In the four years since the Hellmouth officially closed for business, fans of Joss Whedon’s spunky Buffy Summers have been inundated with continuations of the sassy Slayer’s story; however – be it through the spin-off series Angel, online fanfiction or the myriad of sub-standard novelisations – it would appear that nothing quite hits the spot like Whedon’s own work.
And so it came to be that – after a series of made-for-TV spin-offs failed to make it past the drawing board – Buffy’s creator turned his pen once again to the Scooby Gang, this time in comic book form.
Set approximately a year and a half after the events of ‘Chosen’, Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1: The Long Way Home plunges readers straight into the new world, with Buffy leading a gang of newly-activated Slayers in a mission to take out some particularly nasty-looking demons.
Unbeknownst to our heroine, the American government have labelled Buffy’s new gang as a terrorist threat, in a plotline that apes the under-appreciated Initiative of season four, with strong suggestions that special agent Riley Finn might mince onto the page at any moment and start dispensing his usual brand of white bread wisdom.
Pencil duties have been assigned to Georges Jeanty, who presents a colourful take on Buffy and the gang in their new Scottish setting. Highlights include a double-page spread dedicated to Buffy’s sister, Dawn, who’s trademark teenaged angst and issues ‘have gotten a little bigger’; geeky best friend, Xander, in his new role as sexy Sergeant Harris, the Nick Fury-referencing Watcher; and an ubercool aerial shot of the crater formed from Buffy’s hometown being swallowed by the Hellmouth in the series finale.
The Cthulhu-like demons, however, are relatively jarring when compared to the man-in-a-rubber-suit monsters of the series, and some of Jeanty’s character designs – newly-activated Scottish Slayer Leah, for instance, with her woefully impractical weave – take the heightened reality of the Buffyverse a few rungs too high.
Though the epic nature of the comic book plot may shift some fans out of their comfort zone, Whedon’s way with words and the fluidity of the dialogue – phonetic accents not withstanding (the boyishly handsome Rowena’s ‘dat vent vell’ is worse than season five’s Dracula) – feels like home.
Despite the impressive theatrics of the military presence and the gnarly giant-sized demons, it’s when Buffy and Xander get together to snack on sandwiches and snipe that Whedon shines; ‘I think it’s a frown turned upside down. And then turned upside down again’ and ‘I think it’s a beautiful sunset’, comment the couple from the confines of what looks to be a library, in a scene which would have been very much at home during the early season of the television show.
In short, an impressive opening, with much room for growth. Watch out for Whedon’s buying back of the mediocre Angel episode, ‘The Girl in Question’, and a pair of mysterious, hovering bovver boots which will – no doubt – cause much speculation amongst Buffy’s considerable fanbase.
Welcome back, Buffy. You have been missed.