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This week saw the release of the latest installment in Dark Horse Comics’ popular continuation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past fifteen years, BtVS was a cult TV show that aired from 1997 until 2003. Sarah Michelle Gellar played Buffy Summers, a high school student with a supernatural calling.
As ‘the Slayer,’ she had the duty to protect the world from vampires and other supernatural nasties. Buffy’s friends, Xander (Nicholas Brendon) and Willow (Alyson Hannigan), were in on her secret, too, and they were often called upon to help Buffy out each week as she battled the forces of darkness.
As the seasons wore on, Buffy romanced not one, but two vampires, Willow became a lesbian, and the Summers family was enlarged by the addition of younger sister Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg), who was actually a sophisticated hiding place for a magical MacGuffin known as The Key.
When the series ended in 2003, Buffy was finally able to destroy the Hellmouth that had turned her hometown of Sunnydale into an evil-magnet for seven seasons. Although Buffy vanished from the small screen, series creator Joss Whedon decided to continue her saga in comic book form.
Teaming up with Dark Horse Comics, he produced a popular series of comic books that functions as an eighth season of the TV show in paper form. Season 8 ran for 40 issues until it came to a dramatic end in January 2011. At the end of the series’ final arc, Buffy smashes a powerful artifact that acts as the source of all magic in the world.
In Season 9, Buffy must adjust to a radically different life. The line of Slayers will come to an end with the demise of the present generation. With magic gone, Willow (who had evolved into a powerful witch during the course of the TV show) can no longer use her spells. Buffy’s life takes a turn for the mundane, and she now works as a waitress in San Francisco, while the other members of the Scooby Gang have scattered.
Although much has changed for Buffy, vampires are still a problem. In Issue 3, Buffy encounters a mysterious stranger named Severin. He has the ability to kill vampires by generating bolts of energy with his hands, something that should not be possible since magic has supposedly vanished from the world.
It soon becomes apparent that the demise of magic is affecting vampires in an unusual way, and newly-sired vampires are even more terrifying than the older versions. Eager for answers, Buffy tries to reconvene the Scooby Gang, but her old friends are reluctant to return to the fray.
The events that ended Season 8 have allowed the writers to ‘reboot’ Buffy in Season 9. Without magic, the characters get to experience something resembling a normal life for the first time in ages, and the new emphasis on mundane life is reminiscent of Season 1 of the TV show.
Back then, Buffy was a high school student trying to juggle the supernatural business of fighting evil with the more pedestrian demands of life as a teenager. You can also see echoes of that in Season 9. At one point in Issue 3, there is a nifty callback to the first episode of the show, which I really appreciated.
Overall, I think Issue 3 was quite well done. The story unfolded at a brisk pace and left the reader eager to read the next installment. Scriptwriter Andrew Chambliss has done a decent job of imitating the writing found in the TV show. The only complaint I have is the artwork.
Georges Jeanty’s ability to make the characters look like the actors who played them seems to vary from page to page. He does a nice job of making Willow look like Alyson Hannigan, but Dawn does not really look anything like Michelle Trachtenberg. Also, on some pages, Buffy ends up looking like she is twelve years old. Although these hiccups are fairly minor in and of themselves, they do distract from the overall effect.
OVERALL GRADE: A-