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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow (BOOM! Studios)

BTVS: WILLOW #1 (2020- ) review

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow #1 is available now in print and on digital where all good comics are sold. The book is published by BOOM! Studios.

Synopsis

After everything — and everyone — she lost to the Hellmouth, Willow is leaving Sunnydale on a world-spanning road trip in search of her true self. She stumbles on a community of people like her: lost witches looking for answers… but there’s a darkness at the heart of it, one that reminds Willow of something she’s felt before, something that she fears inside herself. Now, truly alone for the first time in her life, Willow must rely only on her instincts — and her magic — to save herself from a threat Buffy never prepared her to face… or the rest of the world will pay the price. Award-winning writer Mariko Tamaki (Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass) and superstar artist Natacha Bustos (Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur) bring Willow face to face with the truth of her past… and plant the seeds for a future no one could’ve predicted.

Review

BOOM! Studios has been doing any amazing job of gatekeeping Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe over the last 18 months.

In that time the publisher has launched the successful Buffy and Angel titles and even crossed the two over in the thrilling “Hellmouth” event which recently concluded.

But despite all of the high stakes (get it?) action, the real standout on this new take on the so-called Buffyverse has been its characters. BOOM! and its writing team have beautifully updated the characters for a contemporary audience. Amplifying characteristics which existed in the original material and expanding the series’ overall representation.

One of those characters who has flourished under BOOM! has been Willow Rosenberg. Played by Alyson Hannigan in all seven seasons (but not the original pilot) of the TV series. This new, contemporary, Willow finds herself at peace with her sexuality from the outset and instead explores more of how being a lesbian and a witch would impact a modern day teenager.

Following the events of “Hellmouth,’ BOOM! is now spinning the character off in to her own limited series. We’re now following Willow as she attempts to deal with the fallout of Buffy’s opening story arcs and that epic crossover.

Written by Mariko Tamaki, Willow #1 is a beautiful slow-burning story which sets up a world outside of Sunnydale. We find Willow on a different type of self-discovery journey. She’s isolated from her friends and feels entirely lost in the world.

Tamaki is able to catch readers up on the events of Buffy in case they’ve missed out on the action. This enables the book to quickly jump to its emotional centre point, Willow’s search for a purpose.

As the book opens we find Willow narrating her post-Sunnydale story. There’s her studies in England, surrounded by culture and the black arts but still very much alone. Tamaki, teamed with Natasha Bustos’ art, is able to immediately communicate that feeling of loneliness without hesitation.

Those feelings only intensify when Willow returns to Sunnydale only to take off again. It’s clear that Tamaki is not holding back in portraying Willow’s feelings of disillusionment with the world. As a fan of the Buffy TV series this really amplifies the analogy of monsters reflecting real-life emotional demons.

But it’s not all doom-and-gloom in Willow #1. With Willow hastily abandoned at a road-side truck stop, the book transitions itself in to something different. There’s a conscious step from setup to story as we meet Aelara and begin to bed down in the local township setting.

In hindsight it almost feels like this opening issue is over too fast. But that is not because nothing happens. Or because it simply isn’t satisfying. To the contrary it ends exactly as I want more. More of the story. More of the mystery. More of this incredibly well round and well written version of one of TV’s greatest characters.

Tamaki’s story is brilliantly accompanied by Bustos’ artwork, with colours by Eleonora Bruni. It feels steeped in the world of both the Buffy and Angel series. But also feels like it’s own unique entity by being set outside of Californian cityscapes.

Alyson Hannigan’s Willow always had her own identity throughout the series run. But Tamaki and Bustos’ Willow feels like a more pure representation of that identity. One that is able to shoulder being the series lead without becoming unrecognisable to fans.

Verdict

BTVS: Willow #1 is a blistering opening to the series setting up an intriguing mystery within a complex, emotional character journey.

9/10

BTVS Willow #1 is written by Mariko Tamaki with pencils by Natacha Bustos, colours by Eleonora Bruni and a beautiful cover from superstar artist Jen Bartel.


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