You know those stories where there’s a loner kid in a small town who desperately wants to be accepted by a group that isn’t good for him at all? Becky Cloonan’s taken that basic set-up and plunged it squarely in the middle of the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” world. Only problem is, the group that isn’t good at all is a pack of vampires. And to make matters worse, now everyone knows about vampires and thinks they’re ok, meaning slayers have to hide from the public. Or in other words, it’s the worst possible time to be a loner attracted to vampires.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales of the Vampires” is all about Jacob, and Cloonan is able to bring out just the right combination of pity and slight disdain for the character in her script. On the one hand, he’s a loser who desperately wants to be cared about, and who uses vampires to just feel wanted. On the other hand, it’s clearly picked the absolutely worst way to be “wanted,” and it’s a situation that is making him used rather than cared about. Either way, though, Cloonan gets into Jacob’s head in such a way that you can understand what he’s going through even if you don’t agree with him. That’s the best kind of writing; the decisions might not be ones you’d make, but it’s still believable that someone else would go down this path.
Cloonan also evokes that small town desperation that her “Demo” collaborator Brian Wood brought to life with Cloonan in the past. From the mostly empty arcade that Jacob haunts, to his alienation from almost his entire school, you can practically hear Jacob’s steps echo in the emptiness across town. This is clearly a place with no way out, and it goes a long way towards explaining how Jacob’s excitement over a new person in town would occur. Cloonan also does a good job of making this a story where vampires are out of the closet (so to speak), from the reaction of a mother whose child has just been turned being almost matter-of-factly, to the fact that almost nothing is now open past 9pm.
Vasilis Lolos uses a more stripped down style here than I’m used to from him, actually bringing to mind Cloonan’s own art on books like “Demo.” I like the end result, though; it helps bring to life the bleak, frustrated world of Jacob. I love the fluid inks of Lolos’s art here, and how it meshes so well with Dave Stewart’s always excellent colors. There’s a panel where Jacob is bringing a strange girl down a hallway that looks so much like a Paul Pope panel in particular that I had to do a double-take. The entire book itself reminds me in many ways of early “THB” issues by Pope that I just have to give it a huge thumbs up.
I expected to like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales of the Vampires,” but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. For such a simple story, Cloonan and Lolos have done an excellent job. If they want to do more “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales of the Vampires” one-shots, I’d definitely buy them.