The end is here! The Hellmother has possessed Angel, and it's time for one last throwdown with Buffy!
Things are looking bleak... but fortunately, reinforcements have arrived!
But... where's Xander?
“Where’s Xander,” indeed? Oh that’s right HE WAS KILLED OFF AND OH MY GOD THEY KILLED XANDER WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?! Hysterics aside, Hellmouth #5 unfolds exactly the way the rest of the miniseries has: predictably. Spoiler warning: Buffy wins and the forces of evil are vanquished. Then she finds out Xander died (in Buffy #11) and everyone is sad. Angel gets de-possessed and just… sort of wanders off, I guess? No time is spent giving closure to Angel’s role in the story. So, other than killing off a beloved supporting character (in a tie-in issue elsewhere, no less), what exactly did this miniseries accomplish?
Hellmouth‘s central premise was re-imagining Buffy and Angel’s first meeting. And it did at that, making them uneasy allies, then separating them once Buffy found out Angel was a vamp. Then instead of providing any resolution, Angel wound up possessed by the Hellmother and then getting absolutely no follow-through on his end of the story once it had climaxed. Buffy gave him a pass on being a vampire, which completely contradicts her earlier reaction to discovering his true nature. And she doesn’t even know he has a soul, so she has no way of knowing that he really is one of the good guys. Ostensibly, then, she just let a murderous vampire get a hall pass… because she felt bad that he was possessed, or something? And more distressingly, there’s zero resolution to their relationship, romantic, fighty, or otherwise. The Buffy/Angel relationship is non-existent despite this entire story being founded on it. It should also be noted that Angel gets the complete short end of the storytelling stick here, with absolutely no attention paid to him other than as a MacGuffin. Even outside of the Buffy/Angel dyad, he is completely forgotten by writers Jordie Bellaire and Jeremy Lambert.
The issue definitely attempts at some strong character beats, but it’s honestly too little, too late. Giles is sad that he acted like a jackass under the Hellmother’s influence. Buffy tries to put on a happy face despite the loss of her friend. Willow is sad. Anja opens up a whole world of possibility for future arcs that promise to remove the Slayer further from her home base and comfort zone. Okay, that’s all nice, but given how resoundingly the bulk of the series failed to create any emotional stakes, these moments wind up feeling tacked on than earnest.
The Hellmother, for her part, was barely a character. She was bad and wanted to do bad things and that’s pretty much it. Her possession of Angel immediately led to him morphing into some kind of pretty-boy longhaired vampire out of an Anne Rice novel, and then she was thrown into a “lake that goes on forever,” and that’s it. As I’ve pointed out in previous reviews for this miniseries, Buffy has always been known for her fleshed out, quality big bads that truly presented formidable obstacles for the Slayer. Hellmother, by contrast, reads as though she were lazily slapped together by a committee of suits who never watched an episode of the show in their lives. She’s not just flat and one-dimensional – she’s outright boring.
And that’s been the real problem with Hellmouth: it’s been boring. It’s had nothing new or particularly interesting to say about any of its characters, and frankly could have been told in three issues instead of being stretched to the breaking point at five. The premise itself is paper-thin and any potential character beats went nowhere. The most game-changing event, Xander’s death, happened in a tie-in comic. Even the art was bland. So what, then, was the point of any of this mess? Readers will surely be scratching their heads to figure it out.
The one positive thing that can be said to have come out of Hellmouth was that the expected status quo has been upset. Xander is gone, and Willow is studying abroad to grieve over his death. This leaves Buffy without her main support system, which means that second-tier characters like Rose, Cordy, and Anya will in all likelihood get a chance to shine. And that’s a good thing, because it means the main Buffy book will become unpredictable for a time. But that’s for the future. For now, as the book is closed on Hellmouth, all that’s left to be said is, “Can I get my money back?”
A decidedly flat end to a decidedly flat miniseries, Hellmouth #5 succeeds only in asking readers why they spent money on it in the first place.
Hellmouth #5 (of 5): Pyrrhic Victory
Writing - 4/104/10
Storyline - 2/102/10
Art - 5/105/10
Color - 5/105/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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