Reimagining Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a new audience is by no means a bad idea. After all, the original 1992 film got a fresh start in the form the ridiculously popular television series a few years later, and it worked like gangbusters. All the kinks were worked out (more or less). The concept of a vapid teenage girl becoming a tough-as-nail vampire hunter is one that had room to breathe, and turned into something bigger than its humble beginnings. The growth Buffy experienced was organic, unfolding over the course of several seasons of storytelling that were completely disconnected from the original film.
BOOM! Studios' new comic is taking a similar approach as the show, but with a wider breadth of characters and mythology. Buffy the Vampire Slayer #3 does a lot right in terms of channeling the same youthful, spunky energy of previous incarnations of the property, while the comic struggles through growing pains.
In some ways, Jordie Bellaire and Dan Mora's position is unenviable. Even with the guiding hand of creator Joss Whedon helping them along the way. Buffy fans can be rather ravenous. The characters are as important and well-defined as just about any long-standing comic book character. For better or worse, there are always going to be certain expectations for a reboot or reimaging of a character so many people hold dear to their hearts. Thankfully, Bellaire and Mora have done an admirable job so far in capturing the camp and heart of what made the television show so charming in the first place.
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The third issue follows our hero as she deals with a giant, talking bat plaguing Sunnydale, though it might be more complicated than a simple giant monster of the week. The manner in which Buffy, Spike, and other residents react to this creature is one of the main sources of comedy; the ever-persistent in-joke regarding how nonchalant everyone in town seems to be over events of this scale comes across wonderfully.
While it's hard to say this issue was something phenomena, it was most certainly on brand for the character. My history with the intellectual property Buffy the Vampire Slayer runs deep, but it was never paramount to my fandom. The original film, starring Kristy Swanson and the late, great Luke Perry, was in constant rotation among my collection of VHS tapes. Part of the fascination was the fact that Pee Wee Herman played a vampire in it. There was something about seeing a figure who was a Saturday morning staple suddenly being portrayed as a blood-sucking monster that was simply captivating. By the time the show premiered, my love for the film had mostly waned, but was never snuffed out completely.
When the show arrived in 1997, I was already a teenager, and the younger, dumber version of myself scoffed at the idea of a new version of Buffy. The scoffing persisted for a few years until my mother and brother got into the show in a big, bad way; by this time it was syndicated, and the final season was airing. I didn't become a sudden Buffy devotee, but I did have a renewed appreciation for the character. I get a similar feeling to this new comic book series.
There is a lot of like about this series so far, but if you aren't on board by this issue, it's hard to tell if subsequent releases will change your mind. Beside the solid in-character jokes and plotting, the art is quite good. Mora's page layouts flow well, and the larger splash scenes involving this issue's monster look great. However, the degree to which Spike looks like James Marsters contrasting with how little Buffy looks like Sarah Michelle Gellar is a little off-putting. It would work better if everyone looks like they did in the show, or if they were all drawn differently.
It's hard to tell who this comic book is for. It might appease hardcore Buffy fans the same way the Ultimate imprint for Marvel appeased longtime fans who wanted something fresh, or maybe it will push them away. It's hard to tell in the current climate of fandom how the masses will react to something like this. Is Buffy a sacred cow? Not for everyone, she isn't, but for some, she may very well be, which is a shame because this series is familiar enough to be recognizable, but fresh enough to feel like something shiny and new.