2019 is the year of the Buffy reboot. Not only are we getting a new modern-day TV series, but in January, Boom Studios started their comics reimagining of the series, going all the way back to the beginning. Weirdly, these two modern-day reimaginings of the series are not the same reimagining. While the new show offers a new cast of characters, the comics are more of a reboot of the original show, taking the early season characters and concepts, copying the original actors’ likenesses, and dropping them into 2019. They’re the same characters we remember, at the age they started the series, just… modern. And ever so slightly different.
Only three issues have come out as I write this, but Buffy is still Buffy and Giles is still Giles. Willow and Xander are still there, although Willow starts the series as a witchy goth with a girlfriend, and Xander feels more explicitly angsty and isolated than I remember being clear in the early days of the show. Cordelia is the biggest change, beginning the series as a genuinely nice popular girl running for class president, while Drusilla shows up early, a terrifying badass instead of a murderous ethereal waif. She and Spike, rather than the Master, seem to be set up as the early Big Bads, while, so far, Angel is nowhere to be seen.
There’s a lot of expectation on this series, and the comics lean into that. They knows that while they may be introducing Buffy to a new generation of comic readers, they are also playing to an audience with intimate knowledge of the original series. It’s impossible to look at Willow at the start of this reboot and not think about her becoming a witch, or about Tara. We know all the ups and downs of Buffy and Angel, whether or not he appears. We know what Spike’s plot arc will be, or at least, what it was once. We look at these fresh-faced newbie characters in the first three issues, and we hold so many thoughts and expectations about them. And the comics know this. They know that every decision must be carefully considered, every change made with purpose.
The artists do a great job of capturing the likeness and spirit of the original characters, while making them look like they could actually be people living in 2019, and you definitely get a thrill of recognition whenever you turn to a new panel and see a familiar location or face. But overall, my feelings on the comic series so far are mixed. The art is pretty, but the writing has a bumpy start. In the first issue, it feels like it’s trying to recreate that Whedon-esque “Buffy speak”, where it’s teen-like, but not actually how teens speak, and where everyone is far wittier than in real life. Yet initially, it feels a little stilted and unnatural, as Whedon’s own jokes sometimes sound these days.
By issue three, however, the series is getting into its groove, with a voice that feels humorous and Buffy-like without also feeling forced.
Plot wise, the comics are taking their own path, and they’re not afraid to mix up characters in ways they never did in the show (Spike, for example, has talked to Cordelia more than anyone else so far, even though I don’t think they interacted much if at all in Buffy). Only three issues in, it looks a little bumpy, but promising. Definitely fun. I’m intrigued about where it will go.
Physical copies of the first three instalments will be hard to find at this point, but it’s all available digitally on Comixology, and the first four instalments will be published as a collection on June 13th.