Buffy the Vampire Slayer: High School is Hell Is the Right Amount of New + Nostalgia

Buffy the Vampire Slayer holds a cellphone and a wooden stake as shadowed figures stand behind her in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Welcome Back to Hellmouth #1 (BOOM! Studios, January 2019)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: High School is Hell

Raúl Angulo (colorist) Jordie Bellaire (writer), Ed Dukeshire (letterer), Dan Mora (penciller), Jeanine Schaefer (editor), Matthew Taylor (cover artist)
BOOM! Studios
May 22, 2019

Buffy is back, and there are some changes. As far as reboots go, retreading and/or revamping nostalgic ground can be hit or miss. I’m going to jump straight ahead and say that BOOM!’s new take on the old Buffy the Vampire Slayer absolutely hits all the right places. That’s not to say that an original fan might be happy with the changes, but Bellaire has done a fantastic job of weaving the known with the unknown as she reintroduces us to Buffy and her friends in Sunnydale.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer holds a cellphone and a wooden stake as shadowed figures stand behind her in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Welcome Back to Hellmouth #1 (BOOM! Studios, January 2019)

As far as being a Buffy fan goes, I came to the series late. I was already about a decade older than the intended audience, and, being a Livejournal junkie at the time, I was hesitant to get into the series because fandom really scared me. Thankfully, I was surrounded by friends I could trust to hold my hand as I dipped my toes into the ship-infested waters and subsequently came to love the original series. While many grew up along with Buffy and friends, I related most to her in those final, darker seasons when childhood was over and she had to deal with the reality of bills and the what’s the point of it all.

High School is Hell takes us all the way back to Buffy’s entrance into high school at Sunnydale and, what with me now being 42, that life no longer quite relates to me, save through the eyes of my teen and pre-teen daughters. So, as Claire asks, is this new series still for me, given where I started in fandom and where I am now, and all the revelations about the series creator that have come since? Or is it to a new generation that Bellaire is handing the pointy stakes?

I’d like to think that the answer is right there on the cover, with Taylor’s likeness of Sara Michelle Gellar holding both a cell phone and a stake. Because Bellaire has created a tapestry that seamlessly melds the old with the new, giving old fans a taste of what we loved—and even, perhaps, fixing a few things we hated—while welcoming the new, and giving us all something monstrous and mysterious to suck on.

Right off the bat, we’re introduced to a Buffy who’s hum drum about her crappy job, apathetic yet effectively dedicated to her duties as the Slayer, and appropriately teenagerly when it comes to dealing with her mom’s boyfriend and her Watcher, Giles.

Mora nails the likenesses without nailing the likenesses. In our interview with Jordie Bellaire, she calls his character likenesses “super dead on while being simplistic” while singing his well-deserved praises. That wrinkle in Buffy’s nose, Cordelia’s brilliant grin, Willow’s elfin smile, Giles’ frustrated and fatherly frowns, and Xander’s lost but loyal puppy dog stares—Mora’s got it all covered. Then there are all those action scenes where I can almost hear the music blaring.

Getting the characters’ looks just right is essential in a story like this, one that has such a following, but they have to feel right too, and that’s where Bellaire shines. It’s one thing to get Whedon’s Whedonisms. It’s another to just get what makes each of these characters tick. To find their Key Element, unlock it, and make them shine, be it Willow’s hesitant eagerness, Buffy’s reluctant heroing, Cordelia’s radiance, or Xander’s intense sense of loneliness.

Older fans already know these characters, but Bellaire still makes enough tweaks—some big, some small—that ensure that we’re all meeting them and falling in love with them again for the first time as we get sucked into this new Hellmouth.

Wendy Browne

Wendy Browne

Publisher, mother, geek, executive assistant sith, gamer, writer, lazy succubus, blogger, bibliophile. Not necessarily in that order.