Alright, right off the bat, things finally seem to be moving again; this issue at least kicks the emotional stakes up by a fair measure. For fans of the show, hints of Season 2 - specifically the latter half of it - may bring some PTSD. Obviously, the reemergence of a fan-favorite character was going to bring the pain, and it looks like some classic story arcs are being revisited, albeit heavily remixed.
This arc has been a bit of a mixed bag. While the Kendra/Rose thing makes for good teen drama, the Buffy/Robin foray seemed… toothless? And while Jordie Bellaire’s good at cooking up some new twists for the characters, the slow pace of this arc hasn’t quite lived up to its ominous “Ring of Fire” title. Four issues in, and details about the titular “Ring of Fire” are still nonexistent. On the other hand, Bellaire has written a Big Bad that may be every bit as devastating as Angelus was. In short, after a bit of meandering about, we’ve finally found the “Buffy” again. As an allegory for “high school is hell,” Buffy the Vampire Slayer mattered to many of its fans because it just “got” us. Buffy mattered because #StoriesMatter. They give voice to those who feel stifled or unheard and representation matters, especially when typically marginalized folx are not portrayed as mere stereotypes. While the TV show was groundbreaking in many ways, one of the ways in which it did stumble hard was in the diversity of its cast. The addition of BIPOC in prominent and complex roles is one way in which this iteration takes its message of empowerment and inclusion further.
Ramon Bachs' artwork has grown on me, and I think he utilizes angles and motion in very intuitive and interesting ways. Raúl Angulo’s colors continue to bring out the best of the linework, and while Bachs’ work is quite stylized, Angulo’s colors give the pages a recognizable, realistic feel, from the cold glow of a phone screen to the searing heat of an inferno. One of the ways in which Ed Dukeshire’s letters always impress me is that they “flow” so intuitively, so the reader just takes it for granted that the book is easy to read. The placement of text bubbles that come “off panel” keeps the action moving while providing the illusion of continuity, even when angles and perspectives change radically from one panel to the next.
Overall, high on personal stakes and drama but doesn’t quite deliver (yet?) on the “Ring of Fire.”
Creative Team: Jordie Bellaire (writer), Ramon Bachs (artist), Raúl Angulo (colorist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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