Hi, gang! Some record keeping first: I am now aware that Boom! also has their version of Angel. I only know this because of an ad page in BTVS #5, but I've gone back and ordered Angel #0-2, with the rest pre-ordered, so yes... another title, another $4 an issue + shipping spent.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Boom!)
"Welcome Back to the Hellmouth" part IV
Writer: Jordie Bellaire, Artwork: Dan Mora & Raúl Angulo, Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Cover: Matthew Taylor
Page 01: We join flashes of Buffy's life lately with her in class, fighting vampires, hanging with Willow and Xander, but this is being told from Xan's point of view.
He's worried about failing physics, he hates that he's not great with the vampire fighting (I guess discounting his saving Buffy from being bitten by Dru as luck, and not skill... which is fair, admittedly) and that Willow hasn't been available much lately with her interest in her girlfriend and helping Buffy and Giles.
Commentary: Xander is the only change thus far, that I just can't get behind. This Xander Harris is a real drag, who doesn't cover his inadequacies by hiding behind jokes. He's just a Donnie-Downer.
Page 02: Xan tells us they haven't see Spike or Dru since the fight with Camazotz. And he's still feeling out of his depth when it comes to the Slayer stuff and monster things in general.
He sorrows at himself that he couldn't even snag a date for the recent homecoming dance.
[And instead of being in his head with his narration, we see scenes he's not present for of Spike/Dru, Giles/Jenny - oh, yeah, they're already dating: moving along, and Cordelia Chase fantasizing about Spike.
The effusive letters of praise on the Sunnydale High Sentinel page is making me sad.]
Page 03: We join Buffy, Giles, Willow and Xander in a workout room somewhere [*sigh* Another bit taken from the original... which doesn't fit here, since there is no Magic Box that Giles owns... So Where Is This Setup At?], where Willow is working out with Xander to get better at the fisticuffs.
Giles worries over their not having seen Spike or Drusilla, and ergo not knowing what they're up to. He finds a moment to praise Willow and Xander for helping Buffy.
Page 04: Giles tells Buffy that he thinks it's important that she take a night off, shocking all three teens into silence.
He tells Buffy that with it being relatively quiet for longer than expected, he fears something big is in the works and while she's had no problems with vampire slaying, he does understand that it's still stressful.
We get a closeup of Buffy's arm, where deep scratch marks are evident... whether from fighting, or self-inflicted due to stress, we're left to guess. But surely Giles also noticed the marks and wondered.
Page 05: After making sure that he's serious, and as he's monologuing about the dastardly doom that is no doubt coming for them, the gang dash out on him with Buffy calling back that she's lost her phone somewhere, so he won't be able to call her if something comes up.
Left alone in the sudden vacuum, Rupert decides to work on his own fighting skills.
Commentary: I like this take on Giles and I like that he's also taking a more active role in the physical fighting and keeping in trim form. I do wish we'd gotten a better sense of how long Spike/Dru have been quiet, so we'd know how serious to take their missing in action, but since everything tends to be written in broad terms, I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that it's all kept vague.
Page 06: In the hallway at school, Buffy tries to beg off hogging Willow's time since she's spent too much time with her, instead of with Rose and Buffy is trying to be a good friend by suggesting that maybe she should be with her. But Willow tells Buffy that it's cool, Rose thinks that she's helping Buffy with major studying help.
Xan rolls his eyes and suggests that lying isn't the best way to a relationship.
Buffy suggests that since Rose is such a big part of Willow's life, and since she's only been able to pass awkward glances at her before now, maybe Willow could invite Rose to join all of them for a movie.
Xan is stoked to see the one-night, special showing of Tiger Woman: Wrath of the Beast at The Bronze. Willow is sure Rose won't be able to resist a woman in a leopard bikini fighting men. She also suggests that they invite Robin.
Buffy blushes and tries to pretend she doesn't remember meeting him, but Willow is un-fooled.
Commentary: I liked this page mostly, because it was friends being friends in a mundane way, but I still feel like Xander is still coming off as harsh and jealous. And it's kinda small of him.
Page 07: Willow texts Robin, telling Buffy at the same time that she'd never invite Robin to join them without Buffy being okay with it... and then when Buffy relents, telling her that's good because she already invited him, and he said yes.
Buffy accuses Willow of being the worst, and that includes the demon she fought that ate everything in sight, even garbage.
Xan is evidencing more jealousy, this time toward Robin being so good at everything. He chooses to change the subject to Buffy's missing phone. Buffy tells them she lost the last one to that garbage eating demon, and her mom was pretty clear about not replacing another one. She's hoping it'll turn up soon on its own.
Xander jokes that demons eating phones feels like something that shouldn't sound normal, and yet it does.
Commentary: Yay. A tiny bit of my Xan shining through.
Page 08: At home later, Buffy is telling her mom about her plans while she and Eric are on the sofa watching television. When Joyce sees the way Buffy says Robin's name, she suspects that Buffy has found a boy she likes.
She mentions Robin is a pretty name for a girl, and nudges Eric to agree with her, but Eric tells her that his mouth being stuffed with popcorn makes it impossible for him to have an opinion. Buffy fesses up to Robin being a boy, and Joyce is very pleased that she's got a date.
Commentary: I'm sure that I've mentioned that I very much like Joyce having a boyfriend, so I hope Eric doesn't die soon... or be evil. After Prime-Joyce's luck after her divorce, this feels deserved for her.
Page 09: Buffy tries to pull back on her mother's enthusiasm, mentioning how she doesn't have time for boys, what with the training and slaying. Thankfully for her, Joyce takes these as modern-slang for mundane high school hijinks, and doesn't look at Buffy like she's spouting madness.
Joyce asks Buffy if this is a first date then, mortifying her. But then Joyce's cell rings from work, mercifully cutting off her ribbing.
Page 10: After Joyce leaves the room, thinking Eric is going to take over the teasing of her daughter over this Robin-boy, he instead asks if she's cold. This throws her, but Eric says he's noticed that she's been wearing sweaters a lot around the house, and that he's noticed the bruises and scratches.
Instead of asking about dating, he asks her if she's been having fights in school, leaving her nonplussed as to how to respond.
Page 11: Eric, turning out to be a doctor, tells Buffy that he's not judging her -- apparently believing she's a more or less decent kid, so whatever is happening must not be her being a monster at school. Interestingly, he suggests that he was once doing his own fighting. He tells Buffy that he just wants her to come to him, if she ends up hurting herself, rather than trying to hide any broken fingers or whatnot.
Joyce returns, complaining good-naturedly that she told Eric to give Buffy hell over her date, not share his popcorn. She "banishes" Buffy to go get ready for her date, calling her a horrible popcorn thief.
Page 12: At home with Xander, his cellphone suddenly receives a message from Buffy's phone. "She" messages him that she's changed her mind on the movie and would like to spend some alone time with him, if he's up for it.
He doesn't find this suspicious in the least.
Page 13: Elsewhere in a crypt, Spike continues messaging Xander as Buffy while Dru hangs over his shoulder impatiently.
Spike arranges for he, Dru ... I mean for "Buffy"... to meet up with Xander in an out-of-the-way place.
Xan doesn't find this conversation suspicious, due to the missing phone, and call Buffy's house just to check out the situation.
Page 14: At The Bronze, which is a movie theatre and not a teen dance club... which makes sense for this scenario, Willow tells Buffy that Robin is inside buying her ticket, in defiance of Buffy insisting this isn't a date.
Willow is gleeful. Rose points out that it sure seems like a date, to Buffy's embrassment.
Page 15: Robin warns that the movie's about to start and they need to get in, but Willow points out that Xan hasn't shown up yet, and he's usually the first one in line.
Robin and Rose don't take it as a big deal, leaving Willow and Buffy to talk. Buffy twigs onto Willow being a little worried, and Wills admits that she thinks Xan has a crush on Buffy, and her inviting Robin tonight may've put him in a really awkward place. But she assures Buffy that Xan will get over it and be happy for her finding someone she likes.
Commentary: Okay, that does seem like if Willow knew Xan's feelings, inviting Robin to hook up with her was pretty bad friend territory of her. She's known Xander way, way longer than her new best bud. On the other hand, if Buffy had felt like that toward Xander, she'd already have shown it, and a non-date with Robin wouldn't have come up, so she's right... Xander has to get over it.
It still feels a little crappy of Willow to be pushing Buffy/Robin so hard, though.
Page 16: Will and Buffy turn to enter the theater, while elsewhere Xander is going to meet "Buffy".
Page 17: With Xan, his phone again buzzes. This time it's Willow asking where the heck he is, making Xander realize that he's been set up by someone, and making him all weepy with the humilation of thinking for a minute that Buffy could be interested in him.
Commentary: I really don't like Xander's character in the Boom!verse. Somehow, he's annoying me even more than Willow weeping over him after she'd started seeing Oz.
Page 18: From over his shoulder, Dru asks if he's feeling blue.
Xan plays tough at her, but when he threatens to phone Buffy, she points out that she has Buffy's lost phone.
He, very slow on the uptake, realizes that she texted him from Buffy's phone.
Drusilla plays fully sympathetic to Xander's deep sense of sadness, offering that she too felt that way once upon a time. She tells him that she'd like to help him by taking that all away.
Xan declines, but when he turns to run for it, he finds Spike. Spike tells him to let his mistress sort him out.
Commentary: I did like these pages with this confrontation. I was wondering if Xan was going to end up fulfilling the Jesse role, and I wasn't happy about it. I may not like this version of Xan, but I wanted him to improve, not get killed...
Page 19: While Dru and/or Spike could easily overpower Xander, Drusilla takes a different tract with him. Xan, realizing he can't escape, sits heavily on a curb and Dru joins him. She plays on his sense of isolation, self-doubt and hormonal teen-angst.
Gently stroking his cheek, she offers that she imagines that he feels like he doesn't belong with the others.
Commentary: I like this Dru. And even Spike, yellow eyed though he is, looks at sympathetic to Xander's obvious emotional pain... no doubt remembering himself as William. It's a nice page.
Page 20: Drusilla continues to hammer on Xander's feelings of isolation and lack of self-worth, assuring him that she wants him, when no one else does.
She tells him that she can sense he wants this too... an escape from this loneliness.
Page 21: She helps the now-sobbing Xander to his feet, telling him that he should allow himself to feel everything about this moment, because soon, he'll feel nothing at all....
Page 22: Drusilla bites Xander!
She puts her arm around his waist, and helps him stumble back toward the crypt with Spike following.
But from the shadows, someone has seen what went down... it's Angel, lurking... (but not helping, I notice).
The Good: I like that both Giles and Joyce have happiness, where both were largely alone in the prime-verse.
I do like the interactions between Willow and Buffy, a lot. Their dialog, at least, is fun and not haphazard.
I also like the Joyce, Buffy, Eric interactions and hope that Eric remains a good guy.
I really loved Drusilla's seduction of Xander, over simply overpowering and biting him. She was pretty chilling, and I enjoyed seeing some hints of humanity still in Spike that could be of continued interest in his interactions with Cordy.
The Bad: Xander is a very unpleasant person to be around in this 'verse. Before his siring, anyway, if that is ultimately what is about to happen to him, which I think it is. His whole character has been warped.
I also wasn't appreciative of Jenny/Giles' introduction as couple of being a one panel scene of them watching television, sitting close. The shortcuts Jordie is continually pulling from the primeverse continues to bug me. It's lazy writing.
Other Thoughts: I am bummed by Xander's implied fate, and I hope they do more with this than what they did with Prime-Jesse. Although, it could be really interesting if Jesse now shows up and plays Xander's original role.
I'm still unsure about Robin's being a high school student to date Buffy, without his far more interesting backstory.
Okay... yeah, yeah, I do wish there was some homoerotic time for Spike and Xander. I can't stop.
The Score: 3.75 out of 5 stars ... things continue improving, but there is still too much cribbing going on from the original source, instead of taking the time to build the universe we're in.