"Once Bitten" is the second trade back edition of the Boom! Studios Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book reboot. It was released on 20 February 2020 and collects issues 5 through to 8 of the series. This review will contain spoilers.
Buffy Summers is the Slayer, the Chosen One, one girl in all the world born with the strength and skill to save the world from demons, vampires and the forces of darkness. In "Once Bitten" Buffy learns that her best friend, Xander, has been sired and left for dead by Drusilla. Giles discovers Xander halfway between life and death and takes him back to his house. He tells Buffy that Drusilla did not complete the siring and that there is still a way to save him from turning fully into a demon. If Buffy can get a soul tie stone, an ancient relic, they will be able to save him and restore his soul.
I was excited when Xander got bitten by Drusilla. It was such a twist and a sharp departure from Buffy cannon! Was Xander going to die? Was he going to become a villain and join forces with Drusilla and Spike? Was he going to torture Buffy like Angelus did in the television show? I really wanted to see Xander as a villain. It was such a fresh, exciting, NEW idea.
And thenů none of that happened. Buffy and Willow managed to get a soul tie stone into Xander and were able to save him. We got see evil vampire Xander for a little bit and then they fixed him. I can't express how disappointed I was with this plot twist. If you are going to kill off a character or make them evil, have the courage to follow through with it. Let us see the characters suffer. Don't slap a magical band-aid on it to make it better. After Xander is "fixed" with the soul tie stone, he returns to his normal self, but as a half-vampire, half-human hybrid. He goes back to school and can walk in the daylight, but drinks blood now and has a connection to Drusilla. This frustrated me because it wasn't explained very well. Is he dead? Does he have fangs now? Is he immortal? Does he drink animal blood or does he need human blood? Can he be dusted? I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS! Also, in Buffy lore, once you are sired you cannot be brought back to life again. You can re-claim your soul, but you will still be a vampire, just with a soul. It frustrates me that this comic doesn't seem to understand Buffy lore very well.
Another issue I have with this comic series is the character development of Spike and Drusilla. Spike has been brought down to the level of a henchman. He has no confidence, no charisma, no character anymore. He looks like Spike is supposed to look like and I feel like we are supposed to love him because he still wears a leather jacket and looks "cool". But it's not working for me because this rebooted version of Spike is missing so much character depth.
I feel like the people creating this comic do not understand Spike's character very well. What made him work in the Dark Horse comics and in the television show was that Spike was more than just a bad boy, rocker stereotype. He was sexy, funny, sarcastic, jealous, passionate, likeable, chaotic character with shades of grey to him who dropped zippy one-liners like "Is everyone here really stoned?"
This new version of Spike follows Drusilla around like a faithful dog, he doesn't have his pissy, English temper anymore, he doesn't take charge or make decisions and he whines if he doesn't get enough attention from Drusilla. He is forgettable, boring, and weak. I miss the Spike and Drusilla who were passionate, murderous lovers, who fought side by side and were equal partners in the carnage they caused.
The rebooted Drusilla is interesting and likeable enough. I love her plain white suits and confidence, but she also feels different. She is not as crazy as she was in the show and I feel like that has changed her character a lot. In the show, when she is first introduced, she is insane, and Spike has to care for her a lot. It is later explained that Angel was the one who made her a vampire and that he turned her insane before siring her as a way to torture her. Drusilla's insanity made her a compelling, bewitching character, who would sing to dead birds in cages, tie blind folds over the eyes of dolls and receive visions of the future. In this version of the series, Drusilla is still a compelling character, but no longer acts insane. She is now a powerful, confident villain, who has henchmen follow her wherever she goes. I understand why the writers of this comic probably made these changes. They wanted to make Drusilla be powerful in her own right, independent and in charge. But by making those changes, is she still Drusilla anymore?
I miss the old Drusilla. I miss the haunting woman who spoke in riddles and bewitched and sired William Pratt in an alleyway in London because she was bored and wanted a plaything. This new version of Drusilla treats Spike more like a pet, than a lover. It makes for a completely different dynamic between Drusilla and Spike that is not working for me.I can't help but think that this comic would have been a lot better if it had been written as a sequel, instead of a reboot. Why take characters like Spike and Drusilla, who are well-developed and much loved, and change them? Why not create brand new characters that are not tied down by fans expectations? I want to meet new villains, not see recycled versions of old ones.
This new series is not bad. I like seeing Buffy set in modern times. I just want to see them respect the Buffy cannon more, build upon it instead of rewrite it, and be brave enough to take more risks.