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Last week, BOOM! Studios dropped the first issue of Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer, a new Buffyverse title that imagines a world in which Buffy Summers, now in her 50s, must continue her fight against the vampires when she has become the person forced to hide in the shadows. Written by Casey Gilly and drawn by Joe Jaro, the four-issue miniseries places Buffy in a world rocked by a supernatural event that blotted out the sun, leaving vampires not just free to roam whenever they like, but with fresh negotiating power in human society. For the last Slayer, it's a tough world, but she's still got many of her old gifts, and they might even be evolving with time.
For Gilly, that evolution was a key part of the appeal that went into the miniseries from the beginning, as she set out to craft a version of Buffy who's moved on from her high school self.
"I think that what I anchor the story to is the experience of a woman getting older and wondering what it means to be powerful," Gilly told SYFY WIRE. "And that has informed every decision on every page of this entire series, is me exploring this thing that I'm also personally exploring, but doing it with somebody much more exciting than myself."
For Jaro, whose previous work include BOOM!'s line of Firefly comics, the design process was also about a certain evolution, relying on Buffy's classic look while adding layers of weathering and decades of hard fighting.
"She's battle worn. Fifty is not that old, but it's more circumstance that shows up," Jaro said. "And so when designing her, I didn't have to reach too far. Obviously, the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, they're in their 40s now. So it wasn't hard to visualize them, especially, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy in an older role, but I just added a few more lines to her. She's had a harsh life obviously, but she's still fit. So, she's buffed. She's a buff Buffy."
But age and daywalking vampires weren't the only challenges this older Buffy would face in The Last Vampire Slayer. The first issue also revealed that she's faced tremendous losses, losses that have greatly reshaped her life.
**SPOILER WARNING: There are spoilers for Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer #1 ahead!**
As the first issue revealed, the catastrophic events in the past of The Last Vampire Slayer didn't just permanently change the status quo for vampires, but robbed Buffy of many of her most powerful allies. Giles, her faithful Watcher, is dead, as are dear friends Xander and Cordelia. Other key players are missing in action for the moment, but one major figure from the old Scooby gang is still around: Anya, the ex-vengeance demon who Gilly wanted to place in the unlikely role of Buffy's new sparring partner.
"I just thought, who would I really want to see [Joe] draw and balance that against who do I really want to write? And the only answer for me was Anya," Gilly said. "She was one of my favorite Buffy characters. I felt very strongly that I could add something to her voice. I thought that she would be such a good mini antagonist and friend of Buffy. And to me, maybe somewhat of a boring part of this apocalypse is like, what would you do if the only friend that you had left was somebody that you didn't even really like in the first place? But I thought that it would just be so great to see Joe express this physicality between them, and sparring, and Anya is so expressive, and Joe is just great with acting and expressions. So those two things married together."
Anya's survival and unlikely bond with Buffy was a surprise of its own, but that's nothing compared to the reveal in the final pages of issue #1 that Willow and Tara, Buffy's old witch friends, have a daughter named Thessaly, and she wants to be a Slayer. Though Gilly didn't disclose whether or not Thessaly's iconic parents are still out there somewhere, she did tease that the relationship between Thess and Buffy, who didn't even know her friends had a kid, would be a linchpin of the book moving forward.
"There are people who choose to be child-free and I respect those people immensely," Gilly said. "I was one of them for a very long time. People who choose to be child free do so for a reason. And those reasons don't change just because they are now tasked with caring for a small person. So Buffy does not act like somebody who ever wanted to be maternal and she doesn't become this super mom overnight."
As for what else is still to come in the miniseries, from Buffy's ongoing battle against vampires to Thess's determination to be a Slayer to what the two of them will do together to save the world from bloodsuckers, Gilly and Jaro were understandably tight-lipped on plot details. They did, however, tease a couple of key elements that they're both excited for readers to discover.
"I'm the biggest critic of myself, even from issue one to...I'm finishing issue three now and then onto issue four, I feel like I progressed on how I depict Buffy," Jaro said. "There is one [moment], the page I'm working on right now, is I think peak Buffy. That's just how I designed her, and hopefully she still conveys the Buffy that we know, but with my twist to it, or with our twist to it. I just can't wait to hear what people think."
Gilly added, "I think that one of the things I'm most excited for is, there's a very buried, suppressed side to Buffy that you get to see one page of in issue three. It was actually the first page I wrote of the entire series, and it just tickles me. I think it flows really well. I think it's really going to make people's necks snap when they see it, because it really comes out of nowhere and then it just goes away again. So I'm looking forward to that."
Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer continues with its second issue January 12.