Kendra the vampire slayer, native of Jamaica, has yet to be called. Yet she trains studiously with her Watcher, Zabuto, fighting vampires despite her lack Slayer abilities. But life isn't easy. Zabuto has an archaic sense of gender roles, and Kendra feels she's constantly criticizing her because of it.
But there's little time for a healthy discussion about 21st-century gender equality, because there's a rash of tourists being sired throughout the city!
For the sixth issue in a row, now, Buffy isn’t about Buffy.
The heroine and eponymous lead character of this book was absent for the previous five issue due to being transplanted into the Hellmouth miniseries, and now that that’s over, and things should be getting back on course, and picking up the pieces of the Slayer’s life after the events of that story… they don’t. Instead, writer Jordie Bellaire decides instead to give readers a look at the life of Kendra, substitute Slayer from Jamaica, in the time just before she was called to Sunnydale. (Buffy was effectively considered dead after journeying into the Hellmouth, which makes no sense, but that’s how Kendra came about being called.)
This isn’t to say that shedding some light on Kendra’s backstory isn’t a decent move. In fact, given that she’s presumably going to be playing a larger role in the book going forward, probably necessary. But after shambling aimlessly without its lead for the past five issues, the last thing this comic needed was another issue without Buffy. Bellaire’s instincts as a novice writer clearly aren’t fully formed, because she should know this. Instead of refocusing, she’s meandering more. That sort of lack of focus is a comic-killer; readers have to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth out of their comics each month, and a comic with no direction is antithetical to that sentiment.
The story itself is pretty basic, and does little to make readers care about Kendra. She was never really fleshed out on the show, aside from being socially awkward and unable to speak to boys. We knew she was from Jamaica, she was extremely well-learned, and ultra-focused on the mission. She almost killed Angel, learned a few things about adaptation in a fight and that things aren’t always black and white, went away for awhile, and then came back and was killed by Drusilla. She showed up in a sum total of three episodes, so the idea of fleshing her backstory out isn’t a bad one per se – like I said, the timing lies more in the timing of this story than anything else.
Kendra feels put-upon by her Watcher, Sam Zabuto, who is little more than a cipher for patriarchal authority. Readers aren’t really given a reason to care about him, and given his penchant for insisting that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, why would they? He’s condescending to Kendra, and her disdain for him is justified. Then in the latter half of the story, Bellaire tries to show that there’s more to him than meets the eye, but the turn isn’t really justified. It’s more to put a happy spin on the end of the story, as Kendra is called to Sunnydale to fulfill her destiny as the new Chosen One.
The plot itself revolves around a Jamaican-nationalist vampire siring tourists as a rebuke to British colonialism of old. It’s an okay idea, but one that really doesn’t get the chance to flourish in the limitation of these pages. Nor does it really connect to Kendra in any meaningful way, other than the fact that she is, in fact, Jamaican. The plot, therefore, is a MacGuffin, nothing more.
Then there’s the art by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. I have no doubt that there’s some slice of life comic out there for which she would be perfectly suited, but the world of Buffy isn’t it. After issues of increasingly cartoonish and underwhelming art by David Lopez, I’d hoped the artistic shift in this issue was a signal of a renewed focus on quality of art. Alas, Valero-O’Connell brings a cutesy style that couldn’t possibly be more diametrically opposed to the way a Buffy comic should feel. Again, she’s not a bad artist – just painfully mismatched for this comic.
Overall, the Buffy reboot ship is still sinking. Any hope that once Bellaire was finished with Hellmouth this book would regain its focus are almost entirely dashed as of this issue. It’s almost to the point that maybe Boom needs to call it a day and admit that their experiment has failed.
Buffy continues to be distinctly out of focus and a meandering mess, leaving its lead character out of its pages for the sixth issue in a row. Instead of introducing the new post-Hellmouth status quo, it instead chooses to focus on Kendra to no appreciable gain. Fans would not be wrong for dropping this book from their pull sheet at this point.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #13: When Buffy Isn’t About Buffy Anymore
- Writing - 3/103/10
- Storyline - 3/103/10
- Art - 2/102/10
- Color - 5/105/10
- Cover Art - 7/107/10
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