The fandom surrounding Buffy the Vampire Slayer is as ravenous as any. But the road that led the titular teen warrior to become a superheroine idol was winding and unorthodox. What started out as a quirky early ‘90s cult film about a cheerleader who happened to be the “Chosen One” in the war against the undead eventually became a television phenomenon that earned hordes of devoted fans. For those fans, Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel: Hellmouth #1 keeps what made the show so wonderful alive in comic book form.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer may have found its success on the small screen, but its power and influence was anything but small. Merchandising, conventions and equally successful spin-offs were birthed from Joss Whedon’s scrappy little show about teens and monsters. Recently, publisher BOOM! Studios took the reins of the comic-book branch of the franchise, which continues to explore the lore and legend of vampires, the gates to hell, and effervescent blondes who kick butt. Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel: Hellmouth #1 marks the first big event series the current slate of Buffy and Buffy-related titles has to offer.
With the gates of Hell opening up thanks to the malignant efforts of Drusilla and Spike, our heroes are forced to enact damage control and make some unorthodox alliances in order to defeat the oncoming darkness that will consume Sunnydale -- and eventually, the world. If there's any reason to kick off an event series, this is a pretty good one. The stakes are immediately understood and clearly brings together the key players who are going quell the nightmare. The latter is extremely effective. Watching Buffy and Angel actually work together is a wonderful thing to see for long-time fans.Witnessing their blossoming relationship, be it professional or romantic, unfold organically is rather rewarding.
Despite being written by Jordie Bellaire and Jeremy Lambert, this issue feels very much like a Bellaire joint. It reads like any issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer does, and that is by no means an insult. Lambert's work on Doom Patrol: Weight of the Worlds is strong, but it's also hard to tell where his work starts and Gerard Way's ends.
This isn't a Good Omens situation where it's obvious which parts Neil Gaiman wrote and which ones he either didn't or had punched up by Terry Pratchett. So it's hart to say if Lambert is doing great work. The comics he's working on are great, but is it because of Lambert or the talents he works with? We can't make that call. Perhaps with more Lambert solo titles, we will be able to.
The only real drawback to the writing is some of the exposition dumps early in the issue feel a tad ham-fisted. This is understandable, however. If this is your first Buffy comic, you need that exposition to know what the hell is going on.
Eleonora Carlini's art is really strong in Hellmouth #1. The monster designs are sharp and creepy when they need to be, and there are some truly dynamic panel layouts across the pages where the dark forces breaching reality are even more surreal than they would be in a standard nine panel grid. Carlini has a knack for illustrated approximations of the actors who have played the characters onscreen. However, she never fully relies on their likenesses to build her designs. If anything, they are mere visual touchstones for fans who know what they are looking for.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel: Hellmouth #1 is a lot of fun and quite rewarding for new fans and old Buffy-heads who may think they've seen everything that can be done with the character. Bellaire and Lambert's script is solid despite being a bit top heavy in the exposition department. Carlini's illustrations are stellar, and Cris Peter is doing fantastic color work to boot. If you've been reading along with BOOM! Studios' revamped Buffy continuity, Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel: Hellmouth #1 will be your jam.