Comic Review: Buffy is back, and that’s a good thing

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Samuel Reece, Contributing Writer

If you’ve been keeping up with any sort of pop culture lately, you are probably aware that the thing you used to like is back. It seems like everyone has been talking for a while about how Hollywood has run out of new ideas, how all it knows how to do is bring old properties back from the dead, and how sequel and reboot and rerun fatigue is going to catch up with audiences and we’re all going to renounce the things we used to like and go boldly into a new future. Except that hasn’t happened.

2018 was a banner year for the comeback. “24” came back. “Murphy Brown” came back. “Lost in Space” and “Muppet Babies” and “Charmed” and “Roswell”  and “Twin Peaks” all came back. We’ve moved into a version of the media franchise where everything matters, where reboots and crossovers and continuity changes are expected and understood. We’re clamoring for things to come back on a shorter and shorter cycle, asking for new episodes of the “The Office,” asking for new formats, for a way to save the shows we love. Comfort food, streaming directly to us any time we need it.

I have complicated feelings about all of this. I’m a comic book person, and let me tell you, I’ve seen reboots and restarts and continuity changes galore. I’m immune to the idea that there is something new in this world.

In the world of comic books, no matter what they tell you about reality being rewritten, if a story happened our heroes are going to go back and see it again, retell it, or meet versions of themselves from a previous era. Everything matters in comic books, even the things we’re told don’t matter. And, like in comics, we now expect references to old continuities and storylines in all our media, expect to see movie characters on TV and TV characters in the movies, and to see it all told in a comic-book tie-in and a novelization, too.

Some would say we’re overloading on franchises and familiar media properties. I tend to say that if the people want to see Spider-Man across every conceivable form of media, let them check in on on whatever version of the character is being offered.

In most recent new, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is back.” Yes, “Buffy” is (supposedly) coming back to TV in the midst of Fox and Disney corporate merger shenanigans for a brand new Season 8, or Season 1, or something. And both the original show and it’s spinoff “Angel” are free-to-watch on Facebook Watch, which I’ve heard is the streaming platform that belongs to Facebook but that I can’t quite believe really exists.

And “Buffy” never really left – it’s been going in comics or novels since the show was cancelled. Besides, it already came back once from the not-very-good movie that preceded the show by several years. But “Buffy” is back, in a brand-new honestly real comic book reboot.

And it is good, or the first issue is at least. Boom! Studios have taken over the license to the character and turned it over to writer Jordie Bellaire and artist Dan Mora (joined by colorist Raúl Angulo – whose pallet is picks up perfectly on that 1996-era “The WB” look – and letterer Ed Dukeshire, who is doing some really dynamic work that does a lot to capture character voices).

This is a true-to-life reboot, starting over the “Buffy” story from scratch, but it manages to also be true to the original series, with Mora doing likenesses of the original actors that manage to be expressive and natural-looking, despite being based on real people. Bellaire is not pulling any punches, either. She seems to know exactly what about “Buffy” worked in the first place –  Xander and Willow (a new Willow pulled perfectly from her latter-season character development while still being Willow) and Buffy as high school kids, that burden of responsibility on Buffy’s shoulders matched by her levity and quick wit – and Bellaire gives it to us almost immediately, while also pulling in things that weren’t in the original series but should have been.  

The last page reveal promises a rethinking of  “Buffy’s” first season that complicates everything in a way that’s true to the characters and the lore of the show. There are characters we expect to see but don’t, things that aren’t explained, all presented in a way that promises returning readers twists on the world we know but doesn’t rely on a knowledge of the show. Even if you haven’t understood any of this or have never seen “Buffy,” this is still going to be a really fun and witty series about a teenage vampire slayer, no knowledge required.

“Buffy” is back. And that’s great. I’m here for the ride, and I might even be inspired to pick up “Slayer,” the new novel that returns to the show as well. Yet, somehow, I can’t get over the feeling that it is still sort of typical. I’m not against the idea of comfort-watching returns to TV. I’m far from resisting their pull. (I’m looking at you, “Young Justice: Outsiders” for getting me to watch a cartoon I haven’t watched since I was pre-teen and loving it).

I’m just like everyone else, trying to remember what life was like before chaos took over and the news stopped making sense. I want Buffy to tell me that we’re still in the good old days, even though I’m not old enough to remember them. I want to be reminded that the world hasn’t always been crazy, or that maybe it has, just that the craziness was vampires and not government shutdowns. There is something about the return that is nice. Nothing ever dies, nothing ever even goes away.

That’s what the new “Buffy” is. That’s maybe even what entertainment is supposed to be, a getaway from either the humdrum when things seem boring, or a return to it when things are out of our control. This is a good first issue of something that might surprise me in being something completely different than what I think it is. But, if it doesn’t, I’m okay with that, too.