to it which fits the tone of this issue. Willow talks about trauma and how she’s dealing with it, and Lee’s artwork makes that trauma something that can be felt. There is a ton of detail and depth with inherent darkness lurking with some of the shading that can be found in various areas of panels.
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.
Across the issues the colors that Pinto and Giardina bring morph to really slow well with the changing art styles. There is an inherent mixture of heaviness and smoothness both to the colors which pops out more depending on the style of the artwork. In some issues, there was a lot of time spent in the magic shop or the cemetery, so the colors were darker with heavier shadows to them, whereas in the restaurant issue they are bright and colorful adding 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. It’s quite smooth in execution, making sure all the supernatural elements really stand out from the more standard colors of the characters and their world.
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. I’m always a sucker for the changes to dialogue bubbles for vampires between their vampire face and normal face changes, and we get that here well with Spike.
SFX is something I love so much and the use of them here is colorful and fun. I especially loved the moment where Faith is 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. Allowing that sounds to really be their own character and presence in the world, making it easier for us to imagine what that situation sounds like.
The Vampire Slayer Vol. 1 is now available from BOOM! Studios.