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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Vol 1: Highschool is Hell - Book Review

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by Marisa Quinn-Haisu (subscribe)
My name is Marisa. I am a fiction writer, a blogger, and a freelance journalist.
Published July 29th 2019
Buffy has been rebooted for a new generation of scoobies
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Highschool is Hell Boom! Studios
Jordie Bellaire and Dan Mora. Boom Studios.

At the end of 2018, Dark Horse Comics lost their rights to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic which they had held from 1998 to 2018. Boom! Studios acquired the licence and announced that a new rebooted Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic would debut in 2019. This was a big announcement because Dark Horse had been publishing Buffy comics, stories and spin-offs for over twenty years. The Boom! Studios Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book series is a non-canon reimagining of Buffy the Vampire Slayer set in the year 2019.

The first collected volume of Boom! Studio's Buffy the Vampire Slayer was released on 8 May 2019 with the title Highschool is Hell. It is 128 pages long and contains issues 1 through to 4 of the new comic. It retails for between $15.99 and $24.99. It was written by Jordie Bellaire, pencilled by Dan Mora, edited by Jeanine Schaefer, lettered by Ed Dukeshire, coloured by Raúl Angulo and the cover was designed by Matthew Taylor.

The front cover has Buffy Summers on the front as a highschool student in 2019. She is standing in front of Sunnydale High holding a smartphone, a stake and wearing Apple airpods and looking unfazed that there is a group of vampires creeping up behind her. Her character has been updated and refreshed for a new era of Buffy and she looks great.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 2019 features a lot of canon characters who first appeared in the original 90's television show. Buffy, Willow, Xander, Cordelia, Joyce, Giles, Spike, Drusilla, Harmony, and Jenny Calendar all appear in the comic and all resemble the actors who played them on the show. There are some small differences though. Some of them good, some of them bad. If you have not read this book or watched the TV show don't read any further if you don't want to be spoiled.

The first volume of Buffy the Vampire Slayer 2019 is a re-telling of season one of the television show. There are some differences. When we are first introduced to Buffy in the comic she is already living in Sunnydale, she has a job, goes to school and her mother, Joyce, even has a steady boyfriend who lives with them at home. Buffy has already met Giles and accepted her destiny as a slayer and has been slaying vampires for some time. She has no friends and is exhausted with trying to balance school, slaying and her family life.

This Buffy is not that much different from the Buffy who appeared on TV. Just like on TV she eventually meets Xander and Willow and becomes friends with them. Xander is very similar to his TV counterpart. He is best friends with Willow, tells a lot of jokes, and also struggles with self-esteem and feeling like he is an important part of the group.

Willow is a completely different character in the reboot. In the television show when we are first introduced to her she is a shy, introverted girl who is picked on in class and wears plain clothing so she will blend in and not be seen. Over time, through her relationship with Buffy, Willow becomes more confident and less afraid to speak up and be seen. In season four of the TV show she comes out as a lesbian and that becomes a big part of her character for the rest of the show's run. In the reboot when we meet Willow she is already out as a lesbian, full of confidence, dressing like a punk rocker, and in a relationship with a girl named Rose.

In some ways, this was a nice change. In the TV show, for the first couple of seasons, Willow was not a strong character and more of a damsel-in-distress. Her character grows over time though and eventually becomes more powerful than Buffy herself. The problem I have with rebooting Willow to be out as a lesbian and confident in herself from the start of the story is where does it leave for her character to go from here? It also erases her relationship with Oz which was important to her development in the TV show. I do like this new Willow, but can't help but wonder what the writers have planned for her.

Another thing I found interesting about this reboot was the lack of Dawn in it. In the show, Dawn is a character who is introduced in season five as Buffy's younger sister. It is later revealed that Dawn is a 'magical key' made up of energy that can unlock the door that separates dimensions. A group of monks cast a spell to turn Dawn into a flesh and blood girl and they insert her into Buffy's life and alter reality to make everyone think that she had always been around. A reboot of Buffy featuring a young Dawn being present during Buffy's years in high school would have been really interesting. But sadly she is not in this reboot. It would have really changed Buffy's family dynamic if she had been. A missed opportunity.

Another issue I had with this comic was the antagonists. The Master (the villain of season one of the TV show) is skipped completely in favour of bringing back Spike and Drusilla who were the 'big bad' of season two. I suspect this decision was made because Spike and Drusilla are more popular and sexier than The Master.

Spike and Drusilla have been changed quite a bit from their TV show counterparts. Drusilla is not insane and is the one in charge and Spike is her faithful pet who follows her commands. I loved the new Drusilla. She is a fantastic villain. But the reboot of Spike failed to impress me.

In the TV show, Spike and Drusilla acted like Bonny and Clyde. They were passionate lovers who came up with evil schemes together. I don't like how in this reboot Spike acts more like Drusilla's henchman who does her orders and is desperate for her approval. He's lost a lot of what made him special.

And then there's how he acted with Buffy in this comic. In the TV show, Spike's introduction is amazing. He is charismatic, incredibly sexy, and very terrifying. One of my favourite scenes in his first episode, School Hard, is when Buffy throws him against a wall and he tells her 'That hurt' and then rips a steel bar out of the wall and says 'But not as much as this will' before swinging it at Buffy in a rage. In this new comic he meets her in a street and a giant bat shrieks 'Slayer! Kill all vampires!' and that's…it. That's his introduction to Buffy.

It was underwhelming.

Xander is one of the best characters in the comic. He interested me the most and seems to be on a different path compared to TV-show Xander. I also really liked how Anya was inserted into the story and the decision to redesign Robin as a fellow student attending Buffy's school.

The new Buffy comic is growing on me slowly. It's not a bad comic. It's not the same as the TV show or Dark Horse Comics and is still finding its feet. If you are a fan of Buffy I think it's worth giving it a go. I'm curious to see where it is headed and what future twists it is planning.
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Why? Boom! Studios have released a new rebooted comic book version of the pop culture phenomenon Buffy The Vampire Slayer reimagined to be set in the year 2019.
Cost: Between $15.99 and $24.99
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