Welcome Back to the Hellmouth!
This week I’m taking a brief intermission from my usual BTVS Season 8 reviews, to talk about what’s currently going on in the world of Buffy comics. Boom! Studios acquired the license to all Buffy related material in 2018. It’s predecessor, Dark Horse Comics, held the licence for twenty years. Boom! Studios released the first issue of its new reboot series in January of this year. With the recent release of its first volume, High School is Hell, I thought it would be a good time to weigh-in and share my thoughts.
High School is Hell features the first four issues of the series, Welcome Back to the Hellmouth, Parts 1-4. It’s written by Jordie Bellaire and features artwork by Dan Mora and David Lopez (Pencils) and Matthew Taylor and Kevin Wada (Cover.) The premise is straight forward. The series reimagines all of our favourite Buffy characters, placing them in a modern-day setting. It’s an alternate take on the Buffyverse lore. It takes us right back to where it all started, Sunnydale High. There, we are presented with a 2019 revamp of our beloved Scoobies.
I had a lot of reservations about this series. It’s safe to say, I was not on board with it at all. Like many people, I’d had my fill of reboots. It seemed completely unnecessary. We’ve had Buffy’s story. It’s already been told beautifully. Why go back? Why try and fix what’s not broken? Nope. Not interested. I’m not doing it. These were my initial thoughts. Yet here we are.
So, what changed my mind? What sucked me back into the Hellmouth? Well, it was a number of things…
Firstly, the artwork is sick! And by sick, I mean it’s gorgeous. It was just so shiny and pretty and new… Yes, I was lured to the dark side by pretty pictures. I’m shallow. Call me Spordelia. I won’t blame you.
Secondly, they’ve really mixed things up. I knew a modern setting, advancements in technology and social movements would add a new flavour to the pot. But they’ve changed things so drastically, it almost feels like a DC’s Elseworlds kind of deal. For those of you who aren’t familiar with DC comics, it’s like a parallel universe. I’ll get into the main differences in just a moment, in the spoiler section of this post.
Lastly, It’s Buffy! It was only a matter of time before sheer curiosity got the better of me. I figured I might as well get on board sooner rather than later. I honestly thought I’d read the first few issues, be grossed out, and forget all about it. But this wasn’t the case. I was compelled to keep reading. The writing isn’t of the same calibre as the Dark Horse publications and Joss is only involved as a consultant, but the series definitely has something. What that something is, I have yet to determine, but it has piqued my interest. And if the cliff-hanger at the end of issue four means what I think it does, I’m not gonna stop reading anytime soon.
*WARNING ENTERING SPOILER TERRITORY*
Here are a few of the biggest changes this series has made so far…
Willow is out and proud from the get-go. I guess this makes sense. The LGBTQ+ youth of today are certainly better represented and less socially repressed than they were in the 90’s. We still have a long way to go, but at least we are making huge strides in terms of representation.
Cordelia is a lot less... Cordelia? The mean girl we all loved to hate and eventually grew to love is nothing like her former self. The mean girl trope of the 90’s has worn a little thin and doesn’t really warrant popularity the way it once did. The Cordelia of today is definitely still obsessed with being Queen Bee, but in order to achieve that in today's society, she has had to become more socially and politically aware. She’s overly nice and a romance with with Spike may be on the horizon? What? I can just hear the old Cordy’s reaction, “Am I in some kind of Bizarro Land?”
Joyce has a boyfriend. Good for her!
Drusilla appears to have ditched her crazy for a power suit and she goes by 'The Mistress' now.
Anya, who didn’t appear until the shows third season is already in town and owns her own magic shop.
Another character to appear much sooner is Robin Wood. Principle Wood is a lot less principle-y and much more student-y. He’s matriculating with the Scoobies. And looking mighty cute too, might I add. I sense a romance between him and the Buffster is in the works.
The biggest change is perhaps still to come. At the end of issue four, Drusilla bites Xander after offering to sire him. If this is the case, if they make Xander a vamp... I am down for this series. For me, this would really help the series carve its own mark on the Buffyverse and provide something completely original. It also plays into the whole parallel universe theory.
I don’t know what’s to come, or whether it will hold my interest over time. But for now, it has my full attention and I’ll definitely be visiting my local comic store when issue five is released on June 5th. Just Take My Money!!!
To make things even more interesting, Boom! Studios are also producing two spin-off series. The first being the obvious choice, Angel. I’ll make a post about this later, when they’ve released a few more issues. And secondly, they’ve just announced a new series, The Chosen Ones, which will focus on Slayers from other eras and cultures. I'm probably the most excited about this one. I’ve been saying this is a great concept for a series for years. We’ve seen glimpses of other Slayers in the TV series and in other comics such as Tales of the Slayer, but there is so much more to explore. So, Halleluiah! Bring it on!
If you’re looking to relive the glory days and visit the same familiar Scoobies we’ve come to know and love, this series may not be for you. The Buffyverse often referenced the existence of many parallel worlds. I think it’s best to approach this series as if it were one of them. It’s something new entirely. And hey, Wonder Woman, Batman, Spiderman, all of the greatest heroes have had countless reinventions. When Joss created Buffy, he set out to create an icon. Buffy has carved her mark on Pop Culture. But if she wants to achieve the same staying power as characters from the likes of Marvel and DC, she has to change with the times. And we have to let her. I still think focusing on a new Slayer like Monica Owusu-Breen is doing in her upcoming sequel TV series, is the best way to go. Creating new characters removes the risk of treading on anyone’s toes. But as long as the legacy of the Slayer lives on, I’m happy. And right now, is a great time to be a Vampire Slayer fan. There are so many new projects on the horizon, from comics, to novels and even a new TV series.
If you’re a fan of the Buffyverse, my advice is simple. Either embrace the change and welcome new ideas or stick to the ones you already love. No one is forcing you to jump on board with any of these new projects. But they don’t take anything away from the original series. So, don’t try to spoil it for those who are excited. Every generation deserves a Slayer, and everyone is entitled to a favourite. Sarah Michelle Gellar's take on Buffy will always be mine. But I still can't wait to see what comes next.
Peace out Scoobies.