Boom!Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Writer: Jordie Bellaire, Artwork: Rosemary Valero-O'Connell, Raúl Angulo & Eleonora Bruni, Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Cover: David López
Page 01: We open on Kendra fighting with a male vampire, surrounded by outsized planets behind her. This is due to them fighting up on and in front of an ad billboard, welcoming tourists to Jamaica.
Page 02: Kendra makes easy work of the vampire guy, and comments to herself that everything has become so natural, that she hardly needs to think about it. She gives herself a little mental pat on the back for being great her job. But, she also has to admit that not thinking can also get her into trouble, as from behind her barrels an overweight vampire woman! She yells at Kendra for killing her husband.
Commentary: It should just be noted here, that Kendra isn't the Slayer but a potential. So, the fact that she's out actively hunting, and holding her own so well plays into her backstory of being trained young by the Council.
Page 03: Kendra easily dodges the attack, despite her momentary surprise, and stakes the wife in the back.
Mr. Zabuto appears on the ladder up to the billboard. He complains to her that she admired her handiwork, instead of keeping her focus on the task at hand. Kendra objects that she was in the middle of fighting, but Zabuto tells her that he saw her smile.
Page 04: Kendra asks if she's not allowed to smile now, but Zabuto tells her that vampires show their teeth. She should always only show her strength.
She complains to herself about his habit of always having a new critique or bit of 'wisdom' to dump on her.
Commentary: I kind of liked immediately the relationship set up between Kendra and her Watcher. He does seem to be a bit too hard-assed, immediately, but Kendra did allow herself to be attacked from behind by a second vampire. And, that did happen because she was busy admiring her takedown of the first vampire, so he has a point.
Page 05: In a bungaloe the following day, Kendra sits at the breakfast table, where her plate is piled with food by "aunt Vea". Kendra's in a grumpy mood, despite Vea trying to be cheery because of her rebuke by Zabuto the previous night. Vea points out that her Watcher just wants her to be at her best, and does she.
Page 06: Kendra calls Vea by her name, and the woman insists that she be called "Aunt Vea", which Kendra complies with, when she thinks about it. She brings up her being eventually Called, and is worried that if that happens, she'll have to leave Jamaica.
Vea honestly informs her that she doesn't know. But offers that she shouldn't worry over it, because it's possible that she'll never be activated and will spend the rest of her life with Zabuto and her. Kendra jokingly calls for the Council to come and take her away.
Commentary: I liked this part, too. At first I was a bit put-off by Aunt Vea, because we know from the prime-Buffyverse that Kendra had no family that she kept in contact with. And I was okay with her backstory being changed here, but that brought up why she was living with her aunt, and the conversation didn't seem to be leading toward including that answer. But now, it's clear that Vea isn't a relative and 'Aunt' is an honorific - one she insists on, which I'm assuming is to give Kendra a sense of someone being on her side, when Zabuto is being Classic Council.
Page 07: Zabuto walks in on the end of the conversation, and makes sure that Kendra has rested. He then instructs her to finish her whopper of a breakfast, as he wants to discuss strategy against the plague of tourist vampires she's been fighting lately. He asks Vea for a word in private.
Once alone, Vea clearly recognizes that Zabuto has another complaint.
He instructs her that she shouldn't fill Kendra's head with thoughts that she'll not have to leave her home, eventually. He warns that a Slayer must always have her mind focused on the next battle, and other focus could get her killed. Vea counters that Kendra is still a girl, and she needs encouragement and a sympathetic ear. Vea believes it's important that she have something that makes her happy, and being in Jamaica does that for her. Zabuto brushes such things aside: "A Slayer doesn't need to be happy -- A Slayer needs to be fearless." -- Mr. Zabuto
Page 08: Kendra can see them out of the dining room window, and they're gesticulating at each other. She offers the observation that Zabuto is a traditionalist, and can't understand what she needs as a teenaged girl.
Outside, Zabuto tells Vea to stay in her lane. Her job for Kendra is to provide a home environment that involves such 'inane' things has laundry, cooking & cleaning. She tells her straight up that if she oversteps her position again, he'll have her removed from her duties, and replaced.
In the meantime, Kendra thinks to herself that she really hates her Watcher, sometimes.
Commentary: There is a tidbit here that is interesting, though. Despite my belief that the Potentials didn't have any powers, Kendra offers here that "I'm just a teenage girl with freakish supernatural abilities."
So, apparently she does have some abilities, even though she's not been called as the Slayer. It opens up a question for me, that won't have an answer here, on if all Potentials have more-than-human abilities, or if it's just Kendra because she's next in the line up? I always assumed that Potentials would be prone toward strong will, physical fitness and have natural aptitudes toward athleticism, but that these would be basic human traits until activated. Jordie suggests here that theirs (or at least Kendra's) edges into the supernatural, as far as Kendra believes.
Page 09: Zabuto returns to Kendra, waiting for him in the living room, to discuss the tourist problem. Kendra wonders at their spawnning in such numbers, and Zabuto suggests it's due to their being targeted deliberately. He asks Kendra what they should do next, to her surprise. He explains that he won't always be there for her, especially after she is Called. The Slayer must be able to rely on her own instincts. While the Watcher is a guide, Kendra must master herself.
She gives it a moment of thought, and offers that all of the tourist vampires she's fought have been dressed in bathing wear, so they must be being nabbed during the day. She offers that she should canvass the city for anything that looks out-of-place, where tourists would congregate.
Page 10: Kendra & Zabuto spend the day wandering their city [they don't specify, but surely this is Kingston?], but don't find anything. During this Kendra's thoughts are on her fears and heartache at being forced to leave Jamaica at some point.
Page 11: Just after sunset, they get a break in an attempt on a tourist.
Page 12: The assaulting vampire jumps onto an ATV-four wheeler to escape, and Kendra and Zabuto follow with Kendra driving another.
Commentary: This whole thing felt supremely clumsy. I'm kind of hoping that this is a setup to draw Kendra, Zabuto or both to some master-vamp nearby because otherwise this was the most idiot vampire assault ever. And that's saying something, since vampires tend to be trash as villains, anyway.
Page 13: Zabuto back seat drives all the way, first telling Kendra to slow down before she kills somebody, and then complaining to go faster when she starts falling behind their target.
She complains at him that he's always complaining at her, and nothing she does is ever the right thing. He tells her that isn't true and he's impressed by her all of the time, but she offers that he has a funny way of showing it.
Page 14: Kendra spots their prey again, and speeds up with excitement. She floors the accelerator.
Zabuto spots something and shouts in her ear to stop, but it's too late....
Page 15: Kendra's ATV goes off the side of an embankment, throwing the two passengers from the vehicle.
Commentary: Uh. I wasn't wild about the artwork here... I mean, by itself, it was fine. But I had a hard time deciphering just what happened to cause the crash, when the vampire's ATV was right in front of them. The only thing I can make out is that there was a swerve in the narrow path around a huge rock? And Kendra had to make a sharp turn and/or hit the huge boulder? And that caused her and Zabuto to flip the ATV and send them crashing into the forest crowding around the path.
Page 16: Kendra was knocked out in the accident, and as she comes to whispering for Zabuto, she finds herself in a large home. She's also surrounded by vampires.
Our master vampire, a woman, tells Kendra that she's killed Zabuto and now she's gotten herself trapped with them. Kendra rashly tells her that she and her minions will be joining him soon.
Page 17: This is raucous laughter in her face. Our master vampire tells Kendra she likes her fiery attitude. She also tells her that she's aware that she is supposed to be a Chosen One, and wonders how she was picked. Kendra can't supply any answers on that front, since she was only two when she'd been selected and so didn't ask any questions.
The vampire wonders if that doesn't bother her - that her whole life had been planned out and directed by a bunch of men. She offers that it must come as a relief that 'your master' is dead. Kendra disputes this, calling Zabuto a teacher, not a master. But vampire scoffs at this, telling Kendra that men always claim to be teachers when really they strip you of making choices for your own life. She runs down the life of a Slayer, no real choices, no pay for her work and sacrifice, being sent out night after night to fight for her life and for what? Only to be replaced without a second thought when she gets herself killed. Vampire offers that it sounds more like the life of a slave.
Page 18: Our vampire complains that Jamaicans have always been slaves to someone else since the Brits came along. She complains that she and her whole clan had been enslaved by the British. And now, more whites pour in, expecting to take and take from the islanders. She complains they always think they're better than Jamaicans. But she's made them nothing. And now, they're her slaves instead.
Kendra isn't impressed.
The vampire offers that Kendra is too young to have experienced the horrors of the world, but she'll be happy to provide an education. She goes full fang.
Page 19: Thankfully for Kendra, Zabuto wasn't dead. He now comes crashing through the front window on the ATV, with a lit torch in hand to set the place on fire and to shout at the vampire to get away from his ward!
While Zabuto takes on the lessers, Kendra gives the master vampiress a head butt. A lot of somebodies in the room were stupid, because Kendra suddenly pulls out Mr. Pointy to make introductions.
Commentary: Okay, that was cool. I liked the image of Zabuto on an ATV with a lit torch crashing through the huge pane of the front window. Kendra having Mr. Pointy was inevitable, I suppose, since that is a bit iconic for her character, but really... that was silly in this circumstance.
Page 20: Our vampiress chooses to retreat and takes off for the balcony. But Kendra is right on top of her heels. The two go tumbling over the side, into the ocean below with Kendra sinking her stake into the vampire's chest on the way. The vampire dusts as she hits the waves.
Kendra thinks to herself that Jamaica is ferocious and tenacious, and promises herself that she'll never leave it.
Commentary: I liked this image, too.
Kendra's love for her island nation was a little too repetitive, since we obvs knows that she's going to have to leave it, and it was a naked ploy to garner sympathy for the character. It felt too manipulative.
Page 21: When Kendra returns to the shore, she finds Zabuto on the beach little the worse for wear. He points out that she hated the cliff diving exercises he'd forced her to go through. She replies that she still tried to do her best, though. He acknowledges that is why she is the Chosen One.
Kendra misses the significance and doesn't notice the change in herself [which is another thingie... maybe in this 'verse, the Potentials have Slayer Powers?? It's weirdly handled, because if Kendra is already supernatural in every way that Buffy is, then what is the point of a "Chosen One" and having the Slayer duty line?].
Kendra offers that she's relieved that Zabuto isn't dead as she couldn't do all of this without him, but he states the whole point of training her is because she can do it. He tells her that she's been called.
Commentary: I'm not pleased with the fuzzy details on the difference between being a Slayer and being a potential with this issue. And it's all the more confused for me, since somehow Zabuto would know that Buffy is "dead" [due to being in the Hellmouth], and so Kendra is now The Slayer -- while she doesn't appear to notice anything different.
How does he know this, I don't think the Council had the chance to ring him up, while he was unconscious in the woods. I really wish this had been handled a different way; Show Kendra being hurt at the end of each night's hunt early in the issue, because she doesn't have all of the superpowers, yet. And then end the issue with Kendra and Zabuto running high over their taking down the main vampire and all the minions - even without powers; Show Kendra almost contemptuous that she needs powers.
Have them walk into a quiet house, only to find Vea sitting alone in dim lighting at the dining room table with a hot cup of tea and fearful tears in her eyes, when she meets Kendra's gaze. Have her reveal that she's upset because the Council called, and Kendra has been summoned away from her, to Sunnydale, and then have Kendra suddenly stare at her clenched fist.
She looks to Zabuto with an awed and slightly fearful, "...sir...?", and this is where they all realize why the Council's summons has come.
Page 22: Kendra is left shocked by the revelation that she is now The Slayer. Zabuto reminds her to say good bye to Vea before she leaves at dawn.
Kendra's in too much shock to ask any questions about where she's going, or why. Her mind is on Zabuto says she's leaving, rather than 'we'. She asks to make sure that he's coming with her as her Watcher, but he replies that she must now walk alone.
Commentary: Not crazy about this, either. Though they did it in BTVS, so it's hard to argue with. But I'd have liked to see Zabuto having to deal with Giles and the same time that Kendra has to deal with Buffy, and the stressors of having such different backgrounds, philosophies and jurisdictional conflicts since both Slayers are now The Slayer.
Especially, if the Council was slow in imposing any directives for this situation, as they grapple in England with what this all means.
The Good: I liked the contentious relationship between Zabuto/Kendra and Zabuto/Vea. It was nice to see somebody remembering that Kendra was a girl with a lot of weight on the shoulders, and I liked Zabuto acknowledging in the end that Vea was of value in Kendra's upbringing.
Zabuto's power-save moment was awesome.
I also liked the image of Kendra staking the vampire as they hit the water, after going over the balcony.
The Bad: My only real nitpick is the entire Slayer/Potential relationship, that feels like the Potentials may as well be full Slayers for all the difference it implies it's making. And I didn't like how Zabuto could know that Kendra's called, without her having any inkling about it, and with no non-mystical way he could've known at that point in the story.
Other Thoughts: I didn't like the way that Kendra's investigating for the vampires led to an entirely chance encounter to allow her to find her way - in a roundabout fashion - to the main vampire. It made her insights into when the tourists were being abducted pointless, since we didn't see any tourists getting abducted in the daylight. Her observations meant nothing.
I didn't really like Kendra's main-foe, either. There were some tidbits about men's power over the Slayers, and the history of slavery and racism against Jamaica but it was mostly just blather. And of course, she was entirely too stupid to search a Slayer for a stake, when she had her unconscious.
Kendra's attachment to always staying in Jamaica felt too forced, just because we know she does leave, so it was a bit of bald-faced emotional manipulation. If it had been handled with a more deft hand, it would've worked better.
The Score: Um. It was... it was okay. I liked getting a view of Kendra's backstory. But nothing reached out and grabbed the collar. If 3.0 is my average score, I give this a ...
3.25 out of 5