Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 39
(Dark Horse Volume 1, 1998-2003)
Creators: Tom Fassbender & Jim Pascoe (writers); Cliff Richards (pencils); Joe Pimentel & Will Conrad (inks)
Setting: Season Five
T.V. Character Appearances: Buffy, Willow, Xander, Anya, Tara, Giles, Dawn
Major Original Characters: Verena's Mom (bereaved mother)
Summary: It is shortly after Joyce's funeral, and Buffy is understandably quite sad. The other Scoobies meet to discuss how to cheer her up, but no one has any solutions. Meanwhile, the mother of a young woman named Verena, who died during an altercation with Buffy months ago, seeks revenge on the Slayer. The bereaved mother has assembled a basement full of corpses, and, using a book written by occult scientist Dr. Flitter, plans to perform a ritual to reanimate them all simultaneously as vampires. However, the woman accidentally loses the mystical device that triggers the reanimation by dropping it on the sidewalk in front of her house. Buffy stumbles across the device and accidentally triggers it early, which means the corpses animate before they are fully formed. The creatures then storm out of the house and attack Buffy. She manages to stake all 30+ of them (!). Verena's mom confronts Buffy at gunpoint and blames her for her daughter's death. Buffy refuses to accept blame, and after a vampire sinks its fangs into Verena's mom's neck, Buffy stakes her. Sometime later, Buffy and her friends lay flowers at Joyce's grave.
A done-in-one issue, something the series had mostly been avoiding. I liked it though, and thought it served as a nice follow-up to Joyce's death. The writers are able to layer the emotion into the story effectively, and the parallel with Buffy fighting a bereaved mother, while perhaps heavy-handed, was effective. The scenes with Buffy's friends trying to figure out how to console were in-character, as was Buffy herself. The last page is quite touching, and serves as a nice send-off to Joyce. I have a couple of quibbles in the Notes section below, but all in all one of the best issues of the series up to this point.
* The character of Verena originally appeared in Buffy # 28 (she was the wanna-be vampire who ended up getting killed by Baron Samedi).
* I liked the tie-in to Dr. Flitter, who hadn't been seen in the series since his abduction by Spike & Dru in Buffy # 19 (though he may have appeared in other titles).
* Anya mentions she was once the partner of a grief demon, and that since she was a vengeance demon the two made a great team.
* Not a fan of the art cover's return to the cartoony style, especially for a story like this!
* There's a funny missive on the letters' page from a fellow in Greece. He says they don't get much American t.v. over there, so when he saw the Buffy comic on the stands he was quite surprised that someone would bother publishing a tie-in to a movie that came out years before . . .
* Quite a coincidence that Buffy just happens to be passing by Verena's mom's house and finds the mystical thingamajig and activates it.
* The death of Verena's mom doesn't really make sense giving what we know about how vampires operate in the Buffy-verse. She's bitten by a vampire and then dusted by Buffy literally seconds later, but of course it's been established since the show began that bites alone do not spread vampirism (the recipient has to drink the vampire's blood as well).
* The solicitation for this issue (available on mycomicshop.com, for example) is quite different than the actual story. In the solicitation, Buffy accidentally opens a portal to a prison dimension and releases a horde of vampires.