Buffy, the Vampire Slayer #19 by writers Jordie Bellaire and Jeremy Lambert, artist Ramon Bachs, colorist Raúl Angulo, and letterer Ed Dukeshire, continues BOOM! Studios' reboot of Joss Whedon's iconic series. After the misstep of the last issue, which kicked off a new arc, can the team find their footing?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #19 continues from the previous issue in the strangest of ways. Rather than showing an interesting scene between Buffy and Robin, the story completely breezes over the only actual moment of drama we've seen the couple have. Instead of seeing this inciting incident, we just see the character spend half of the issue talking about it. The Buffy/Robin relationship remains uninteresting because we are merely told over and over how they feel, what their problems are, and why they like each other, but we don't see any of it in action. Even with Buffy's least popular love story on the show, her two-season relationship with Riley, we were in Buffy and Riley's shoes. We understood what brought them together and their problems. The structure of the story made us empathize. That is not the case with Buffy and Robin's relationship, which is a problem that extends through the entire series. We aren't shown how characters feel and aren't made to feel their emotions with them. Instead, we are told ad nauseum through plodding dialogue that blends Whedon-speak poorly with modern teen dialogue. It feels like exposition disguised poorly as drama. Xander, while his dialogue is wildly on the nose ("I'm a vampire… I am sort of the Big Bad this season, you know?"), his role is the most interesting. There's an everlasting quality to the friendship of Willow and Xander that gives this comic, even though it's a reboot, rich soil from which to grow character. It'll be interesting, at least, to see Xander grappling with being a vampire. His inconsistency as far as how evil he is, who he really is, is reminiscent of Gunn's role in IDW's excellent Angel: After the Fall, but Xander as a vampire isn't given enough yet to rise to that level.
As far as the artwork, there's nothing here for fans of the show. The characters are cartoony and awkwardly posed, failing to capture both a likeness or even just the essence of the character. Buffy could be any blonde, Willow any redhead. Kendra is unrecognizable. Xander is absolutely ripped. Every female character has a tiny waist and huge hips — essentially everything that Whedon promised skeptical fans he would avoid in the artwork when he decided to continue Buffy the Vampire Slayer in comics over a decade ago. To think that this is the artwork that BOOM! Studios, a company that has produced some of the best-looking comics on the market for the better part of a decade, put on a title as major as Buffy is startling. For anyone excited for Faith's appearance in the comics that has been teased for a while now, it would be wise to temper your expectations.
To call this a step down from what Dark Horse was doing with their long-running, engaging, and yes, flawed but always daring Buffy comics is an understatement. Increasingly, it's not only the timeline that has been changed but the core of the characters, the values of the series, the universality of the themes, and, most of all, the quality of the storytelling. It's not just that this doesn't work as a Buffy comic. It's just not a good comic. The Slayer deserves better than BOOM! Studios is offering with this reboot, and, with the highly enjoyable Willow spinoff wrapping up, there's not much left here for Whedon fans to enjoy. The odd character-focused issue (the last one being Buffy the Vampire Slayer #17, which focused on Wesley Wyndam-Pryce) is entertaining, but it's the main arc that shows how little the creative team has a grasp on the ensemble cast.
Unfortunately, besides the absolutely gorgeous Peach Momoko cover, there is nothing here for longtime Buffy fans.