All Hell's a-bustin' loose in Sunnydale! Drusilla has activated the Hellmouth with Spike's blood, and that's not a good thing for anybody...
It's all hands on deck as demons big and small begin to swarm the idyllic town. Giles heads to the Magic Box to get some insight from Anya, who's in the process of packing her livelihood before it's decimated in the chaos. There, he learns some crucial information...
Buffy, meanwhile, gathers her own forces - Xander and Robin and, reluctantly, Cordelia!
But without her Watcher, Buffy is lost as to where to start. Fortunately, backup has arrived...
Angel has arrived, and suddenly, the odds are looking a little different!
One of Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s enduring charms is its low budget. Initially crafted on a shoestring and lovingly utilizing the
best most affordable TV practical effects of its day, the show succeeded despite what could, superficially at least, be seen as cheesy or cheap. It’s a testament to the cumulative skills of the writers, actors, and overall artistic vision of Joss Whedon that it truly grew to the massively impactful and influential show it eventually became.
The small-scale look of it, though, was a sort of unheralded component of the show’s success. By not having a massive CGI budget, or much of a reliance on CGI at all (even as it became more affordable and ubiquitous for TV to utilize), it kept one foot planted firmly on the ground. Despite all of the werewolves, vampires, demons, mayor-snakes, Inca mummy girls, and government-sponsored man/machine/demon hybrids, the world of Sunnydale always felt like one you could actually live in (in a heightened-reality sort of way, anyhow). That relatability was a key ingredient to why viewership surged in the second and third seasons, and its legacy still echoes today.
It’s interesting, then, that pretty much Buffy has ventured into comics, that small-scale component is almost always lost right away. As far back as Dark Horse’s Season 8 and beyond, up through this current reimagining from Boom!, writers – even those with their finger seemingly on the show’s pulse, like Jordie Bellaire here – have succumbed to the temptation to have Buffy go big. And that right off the bat creates a sense that what we’re reading, what we’re dealing with, isn’t quite the Buffy we all know and love.
From the get-go, Hellmouth #1, the first official Buffy/Angel crossover, goes very big. The Hellmouth is ripping right open before our eyes (technically, it’s “activated” instead of “opening,” which is very confusing because the former looks exactly like the latter). Demons are pouring forth from the Hellmouth, and all of Sunnydale looks a lot like the cover to an ’80s thrash album. It’s chaos all over, the kind you can only get with a huge CGI budget or the unlimited budget a comic page provides. Either way, it’s a mighty big step up from the men-in-rubber-suits look of the show’s earlier seasons.
But does it work? Can you amp up the scale of Buffy and still have it feel like Buffy? History would indicate “no,” but Jordie Bellaire has done nothing if not completely defy expectations with her current reimagining of this beloved franchise. And although she’s joined by a co-author here (Jeremy Lambert), this comic still feels distinctly like the world she’s been quickly building for the slayer to play in. There are a lot of details that have changed, though – Spike and Dru, for example, have more of a sub/dom relationship, with Spike very out-of-characteristically playing the role of the bottom. Drusilla, meanwhile, is notably less crazy without actress Juliet Landau channeling her stark-raving mad id. Xander’s a part-time vampire, Cordelia’s nice, and Willow has lost half her soul.
Yet despite all of these radical changes, the individual characters’ voices still ring true. Bellaire clearly knows her Buffy, and it shows. Even with all of the cosmetic differences, the entire Scooby Gang is still recognizable.
It’s early running in Hellmouth yet. Too early to judge whether or not the story is entirely working. This issue, though, zips along with an immediate sense of urgency. Reading it, you feel like the world is exploding and coming to an end. You feel Giles’ desperation and Buffy’s uncertainty. You feel Angel’s confidence and Xander’s fear. These characters feel real and lived in, every bit as much as they did on the show. And in the end, perhaps that’s all that really matters. Huge in scale or not, this Buffy still remains Buffy. The details may be different, but the core of these beloved characters still rings true. Aided by the highly skilled Eleonora Carlini on art, Hellmouth looks to be one hell of a ride. If you’re a Buffy fan but haven’t been sure of what to think about this new iteration, don’t despair. Now’s the perfect jumping on point.
Hellmouth #1 kicks the Buffy/Angel crossover event off with a bang! Stellar execution, high stakes, and beloved characters - what more could a fan want?!
Hellmouth #1 (of 5): Into the Fire
- Writing - 8/108/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Art - 7.5/107.5/10
- Color - 7/107/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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