Deep in the Hellmouth, Buffy has discovered the truth about Angel: that he's a vampire!
Buffy, of course, doesn't understand that Angel is different from any other vamp because he has a soul. Threatening his life, she storms off separately despite Angel's protestations for her safety. That, though, leaves him defenseless as well - and ripe for the taking when the Hellmother comes a-calling, looking for a body to possess!
Hellmouth #4 is a bit more of an Angel-centric outing than previous installments, and is stronger for it. But that still doesn’t change the fact that this comic simply doesn’t have much to say.
Buffy’s immediate reaction – revulsion – to the revelation that Angel is a vampire is understandable and expected. But without the undercurrent of a simmering romance between them, the moment loses impact, especially since readers all know it’s inevitable. Angel, though, remains steadfast, and is more concerned with Buffy’s safety as she runs off than with her hurt feelings. It’s a classic hero moment.
But all that can’t disguise just how threadbare the plot of this entire miniseries is. Four issues in, and everything that’s been accomplished could have been done in two. Every sequence feels drawn out; issue three was a virtual carbon-copy of its predecessor; this issue has Buffy bemoaning the endless succession of her own worst nightmares even as she confronts a lost and defeated version of herself. And for what? So the Hellmother can… rule, I guess? It’s hard to say because writer Jordie Bellaire has done such a poor job with giving her any motivations. We know nothing about her other than the little that is revealed this issue, and even that amounts to the barest of information. If a hero is only as good as his villain, then Buffy and Angel are incredibly weak heroes.
And that just shouldn’t be the case, because of course they aren’t. Buffy and Angel are fantastic heroes, each embodying different archetypes: she, the average girl chosen by fate to fulfill a destiny she doesn’t want but can’t turn away from; he, the former villain haunted by a past he’s desperate to make amends for. Add to that the fact that they’re supposed to be star-crossed lovers whose romance can never be, and all the ingredients are there for some epic, heart-wrenching storytelling. That’s why the original Buffy/Angel romance remains such a potent story to this day, not just because everything was so flawlessly executed by everyone concerned but because it remains so elemental. In Hellmouth, Bellaire seems content to just have them run around aimlessly in Hell for four issues and hope for the best. Since this is the rebooted Buffyverse, readers should expect events to play out differently than they did on the show, but surely Bellaire can come up with something more interesting than this.
On the upside, the art took a major leap forward this issue. Eleonora Carlini inks her own linework for the first whole issue of the series, and the difference is palpable. The linework looks less thin and a lot stronger and even a tad foreboding; light comparisons to Sienkiewicz wouldn’t be too far off. Her inking her own work also brings a more impactful sense of style to every panel; couple that with the bold coloration by Mattia Iocono – himself new to these pages – and you have a truly great-looking book on your hands. The trouble is, the story and characterization simply doesn’t rise to the occasion.
Hellmouth continues its distressing trend of not having much to say this issue, nor much for its leads to really do. What should have been a huge moment - Buffy discovering that Angel is a vampire - feels weightless, which is an apt of a description for this threadbare miniseries as I can think of. A missed opportunity all around, and especially glaring since it's derailed both Buffy and Angel before either book can find its sea legs.
Hellmouth #4 (of 5): Down and Out in the Mouth of Hell
Writing - 5/105/10
Storyline - 3/103/10
Art - 7.5/107.5/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 8/108/10
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