BUFFY: THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS -- PARENTAL PARASITE by Kel McDonald and Yishan Li
Characterization
Art
Plot
Summary
PARENTAL PARASITE has delightfully sentimental artwork and characterization that will transport you right back to the glory days of 1997.
92 %
Gives me the wiggins

As someone who was practically raised on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, the release of BUFFY: THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS — PARENTAL PARASITE TPB fills me with a giddy joy. As fond as I am of the on-going comic continuation of the series, nothing beats the good old days. This comic takes place during season one of the beloved television series. It chronicles Buffy’s struggles with school, a mother who’s trying her best, and a demon who masquerades as a needy child.

True to Its Roots

PARENTAL PARASITE feels like it can easily plop into the arc of the first season of the TV series. I hold the show in such high esteem that that’s truly the best compliment I can imagine giving any comic. The characterization is on point, from Joyce Summers’ clueless but endearing determination to parent the Slayer, all the way down to the disaster of the flirtationship between Buffy and Angel.

There’s something very special about Buffy in this period of her life. She’s desperate to be normal, yet has a devotion to her duty as protector against the supernatural. She’s seen more than any young girl should. Yet, she still holds on to a spark of innocence that is later lost after the first time that she dies. More than just capturing the unique language and flow of Buffy’s speech, writer Kel McDonald perfectly encapsulates how trapped Buffy is between two worlds.

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The baddie of this comic is a Cuclidus demon — a demon which disguises itself as a child and hypnotizes people into taking care of them at all costs. This is particularly on brand with BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. The point of the inverted horror trope is that Buffy is a blonde teenage girl, that which typically gets terrorized. Instead, she’s the one that terrorizes monsters. So it’s befitting that another seemingly harmless character — one that appears to be a helpless child — is actually quite dangerous.

BUFFY: THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS--PARENTAL PARASITE
Image from BUFFY: THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS — PARENTAL PARASITE, courtesy of Dark Horse.

A Dip in Danger

The downside of this comic is that the sense of danger slowly tapers off as it goes along. When the demon first appears, a human woman accompanies her. This woman soon falls victim to a vampire, and when the vampire turns to the faux-child, one worries that a child is in danger. Then, oddly, one worries for the vampire once the demon has him under her thrall.

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There’s a missed opportunity to better utilize the enthralled vampire. He mostly serves to tip off Buffy and Angel that something is awry, but I think having a vampire protect the demon could pose more of a risk to the town. Instead, the only one at risk is the vampire, as he catches fire when the small demon wants to go to a movie during the day.

At this point, the demon hypnotizes Buffy’s mother, but I’m already unconvinced of the real danger. Clearly, the demon is weak, or else it wouldn’t need protection. It’s also clearly not too bright, as it gets a perfectly adequate guardian killed by going out in the sun. The biggest danger posed is Joyce’s carelessness in her quest to mother the demon, but I remain unfazed.

BUFFY: THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS--PARENTAL PARASITE
Image from BUFFY: THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS — PARENTAL PARASITE, courtesy of Dark Horse.

On the bright side, the emotional stakes raise. Joyce tries to become more involved in her daughter’s life, but the supernatural tears Buffy away. Slaying threatens their relationship. However, taking a day off isn’t an option — which becomes even more clear when Joyce is in danger. Buffy risks disappointing her mother to save the world one demon at a time — a hard choice she makes every day.

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Nostalgic Artwork

I find the artwork by Yinshan Li and coloring by Rod Espinosa and Tony Galvan absolutely charming. It’s starkly different from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON EIGHT and onward. BUFFY: THE HIGHSCHOOL YEARS — PARENTAL PARASITE has a softer art style — it’s playful rather than gritty, and the coloring is brighter. I definitely feel that this artistic choice lends to the sentimentality of the comic. The characters are clearly reminiscent of their actor counterparts, and yet there’s a youth and inherent nostalgia to the style. It harkens back to times that were simpler, yet never easy for the gang.

BUFFY: THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS--PARENTAL PARASITE
Image from BUFFY: THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS — PARENTAL PARASITE, courtesy of Dark Horse.

Final Thoughts on BUFFY: THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS — PARENTAL PARASITE

If you’re a fan of the television series, I definitely recommend that you give this comic a read. It’s not something for people to pick up as their first exposure to the Buffy-verse, certainly. Filled with treats and throwbacks for card carrying members of the Buffy cult, this comic banishes off a little bit of that hollow feeling we’ve all had since the series concluded.

Dark Horse’s BUFFY: THE HIGHSCHOOL YEARS — PARENTAL PARASITE TPB hits shelves on June 28th!

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