There are probably two points that make or break a graphic novel based up a TV series/movie: is it true to the canon and does it positively add to it? Unfortunately, Buffy: The High School Years missed the mark on both counts: the characters and story are flat and missing the trademark B:TVS zing. Manga-style artwork, complete with sanpaku-eyes, further deviates and alienates from what fans expect and desire from a franchise spin-off.
Story: Season 1 high schooler Buffy feels that she always has her friends at her back – even if they are much quirkier and less ‘cool’ than before she became the slayer. But when a group of gamer geek ‘outcast’ vampires decide to take Buffy out in order to be considered ‘cool’, they will cause her to reevaluate her own friendships and what they really feel about her.
Right off the bat, the story felt lack a shallow homage to the Trio storyline of seasons 6, 7, 8 (with nerds Warren, Andrew, and Jonathan). I found it to be an odd choice for a plot since it was already done so well on TV – nerdy group taking on the slayer for misguided reasons, humor ensues. Where Whedon milked it for all it was worth, here it falls flat – losing the quirky reverence of the gamer geek/nerd atmosphere and instead once again making that group look like cavemen. There’s a difference between asocial and stupid – something the author misses completely. So yes, we have all the cliches and none of the pay off.
The plot itself was so pat as to be a five year old’s fairy tale: appreciate your friends or lose them. Buffy appreciates hers and they live – the nerdy group leader doesn’t appreciate hers and they get dusted (I really don’t consider that to be a spoiler). What B:TVS brought to the table was a lot of depth and sly humor. Not so much here – this is the TV series with a lobotomy.
As noted above, the artwork is somewhat jarring. That isn’t to say it isn’t well done – but it’s very simplistic. Pastels and sweetness missing only cute birdies flying around, stars in glowing eyes, and flowers falling from the sky. I can’t help but feel it just didn’t fit in with the edginess of a Buffy story. If was a weird cross between My Little Pony and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Not to mention, the cover art looking NOTHING like the inside art (which is really misleading).
In all, it was a very ‘fast and forget it’ type of read. It didn’t really add to the Buffyverse and I don’t know that it really stands on its own (unless read by the My Little Pony age reader for whom the moral won’t be so pat and the artwork endearing). Fans may find themselves disappointed, especially when there are so many really good graphic novels featuring Buffy and Angel characters already. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.