"Buffy: The High School Years – Parental Parasite" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Kel McDonald
Illustrated by Yishan Li
Colored by Ron Espinosa & Tony Galvan
2017, 80 Pages
Trade paperback published on June 28th, 2017
Buffy is a normal high school girl worrying about normal high school things like homework, boys, and slaying vampires. Wait. OK. I shouldn't have to write a cheesy introduction like this. You probably know all this already. It's Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you're reading this and you're unaware of who that is, I don't think we can be friends. Parental Parasite is the latest in Dark Horse's line of original graphic novels set during Buffy's High School Years aimed at the young adult crowd. I have to say, this is the best one yet.
Since Buffy is spending so much time slaying, her schoolwork has been neglected. After one too many calls from the principal, Buffy's mom decides to take a more active role in her daughter's life. Since the Chosen One is already juggling all these other activities, it makes it difficult to sneak away to kill some demons when her mom just wants to hang out. Things come to a head when a childlike demon puts a whammy on Buffy's mom, forcing her to do whatever it wants. Now it's personal.
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Where some of the previous High School Years graphic novels are more heavy-handed with their message, this one is more reserved. First and foremost, it's a fun story that perfectly captures the awkward yet fun aspects that made the show so appealing from the get-go. Buffy is still finding herself in her role as the Slayer and trying to make time for everything that a normal teenager would want to do. Family is part of that and her mom has absolutely no earthly idea of the kind of antics she's getting into at night. In the scheme of things, she just wants to spend time with her daughter, and Buffy has to find a way to blow her off so she can slay vampires without hurting her feelings.
Yishan Li's artwork works hand-in-hand with this story. It's light and fun. The characters are very expressive. You can tell just by looking at it this is a Whedonverse tale. The monsters are spooky but not terrifying. It's this happy medium that makes it a perfect fit for a young adult book. It's not going to give your 10-year-old nightmares, but there are vampires and demons and it's pretty cool.
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The kid-like demon that serves as the “monster of the week” for this comic is rather creepy. Children on their own can be unsettling in the right light, especially when they're alone in a dark alley and their eyes start glowing. This one hypnotizes its victims, compelling them to do anything and everything the demon wants. Since it's a little kid, that means a lot of candy, movies, and assorted treats. The victim becomes ragged and exhausted from having to do all these tasks non-stop, even putting themselves in real danger. Li shows this in the eyes and complexion of the victims. The demon's previous victim was a vampire and how that relationship comes to an end is hilarious.
Parental Parasite would slide seamlessly into an early season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It hits all the right marks with the signature wit we've come to love and expect from the series. The artwork is on the lighter side of the doom and gloom typically associated with the show, particularly in those early seasons; however that works well here. Angel even makes an appearance and is just as dark and brooding as always, however you can actually see him instead of squinting through the shadows looking for his furrowed brow.