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‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer: High School is Hell’ TPB (review)

Written by Jordie Bellaire
Illustrated by Dan Mora
Published by BOOM! Studios

 

Behold! The World of Buffy has returned to fans with a new enemies, new friends, new adventures and surprising changes in old friends and foes. In many ways, this new Scooby Gang is better…stronger…faster.

Reborn for a new era, yet familiar in all the right ways.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: High School is Hell is a reboot of Buffy you know and love, but also, it isn’t.

Yes, Buffy Summers is still a Slayer with an impeccable sense of timing and fashion. All that made Buffy a superhero, a cult classic, a feminist icon and a role model is alive and well, but the book restarts the saga with a whole new approach to the story, the characters and the mythos behind Buffy.

In this re-imagined book, all of the fundamental elements of the Buffyverse are present: Buffy’s sarcasm, Xander’s boyish charm, Giles and his library, Anya and her shop, Spike, Drusilla, Joyce…hell, even Harmony is present. It looks like the whole gang is back together. But there are differences in the characters, tiny shifts in the personalities of the folks we know and love that gives the classic cult characters a fresh start, thus resetting the Buffyverse as a whole.

Buffy doesn’t enter the scene as the mysterious Golden Girl from the big city, but as a loner with a part-time job in the fish-based fast food industry. She meets Xander and Willow not at school, but in the parking lot as they are attacked by a fangy foe.

And Buffy isn’t the only one to undergo a bit of a makeover. Willow has ditch her fuzzy sweaters for fishnets and a new snarky attitude while Xander proves to be a valiant fighter.  Anya isn’t introduced as a vengeance demon but a witch who provides goods for both man and beast alike. Mom has a boyfriend. Drusilla is strong, capable vamp who is both powerful and looks hella good in a suit.

Weirdest of all, Cordelia is…nice. Like, actually kinda nice. For a purpose, of course, but she is not the bitch in heels we know and love from the early seasons of the show.

She also sports an ombre. So there’s that.

Buffy also has a few new friends. Most notably, a large, talking bat named Camazotz who pledged his life to protect all slayers. There is also a new love interest, but the bat is a better talking point.

And with that, welcome to the topsy-turvy world of the new Hellmouth.

(One should note that the Buffy brand makeover extends beyond this book, as the new relaunch of Angel also hits shelves. Created by the same team behind this book, the new Angel comic also provides a new backstory and character arc to the brooding vamp with a soul. Check out the review here.)

The book is smart in its reboot. It gives just enough of the old to allow longtime fans to settle into the adventures, but with enough changes to keep the content fresh and relevant. Unlike past Buffy comics  which extend the Buffyverse world from the small screen to the page, this is a new completely new take, but with the familiar faces we know and love.

The book stays 100% true to the core character while updating small details to keep readers interested. For example, watching the Scooby Gang not just back Buffy, but train with her, fight with her, and face demons (physically and metaphorically) with her is a great adjustment from the old days of the team buckling down with library work.

Much like the TV show, the comic also portrays an emotional depth to the characters. These teens not only fight demons and vampires, but real problems like the crushing loneliness that social media can’t cure. Under the sarcasm and fighting prowess, the characters display a vulnerability that readers can easily relate.

The art of the Buffy book captures the essence of the show and the actors who played them. This Buffy looks and acts like Buffy. Her hobbies, family life, social priorities and attitude towards school might have been adjusted, but the fundamental facets of her being are intact. And this is perfectly communicated to the reader through the art as much as the writing.

But where the art style truly shines is in the horror. Dan Mora’s ghastly images of ghouls, vamps, and grim grinning ghosts a plenty perfectly share Buffy’s nightmare visions of death and destruction with the audience. The art sends the message: This is a book that stars teens, but this ain’t Riverdale. Buckle up.

And with that, Buffy is reborn.

All hail Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  A new mythos for a new generation.

 

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