"Buffy: The High School Years – Glutton for Punishment" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Kel McDonald
Illustrated by Yishan Li
Colored by Rod Espinosa & Tony Galvan
2016, 80 Pages
Graphic Novel published on October 19th, 2016
High school is hard enough on its own. Add in the responsibilities that come with being the Slayer and you've got a full plate. Buffy Summers is about to take on her greatest challenge of all: Home Economics. The Chosen One must complete this course for some much needed extra credit. Unfortunately, the teacher is actually a hungry tiger demon, kidnapping top students from the class to cook human meals for him. Now Buffy has to stop this ravenous beast and save her classmates. Who knew extra credit would be so tough?
I acknowledged during the previous Buffy: The High School Years graphic novel that I'm not the intended audience for this book. I get that. This is more of a young adults / teen comic. That being said, there are plenty of examples out there of smart all ages books that work for...well...people for all ages. Glutton for Punishment has a message about working hard and not slacking off, but it's presented in a very ham-fisted way.
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So much of the fun of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the smart dialogue and snappy gags. Writer Kel McDonald captures some of that wit, however it's very watered down. You can practically hear the forced laugh track every time Xander lands a zinger that's more like a dad joke. Despite this, McDonald captures the core essence of each character. The focus is on Buffy and Xander, however Willow and Giles get some moments in the spotlight.
Artist Yishan Li's designs for the main characters nail the likenesses of the actors that portrayed them in the show, albeit with an anime style. Everyone is tall and slender with big eyes. The action scenes even block out the background, replacing it with a single color and motion lines.
The mystery in Glutton for Punishment is very straightforward. There is no doubt that the new Home Ec teacher is the tiger demon that's been menacing the area. In the scheme of things, it's a pretty lame villain. It has an impenetrable hide, but presents no real threat to anyone. It's all bark – or meow? – and no bite, despite its fierce appearance. It looks like a sabretooth tiger with a mohawk of a mane running down its back. Although it looks frightening enough, that's hindered by how silly it looks licking plates of food and asking for seconds.
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The tiger demon looks scarier in human form as Home Ec substitute teacher, Mr. Blake. He's built like a body builder with all his muscle in his upper half. His unshaven face looks strung out, like he's been up all night snorting tiger blood with Charlie Sheen. When he asks a young woman to stay after class, it looks like the guy from To Catch a Predator is about to pop out. It's a very creepy look.
Buffy: The High School Years offers a return to a simpler time in the life of The Chosen One, although it doesn't carry nearly the same weight as the TV show. It's a lighter fare made for young adults to get introduced to the characters and this world. For that matter, I wonder at what age it's appropriate for a child to see the show. If they're watching movies like The Avengers and Captain America, they can handle a little teenage romance and vampire slaying.