High School Is Hell

Buffy Summers just wants to be a normal teenager and make friends at her new high school.  Being normal, however, is difficult when you are the one Slayer chosen to fight vampires and the forces of evil.

Graphic novels based on beloved television franchises can be hit or miss, and do not necessarily capture the magic of their source material.  To be clear, this new series should not be confused with the graphic novel continuation of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series (Season 8, Season 9, etc.). Instead this new series seeks to answer the question: What if Buffy Summers was a teenager in 2019 instead of 1999?  Volume 1: High School is Hell achieves this mission with varying degrees of success.  Volume 1 is not a retread of stories told in the television series, and instead tells a new story set in Sunnydale and featuring familiar characters. The story moves quickly, and Bellaire has done a respectable job of recreating all the main characters in graphic novel form.  The voices of the Scooby Gang, Giles, and Spike all feel true to character.  There are also some positive updates. Willow is openly gay and has a girlfriend, and Sunnydale High features diversity that was clearly lacking in the television series. Some changes, however, are a little more puzzling.  In seeking to recast Cordelia as a nice popular girl, much of the character’s edge has been lost, and this Cordelia comes across as far too naive and trusting. For the most part, the dialogue is witty, but there were a few times that I felt Bellaire’s attempts to capture the iconic “Whedon speak” of the television series were not entirely successful, and instead read closer to parody.  Dan Mora’s illustrations are full of energy and felt like a good fit for the story.  He showed close attention to detail to familiar settings, such as the library, and the characters were all recognizable- just updated to 2019 fashion and style.

Was it entirely necessary to revisit this series in a current day setting and replace Buffy’s pager with an iPhone? I’m not too sure.  But I am intrigued enough, and Volume 1 ended on enough of a cliffhanger, that I will check out Volume 2 when it is released in February 2020.

9/19 Caitlin Brisson

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, VOL. 1: HIGH SCHOOL IS HELL by Jordie Bellaire. Illustrated by Dan Mora. BOOM! Studios (May 28, 2019). ISBN 9781684153572. 128p.


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