Sunday, June 16, 2024

Willow’s girlfriend is severely underutilized in the Buffy comic book reboot

When Boom Studios announced a reboot of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book series, I was skeptical of the upcoming material because I absolutely hated the character designs that were released with the announcement. The Buffy comic had major character changes and artwork that looked like failed anime sketches had me saying “nope” to a return to Sunnydale High before the comics even hit shelves and e-readers around the world. Fast forward to May 2019 and I stumbled over my original assumptions and wrote a glowing review of the first issue.

As of this article, we’re up to issue #10 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, issue #8 of Angel and issue #3 of cross-over saga Hellmouth. Again, contrary to my earlier beliefs, the artwork is so much clearer, richer and vibrant than anything Dark Horse Publishing put out there. Effort was put into drawing and coloring every page and it shines through beautifully. And when it comes to the changes in characters, well, I quite like those as well. Without ruining any of the major plot points – Anya is already older and the sole owner of The Magic Box while The Scoobies are still in high school and Robin Wood was made into a fellow student who’s actually super hot.

Despite all the good things Boom Studios is doing with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there is one important thing that irks me. Early promotional materials marketed Willow as an out lesbian, which is great for the character since the television show was produced during an era that was just on the cusp of accepting same-sex partners. I really wanted to see Willow navigating her sexuality as a teenager, instead of a college student as seen on TV, but her girlfriend, Rose, has been kind of a moot point. Although Willow and Rose shared a kiss in the very first issue, she was noticeably absent from issue #2, issue #3, issue #5, issue #6 and issue #8. When she did make her big return in issue #9, it was only to be broken up with by a wildly out of control Willow.

Buffy comic

Continuing to not share any major spoilers, I will just say that the first few issues were very Xander-centric, which is another stark deviation from the television series and original comic book series. He became more than a supporting or background character in Boom Studios’ version, and perhaps that has taken up the space needed to flesh out Rose as someone more than Willow’s side-piece. Dances, movie dates, big events that usher in the apocalypse – Rose is absent from all the big moments; a plot device I don’t understand since those are the moments when you want your heart-strings plucked. Sure, Rose is crucial in the panels introducing another returning character, but it seems like she was thrown in as a place holder since everyone else was busy.

Now, in an early issue of this series, readers are treated to a long sequence featuring Dark Willow – a fan-favorite villain. This also irked the Hell out of me because it takes away the importance of Tara (who isn’t in the comics), Rose and Willow’s love. In the television series, it was Willow’s grief and heartbreak over Tara’s murder that pushed her over the edge, pushed her to embrace dark magics and going on a warpath. Had Tara never been murdered by Warren, Dark Willow would have never appeared. The fact that Dark Willow already makes a small appearance in this particular series means Boom Studios believes Dark Willow is an inevitable villain, and Willow’s grief over lost love is almost meaningless. In part, that also means the death of Rose, should that ever happen, also becomes meaningless.

I genuinely love what Boom Studios is doing with Buffy the Vampire Slayer right now, but I don’t appreciate them introducing a queer character for what seems like the sake of saying “well we have two!”

I want to see Willow’s relationship with Rose stabilize, with Rose becoming a member of The Scoobies just like Tara did. To put it into context, Giles’ relationship with Jenny Calendar is getting more action and development than Willow’s relationship with Rose. In my opinion, Rose is being severely underutilized and I hope this changes in the future. Or at least make Robin gay too because he’s bulge-tastic in a lot of panels… Please, Boom Studios. Make either of these possibilities a reality.

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