Season 01, Issue 02
"Welcome Back to the Hellmouth" pII
Writer: Jordie Bellaire; Artwork: Dan Mora & Raúl Angulo, Lettered: Ed Dukeshire
Cover: Matthew Taylor
Blurb: I refuse to transcript the babble [tongue in cheek] that constitutes the blurb.
My Blurb: As Buffy tries to integrate her Slayer life with friendships and her mother's having a live in boyfriend, Dru gets impatient with magic shop owner Anya that she won't give her what she's come to take.
Page 01: We open on Buffy wandering a darkened hallway. The hallway has surreal imagery [VERY much inspired by German Expressionism of the 20's] as Buffy reaches a locker, pointing to this being SHS, and a dream.
Inside the locker, Buffy finds the heads of her new friends, along with grisly offal. Pointing to this being not a dream, but a nightmare.
She reacts with shock and horror, as you may imagine.
Commentary: I loved this page. I love the "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" feel of the imagery, and the use of black and red as the color pallet. And Xan and Wills heads and guts in the locker was well rendered.
Page 02: Buffy backs away in more shock, as Willow and Xander are suddenly not as dead as they appeared, and more whole.
They both climb out of the Tardis-Locker, but their limbs are elongated unnaturally, and their eyes are deep, black pits.
Willow tells Buffy that she didn't try hard enough to save them, and Xan questions if they were really friends, at all. Buffy protests that if she'd known they were in danger, she would've been there. Backing away, she bumps into Giles. She pleads with him over what is happening, but he only tells her that she's fulfilling her destiny. He hauls her up one handed by the throat, lifting her off the floor. She questions what purpose she's fulfilling.
Commentary: I'm also liking the lettering being red dialog bubbles for demon-Willow, Xan & Rupert with Buffy's dialog being in regular white and her thoughts being confined to blue squares. It makes the whole page more dynamic and the coloring is really dark and bold, which I'm also digging.
Page 03: Buffy's thoughts say that the small details change, but the end is always the same, talking about her recurring dream.
In the dream, Giles is an empty-eyed, Joker-grinning demonic madman, who tells her that the Slayer has no future. He goes on to tell Buffy that there is no stopping fate and that Hell is always going to find her, as the floor erupts in flame and lava. Nightmare-Giles holds Dream-Buffy over the pit of hellfire, as the flames leap up to consume them both.
Commentary: Very good opening.
Alas, one of the things I liked in issue 01 was not carried through. We didn't get the title page following the 'opening' so we're back from echoing a tv episode, to the normal comic book format.
Page 04: Buffy wakes up screaming, and thinking to herself that she doesn't make it out....
After she pulls herself together, she joins her mother in the kitchen. Joyce mentions she's up earlier than usual, and Buffy gives her, "Nightmare. Fire, bad".
In the kitchen is also a man, who tells Buffy that he once read that fire in a dream symbolizes intense feelings toward someone. Buffy tells him that she's feeling like she'd prefer her mom's boyfriend not reading into her dreams. Joyce smiles through it, while Eric looks like he's been physically slapped across the face.
Page 05: Eric offers to drive her to school, but Buffy snots that she'd love to extend this awkward time with him, but since she's 16 and doesn't need a chaperone, she'll walk it. She leaves her mother still trying to keep the atmosphere light, unsuccessfully.
Eric feels bad for making things weird, but Joyce councils that Buffy is just getting used to her mother having a man around the house again and that she needs time. But Eric points out they've been dating a year, and he moved in a month ago....
Commentary: And Buffy was being more than a bit bitca toward him. I wasn't loving her, here.
Page 06: Later in the library, Buffy doesn't act any better toward Giles. As he's trying to focus on teaching, and investigating the object that allowed the vampire to survive a heart staking, she's clear that she's very bored.
While Rupert wants Buffy to use her brains as well as her brawn, Buffy just wants to shortcut to how to kill baddies that won't dust, like they're supposed to.
Page 07: Rupert is very interested in where this artifact came from and why it's in Sunnydale but both he and Buffy are at a loss as to where to look, first. Buffy is still cranky because of her nightmares and Eric's presence so the conversation basically degrades into her not wanting to investigate, but just be pointed at the bad guys and Giles trying to force her to take more responsibility for the legwork, too.
They're interrupted by someone coming into the library.
Page 08: The visitor is Cordelia Chase, and she's the exact opposite mirror image of Prime-Cordy. She's friendly, effervescent, bubbly, etc.
She's there to hang a poster up...
Page 09: ... which turns out to be because she's running for Student Council President for the third year in a row.
She pins a button on Buffy, and compliments the way it brings out her eyes before... well, sachaying... out of the room.
Buffy is unamused.
Page 10: In the hallway, Cordy calls out to Willow, causing a bit of consternation. Wills is there with her girlfriend, Rose and dialog indicates that Willow has run against Cordy in the past two elections and lost both times. But she's going to run again, which Cordy takes with aplumb and good grace. She hugs Willow and tells her that she knows she'd be good for the school, promising her she'll vote for her, even though she's running herself.
In the meantime, Willow has a death grip on Rose's hand through this in extreme annoyance.
Commentary: Uhhh, okay. I think they may've gone overboard with making Cordy her prime-opposite. It was almost - almost - too much, tipping into caricature of the saccarine person: Okay, now that I think about it, Prime-Cordy was nearly a caricature, too at first. I guess this is appropriate after all.
Page 11: Willow complains to Rose that Cordelia is too nice and beautiful and smart but Rose tells Willow that she's also all of those things. Wills compares herself against Cordy and finds herself wanting, but Rose tells her that it isn't a contest. They kiss.
Xan looks on from down the hall with a major case of the frowns.
Page 12: Later, Buffy is running track, and is so involved in her own thoughts, she forgets about holding back.
She quickly covers (badly, but the coach doesn't notice how badly) that she's exhausted and hurting after that sprint. She's sent to the bleacher to rest up. In the meantime, Xan shares track with her and he's ordered to run another mile.
Page 13: Buffy joins Robin on the opposite side of the bench, but as they talk, Robin scoots down to sit next to her.
Robin is sporting a broken arm in a cast, and is flirty and all wide smiles toward the relatively new student.
Page 14: Robin admits that he and Buffy don't know each other well yet, but wonders if he could get...
Buffy interrupts with disbelief that he's trying to get her number so quickly. But he embarrasses her by telling her that he actually just wanted her to sign his cast. He's all laughs and friendly demeanor. She asks about his arm, and says he fell off a roof.
He calls her funny and cute, after she intimates that she knows about roof-falling-off-of.
Commentary: It's a little nauseating, to tell the truth. There is again a shout out to tv-Buffy with Robin's observation that Buffy is both athletic and funny -- a real COMBO-Buffy, if you will. And then tells her she's also funny & cute, laying the flirt on a bit thick.
And coming on the heels of Cordy, Willow, Rose, Joyce and Eric... I'm starting to wonder if Xander and Giles are the only other people in Sunnydale - besides Buffy herself - who aren't all sunshine and rainbows.
Page 15: [We keep getting thought squares throughout with someone complaining they feel like a loser, but it's unclear to me if it's Buffy -- which seems ridiculous, considering what we're seeing of her -- or Xander which would feel much more in character, but also doesn't make sense since he's not the focus of any of the panels.]
After school, Cordy is finally coming out with some left over balloons for her advertising. The sun is already setting as she makes her way across the otherwise empty parking lot. She loses the grip on her balloons in the breeze and they go dashing off toward the creepy woods bordering SHS.
Page 16: Being environmentally conscious, Ms. Chase runs off after them so they don't get eaten by a bird and choke them to death.
She runs into a stranger in the woods, who has caught one of the balloons for her. This is Spike. Cordy immediately smiles wide and introduces herself to the strange man hanging out in the woods.
Page 17: Cordy suggests that it is odd for a Brit to be hanging out in the woods, but she's not at all creeped out, even after Spike 'jokes' that he's out there to lure girls into the woods. Spike even asks her if she's not a little naive for having so little concern about meeting a stranger lurking in the woods.
Her response is to tell him she chooses not to live her life worried that everyone is out to get her. She offers him a ride, but he declines and she jokingly tells him to creep home safely. He suggests that they may see each other around in future.
Commentary: This entire meeting is really weird. I mean, I'm starting to think Cordy is under the influence of something. She's just not being written like somebody with an ounce of survival instinct, to the point of being... stupid. Spike's not offering any reason why he'd be creeping in the woods, except to be luring women into them, doesn't even cause a momentary pause?? Who reacts like this?!
And what IS Spike doing there? What is his story-purpose for hanging out in the trees, trying to avoid stray rays of direct sunlight?
I don't understand this entire meeting between he and her.
Page 18: [We're still getting thought squares from what now is more assuredly Xander, bemoaning the fact that he's inadequate and lonely and has severe self esteem issues that he hides. But still over panels that don't feature him, which is an odd fit.]
Spike watches Cordelia head back across the Sunnydale High parking lot, before fading back into the darkness of the forest.
In the meantime, Anya is in her shop, where she's been trussed up and is looking a little rough [exactly like this late panel transition].
Commentary: I'm liking the idea of a Xan who isn't as comfortable with his 'loser-image' as the wise cracking Prime-Xan, but his voiceover feels out of place, when he's had exactly one cameo appearance thoughout the whole issue. Why is this here, instead of in an issue at least partially devoted to showing us who the Boom!Xan is as a character?
Page 19: Anya has been restrained by Drusilla, who is currently annoyed with Anya not helping her in her search for a McGuffin [I'm assuming the stake-won't-work trinket, but it could be something entirely else. They're being cagey about why she's there].
Anya points out that everyone can't get what they want, and besides, she still doesn't know what Dru is going on about so she couldn't help even if she was so inclined. She suggests Drusilla pick up a book and find her goal her own self.
Dru, rather than just telling Anya what she is there for, goes on to complain that torturing Anya won't loosen her lips and she can't kill her. But what she can do, is start destroying all of the knicknacks that Anya has collected. Even a demon witch has attachments to some thing, in Anya's case, her collection.
She starts smashing Anya's items.
Commentary: *Sigh* Is there a reason for Dru to just not demand that Anya tell her where such-n-such is being kept, other than to stretch out her appearance? Because it's annoying. I'm starting to believe that I'm just not into Jordie's writing, because I'm constantly being yanked out of the story by plot development or dialog that doesn't feel remotely sensible.
Maybe I'm just too pedestrian to be this hip. Which would make sense, since I'm old[er] than the new generation this comic is trying to introduce to Buffy, I guess. But I'm just being bugged by the dialog that is coming across as unnatural to my ears [or eyes, whichever].
Page 20: Dru tells Anya that she knows why she set up shop in this particular location, and it's for the same reason that Drusilla has come. She warns that they're all on borrowed time if a series of prophecies come to pass, and she needs strength to help them all survive what may be coming. And time is running short to harnass the power required.
But Anya seems distinctly unconcerned with the possible supernatural-pocalypse that may be coming for them. She tells Dru that she's always waited out prophecies before, and she'll do so in this case as well.
The only thing that gets to her, is Dru threatening to smash open an urn. She shouts at Drusilla not to smash that one particular piece. To Dru questioning why this urn means so much, Anya vaguely tells her that smashing it would only complicate things.
Dru finds it too tempting to smash something that Anya cares so much about [rather than first offering to leave it whole, if Anya would give her something toward what she is seeking]. She grins maniacally as she throws the urn onto the floor.
Commentary: See, I want to get into this scene, but the dialog is not natural. They're too busy being vague to sound like actual people would speak to each other. It's maddening.
Page 21: The Urn probably shouldn't have been smashed, least of all by a vampire. A bat creature suddenly manifests from the ruin of the urn on the floor. And he calls himself the Destroyer of Vampires, and promises to kill them all [Is this perhaps the first prophecy of the greater ruin for the supernatural that Dru was trying to stop?].
Anya smartasses to Dru that she probably feels really dumb right about now.
Page 22: Meanwhile, Xander is texting Buffy and Willow about the fact that they're not hanging out as they had planned to do. Buffy apologizes that she forgot, but that she's busy with a Slayer matter -- finding a jeweler.
Wills also apologizes, explaining that Rose had a bad day and she's with her now.
Xander types out his hurt, but deletes it before he sends it, and instead sends that it's no big deal. But in his room, Xan is curled in on himself, being crushed by his own feelings of isolation.
The Good: Okay, that beginning gruesome nightmare was an excellent opening. I'm hoping that it's also a foreshadowing of Buffy being threatened by the prophecies that Dru is so afraid of coming to pass, also, rather than being a random opening.
The interesting call back to Maloker from S9 in his design, but this time the vampire-bat thing is a vampire killer, rather than their creator.
The Bad: Cordy. Just Cordelia... she's overwritten to be the opposite of Prime-Chase, up and into being an idiot of sweetness and openness when it comes to guys creeping in the woods and lurking the high school. Unless it turns out that Cordelia is actually a powerful witch, so she knows she's in no danger regardless, she doesn't make sense.
Dru not telling Anya what she wants, and Anya not asking any direct questions to find out what Dru is after is maddening. And, again, unnatural reaction & dialog-wise.
Other Thoughts: There are so many points in this issue when the dialog is just not natural, or people's reactions are not sensible. It's distracting from the plot(s). And I'm not crazy about Buffy's portrayal in this issue, either. But I am glad to see Joyce and Cordelia make an appearance, and I like that Joyce has moved on from Hank.
It's nice to meet Willow's sudden-girlfriend, and that Wills is already open and comfortable with the relationship, although I'm going to miss Oz/Wills cuteness.
I don't know about Robin Wood being totally re-written, either. But I'm not hating on it.
I have mixed feelings about this Xander Harris. I'm feeling very worried that this Xan is going to go into very dark places against himself, and I'm hurting a little with that last page.
The Score: 3.25 out of 5 stars
S1, E2 received a 3.0 from me, so this is a step up.