Finding a good entry point into any long-running fandom can be difficult. If you’ve slept on a television or comic book series, despite your peer group’s best efforts to get you to come into their little nerdy fold, the urge to pass on diving in is understandable. This sort of relationship with pop culture is one of the reasons so many properties are remade, rebooted and reimagined. Thus, when a series is able to make it easy for new readers or viewers to jump on board even with the mountain of content preceding it and is still able to speak to long-time fans, it speaks to the property’s mass appeal. Buffy the Vampire Slayer #4 is a prime example of crafting a story rooted in deep fandom while making it palatable and appealing for both new and old fans.
Jordie Bellaire and Dan Mora’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer has gone to great lengths to bridge the divide between people who always wanted to know what the fuss was about and fans who would die for the franchise by adopting what made the original television show that spawned this universe (yes, the movie came first, but…c’mon). The comic has been tweaking things just enough to avoid treading familiar ground, but the devil, as they say, is in the details. Sure, the series updated the timeline to a more contemporary setting, but slight changes in Joss Whedon's classic characters have made all the difference in the world. These changes range from different relationship statuses to giving characters attributes we’ve seen little of in previous incarnations.
This issue balances continuing the larger narrative of Mistress Dru and Spike trying to break up Buffy's recently formed "Scooby Gang" while focusing on a smaller, isolated narrative about Buffy getting a night off from slaying vampires and/or training to slay vampires. But just because the fledgling Slayer gets a reprieve from her supernatural obligations doesn't mean her social life will wait. Bellaire's (Redlands) script does a wonderful job of exploring the dichotomy between heroism and teenage workload through a series of surprisingly insightful narrations. Bellaire writes the character of Buffy wonderfully, giving her a far less flippant personality than some of the early seasons of the television show (and the movie) relied on. Spike and Mistress Dru also shine in this issue in a perfectly big bad way, their dialogue crackling with snark and a love-hate intensity. While their presence is limited in Buffy the Vampire Slayer #4, they are a delight in every panel they grace.
Dan Mora's artwork is also great. There are only a few action scenes in this issue, but they all look fantastic. There is, however, a small panel early on that is rather striking by how shockingly violent it is. the franchise is known for the juxtaposition of bubbly characters and dark themes, but even then, the sudden flash of blood and how callously it's presented (even if it is a callback to a previous event) is unsettling... in a good way, of course. The characters all look fantastic and only vaguley resemble their the actors who played them on television... well, except for Xander and Spike. But overall, the art is solid and the panel layout flows nicely.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #4 is another fantastic issue in a series that continues to charm. If you've never been on board the Buffy train, this series is a good place to start. Even picking up this issue is welcoming. Most of what came before previously is covered and the rest is easy to infer from context clues. And for readers who are familiar with the characters, there's enough variety and surprises to keep you coming back.