Tag Archive: Buffy the Vampire Slayer


Review by C.J. Bunce

Start with the obvious comparison: Marvel’s Iron Fist.  If you were disappointed with that series, get ready for what you probably wanted.  It’s called Wu Assassins, and the ten episodes of the new direct-to-Netflix series arrived late this past summer.  Wu Assassins weaves so much into its ten very different chapters of its storytelling, you’ll quickly find it’s not only an American attempt at a wuxia martial arts heroes show–it bends the genre into a supernatural, urban fantasy story with characters on the brink of their unique brand of apocalypse, with several Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Grimm parallels.  And lots of lots of great hand-to-hand fight scenes.  This may not measure up to being the next Buffy or a top Chinese tale like Legend of the Condor Heroes, but as a watch-alike, it far surpasses the Buffy spinoff Angel, as well as most of the Marvel Netflix series.  If Netflix can pull together series like Wu Assassins, especially with absolute writing freedom and without the need to rely on some existing brand like DC or Marvel (or anything Disney), then its future is secured.

The world of Wu Assassins begins in our world today, as we meet Kai Jin, played by 36-year-old Indonesian actor and burgeoning martial arts pro, stuntman, and fight choreographer Iko Uwais.  Kai is a young master chef who wants to own his own food cart in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  This is a Chosen One story, and Kai is introduced to a world where the Chinese philosophy of wuxing is interpreted to rely on human masters of the elements of this world (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) who can exist both in this realm and a supernatural otherworld.  In the middle of an already difficult life, Kai is tapped as the Wu Assassin and he is told by a bellwether and instructor from the otherworld named Ying Ying, played by Celia Au (Lodge 49, Iron Fist, Gotham), that he must kill the Fire Wu, who just happens to be Kai’s adoptive father, known by most as Uncle Six.  He’s not just any dad, as Uncle Six, played masterfully by the scene stealing Byron Mann (The Expanse, Arrow, Smallville, Dark Angel), is also the head of the Chinese crime family, the Triads.

Kai’s Buffy-esque band of friends includes a restaurant owner named Jenny Wah (Li Jun Li, The Exorcist, Quantico), her drug-adled brother Tommy (Lawrence Kao, Sleepy Hollow, The Walking Dead), and Kai’s oldest friend Lu Xin (Lewis Tan, Iron Fist, Deadpool 2), who is a suave up-and-coming thief of high-end cars.  Spliced into the story is a San Francisco cop played by The Vikings queen Katheryn Winnick, a badass on a motorcycle who knows her own street fighting and inadvertently witnesses the magic of the otherworld while undercover trying to bust gang activity at China Basin.  These lead characters are just the beginning, as the series packs in a few seasons’ worth of ideas, and all of it is great fun.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It was such a big deal to prepare for, and then it was over in an instant never to be heard from again.  That’s Y2K, or the Millennium Bug, and it’s a fun time to look back on especially if it’s part of that richly detailed Anno Dracula universe created by British author Kim Newman (who we interviewed six years ago for Halloween here at borg).  The third story in Newman’s Christina Light arc (after the comic series Anno Dracula 1895: Seven Days in Mayhem and novel Anno Dracula: One Thousand Monsters), Anno Dracula 1999: Daikaiju gathers a team of real and unreal, dead and undead, at a giant skyscraper in Tokyo on December 31, 1999, for the New Year’s party to end all New Year’s parties.

Newman is the master of world-building and mash-ups, and he doesn’t disappoint in this new October release.  In what horror universe is both John Blutarski a U.S. Senator partying in Japan (remember John Belushi’s character in Animal House?), the Apollo 13 movie included the first vampire astronaut, and Charlie’s Angels reconvene years later?  Anno Dracula continues its mix of historic characters of pop culture and politics and those throwback tangent characters from literature, TV, and movies.  In Anno Dracula 1999: Daikaiju readers can remember what it was like to “party like it’s 1999” with an alternate history where Dracula and vampires have always been real.

One of many tangent characters in Kim Newman’s latest Anno Dracula novel.

Newman includes so many Easter eggs in his books that finding them all–probably impossible for anyone that isn’t Kim Newman–should be part of some kind of international contest.

The New Year’s party of this story is in honor of Christina Light, famed vampire princess.  But will she show, and will anyone even get through the labyrinthine skyscraper to attend on the 88th floor by midnight?  Who is the shadowy Jun Zero?  Is Y2K really a bug, or is it a person, or worse: that daikaiju in the title is the name of the tower in Tokyo that houses the offices of an international conglomerate, but it also means “big monsters.”  So get ready for anything to happen, including the appearance of a cyborg and maybe even Dracula himself, as distinguished guests, leaders of finance, tech, and culture, are held hostage by yakuza assassins and Transylvanian mercenaries.  Enter vampire schoolgirl Nezumi–agent of the Diogenes Club–who finds herself and her trusty sword named “Goodnight Kiss” pitted against the deadliest creatures the world has ever known.

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The annual Star Wars Day, May the Fourth, is back again–an excuse to watch the movies again and meet up with friends and talk all things of a galaxy far, far away.  And again it is overlapping with Free Comic Book Day, a good excuse to visit your local comic book shop and get re-introduced to some series you may have missed.

You can’t beat the “gold line” of comics this year, with Jody Houser writing two free comics, Doctor Who and Stranger Things Jason Aaron serves as a writer on the Avengers issue (including a great Wolverine story), which is always a good FCBD title.  Archie Comics has a new Riverdale Season 3 FCBD story.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles creator Kevin Eastman is back writing the featured TMNT issue.  And fans of the Whedonverse won’t want to miss their copy of the BOOM! Studios twofer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, complete with a great cover by Moon Knight cover artist and Vampironica creator Greg Smallwood.  And for adults, Vampirella fans should check out its Issue #0/FCBD issue, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the character, complete with art by Bruce Timm and work by the late Forrest J. Ackerman.  Two other interesting titles for the older crowd worth checking out are Antarctic Press’s Punchline with great art by Matthew Weldon, and Shout Comics’ Midnight Sky.

 

The above issues are also good choices for kids, but some other titles are more targeted at the younger set including Casper the Ghost in Casper’s Spooksville.  Dear Justice League lets kids go one-on-one with their favorite superheroes.  Go Fish! is a great looking fish tale.  You can never go wrong with a new Little Lulu story.  Lumberjanes is back with another campfire story.  And last but not least, Star Wars Adventures is a great pick for any Star Wars fan this May the Fourth.

Take a look at some covers and previews to books available free (supplies may be limited) at Elite Comics or your local comic book shop today only:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

What’s it take to outperform a surprisingly successful supernatural series like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina′s first season?  A core of fine writing in each episode of its second season and a returning cast of actors willing to immerse themselves unwaveringly into a strange world of the occult and the macabre, of witches and warlocks drawn from an expansive comic book universe.  That’s the sophomore season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which arrived on Netflix earlier this month, adapting the comic book series from the Archie Horror imprint.  Mainstream critics weren’t kind to the series in the first weekend of its release, and that may because the series is one best taken episode by episode–each chapter is its own mini-movie, weighty and twisty, dark and heavy–too heavy for one sitting–yet it’s still fun.  But it’s not recommended for binge watching.  Spread this one out over a few weeks and you may agree this is a fantastic series, steeped in mythology and lore, while also outlandish enough to not take too seriously.  And yes, it’s even better than its first season.

Two incredible actresses anchored Chilling Adventures of Sabrina again in the leading roles and two others provided gravitas in supporting roles.  Twenty-year-old actress Kiernan Shipka returned as a bolder and smarter 16-year-old Sabrina, facing off against her favorite teacher who is also the manipulative Lilith, played by Michelle Gomez, right arm of the Prince of Darkness.  It’s fair to say Gomez is fully the co-lead of the series–she is today’s master performer of villainy, following up on her performance as the villain we loved to hate, Misty the Timelord, in three seasons of Doctor Who.  If actors really love portraying villains more than any other type, then she is at the top of the league.  So it takes one heck of a performer to be able to stand firm against a performer like Gomez.  Shipka does it, never flinching no matter what the writers ask of her.  Kill (and play) her doppelganger?  Overpower everyone to save her cousin from the guillotine?  Discover and take down a trio of new demons in town?  Take on the devil himself?  Sabrina can do it all, but it’s only because Shipka never falters in every layered and surprising new script.

The stories this season pulled from past supernatural shows, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Harry Potter to Grimm, and incorporated all kinds of horror tropes (Hellraiser puzzle box?), peppered with clever pop culture references (Stepford Wives Zelda?).  It succeeded where its sister series, CW’s Riverdale, was unable this year, getting better with each episode.  Writers Donna Thorland, MJ Kaufman, Christina Ham, Oanh Ly, Ross Maxwell, Matthew Barry, Christianna Hedtke, Lindsay Bring, Joshua Conkel, and showrunner and comic book writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa stretched the boundaries of fantasy into a series like nothing anyone has ever seen on TV.

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Archie with a crossbow.  Betty with an axe.  Jughead with a wooden spike.

No it’s not some strange version of Clue.  It’s all part of Vampironica, the Archie Comics series, now available as a trade paperback from the Archie Horror imprint.  Collecting Issue #1-5 of the series, Vampironica, Book One introduces the Veronica Lodge you always knew, until she is bitten by a centuries-old vampire.  So then what’s a teenage girl to do?  Turn Riverdale upside down in a search for blood, of course.

Siblings Greg Smallwood (Moon Knight) and Meg Smallwood partnered to co-write the story, adding a new realm to the imprint’s great re-imaginings of the 77-year-old Riverdale characters along with Afterlife With Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Chilling Adventures in Sorcery, Blossoms 666, and Jughead: The Hunger.  Interior artwork and covers were created by well-known cover artist Greg Smallwood, and he worked on interior art along with Greg Scott, with colors by Matt Herms, and lettering by Jack Morelli.

The series has a great, lighthearted, pop culture vibe, like Scooby Doo and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and it’s not too much of a stretch to swap the leads in Buffy for the leads in this series, for anyone missing their Buffy fix).  The book includes a section with a few of the variant covers for the series, by Francesco Francavilla, Audrey Mok, Djibril Morisette-Phan, Marguerite Sauvage, Robert Hack, Fiona Staples, Matthew Taylor, and a bonus, Issue #4 of Jughead: The Hunger. 

Later this month Jughead: The Hunger faces off against Veronica in the next iteration of the two series, Jughead: The Hunger vs. Vampironica, Issue #1.

 

The Jughead/Veronica crossover will feature a story by Frank Tieri, interior artwork by Pat and Tim Kennedy, Joe Eisma, Bob Smith, and Ryan Jampole, colors by Matt Herms, and lettering by Jack Morelli, and covers by Pat and Tim Kennedy, Bob Smith, and Matt Herms, Francesco Francavilla, Robert Hack, John McCrea, and Dan Panosian.

Here is a preview of the new trade edition of Vampironica, Book 1, Issue #1 of Jughead: The Hunger vs. Vampironica, and some future covers from the series, courtesy of Archie Horror:

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WKRP Nessman reporting Thanksgiving stunt

Pull the TV dinner out of the oven.  Throw some butter on those peas.  It’s time again for your annual tryptophan coma.  And another annual tradition.

Yes, it is time again for your annual viewing of one of the two best Thanksgiving episodes that ever graced the small screen.  Finish this phrase: “As God is my witness, I thought…”

What?!?  You don’t know how it ends?

Then watch and enjoy our traditional viewing of the greatest Thanksgiving episode of TV ever (note: no actual turkeys were harmed in the making of the show):

It’s hard to believe for those of us who watched the series when it aired for the first time that this is the fortieth anniversary of the airing of this episode!

And in between your seconds and thirds of tofurkey, this epic roasted cabbage (we tried it, it’s actually good), mashed potatoes, corn casserole, bean casserole, pea casserole–and don’t forget the gravy–and PIE, then check out other Thanksgiving blasts from the past here.

And don’t forget the cranberries.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The BORG Staff

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’re not a player of Dungeons & Dragons, a new journey through the hills and valleys of the roleplay game that started it all will get you up to speed quickly.  Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History is a comprehensive, authoritative, and licensed look back at nearly 50 years of gaming, storytelling, and artwork.  If you grew up with the game you are certain to find both nostalgia and page-after-page of new information in its more than 700 color images from the past, images of heroes and villains, monsters and other creatures, that brought in some 40 million players over the years.  Boasting some 10-15 million active players today, D&D now features the results of writers/D&D celebrity fans Michael Witwer (D&D historian), Kyle Newman (director of the movie Fanboys), Jon Peterson (game historian) and Sam Witwer (actor, Being Human, Smallville, Battlestar Galactica) pulling together published images and source art from each edition of D&D’s core books, supplements, and modules, magazines, advertisements, tie-in products, sketches, and draft rules.  Their sources include the archives at Wizards of the Coast, private collectors, and more than 40 designers and artists from every era of the game’s history.  Released in two editions, fans old and new can choose from the standard 448-page hardcover alone or a special edition Hydro74-designed boxed set with some intriguing extras.  You’ll find a 14-page preview below courtesy of publisher Ten Speed Press.

This… treatise… this behemoth of a book is smartly designed so readers can approach it for a quick burst of throwback fun or a detailed dive behind the creation and many changes of the game and the companies behind it.  You can find a side-by-side evolution and comparison of monsters and other characters, soak in old maps and character sheets, and compare the covers and key art across all editions.  Possibly the best contribution is comparative images showing specific pop culture sources for many of the designs that made it into the early books and supplements, everything from Frank Frazetta Conan the Barbarian paintings to panels of comic book art from Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales.

From Guidon GamesChainmail to TSR to Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro and the latest 5th Edition rule books, the D&D story is one of corporate takeovers, failures, successes and strategies, all to survive and ultimately consolidate with games including Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon, World of Warcraft, and the entire Milton Bradley tabletop game catalog, all under one umbrella.  It all started with creators Gary Gygax and David Arneson, and their efforts to build on miniature figure battle games from centuries past, and modern rules for gaming that had a historic source:  sci-fi/fantasy author H.G. Wells first penned a gaming rulebook for miniatures titled Little Wars: a game for boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books, an influential book inspiring gaming to this day.  The founders would pull in amateur artists and eventually professional artists, sprouting from a small headquarters in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, ultimately the source of Gen Con, the gaming convention that has been tied to D&D since the beginning.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is the rare show that tries to be many things and actually succeeds at them all.  If you are looking for the ideal way to spend this Halloween, absent a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon, you’re not going to find a better TV pursuit than this new Netflix series.  It features a captivating lead in its teenage witch Sabrina, played perfectly by Kiernan Shipka, who shows every frustrating feeling, emotion, and indecision any teenager must go through, reflected in a mythology-rich world with enormous stakes.  Sabrina is a kid–a smart kid, but still a kid–so she makes the kind of mistakes teenagers make.  Raised in the occult world by a family of witch aunts and a warlock cousin, Sabrina is a half-breed (her mother was human, her father a high priest in the dark arts), but viewers will see she shares some commonality with Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter books–she’s loyal, she’s book smart, she’s street savvy, and conscientious, dabbling in the magical world.  She also is trusting and able to be manipulated by the adults around her.  She may not be the fully realized, badass, confident heroine everyone wants to see–just yet–but by the end of Season 1 she’s well on her way.

The series protagonist is actually not Sabrina, but a demon who takes over the body of Michelle Gomez‘s Ms. Wardwell, a teacher at Sabrina’s mortal-realm high school, an ever-present mentor steering her out of dilemmas when Sabrina’s aunts fail to give Sabrina the help she wants.  Gomez, who played Doctor Who’s #1 nemesis The Master, is even more engaging here, fully inhabiting a character whose motivations are hidden by a fog–a blurred reality paralleled by a clever fuzzy tweak in cinematography throughout each episode.  Sabrina’s aunts, played by Miranda Otto, The Lord of the Rings #1 heroine who saved Middle-earth (“I am no man!”) and Lucy Davis, the #2 female lead in the WWI era of the movie Wonder Woman, unite to create a classic duet in the spirit of Arsenic and Old Lace.  Otto’s Zelda is strict and a devout believer in her dark religion, Hilda a sweet and doting aunt who gets excommunicated for her support of Sabrina.  All three actresses bring their genre star power to the series, providing a jolt of heroine gravatas to support the title character.

Sabrina is approaching her 16th birthday, when she must choose between the world of mortals and the world–and protections–of the witching world.  She must decide whether she will relinquish her decision-making from then on to the devil himself or take her chances as a mortal.  She is surrounded by those she thinks she can trust and others whose motivations are hidden in a dark world of several levels of good and evil.  Making sense of the darkness and evil and placing a pantheon of 56-old comic book characters he rejuvenated in the pages of Archie Horror comics four years ago onto the screen for a new audience is Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, chief creative officer of Archie Comics, and executive producer and writer for the comics and CW’s Riverdale and Netflix’s Sabrina.  Quite shrewdly, Sacasa doesn’t comment on the dark religion of the series or any political stance his characters may reflect, instead letter the viewer bring their own value set to the show and making their own analysis.  Who do you want to cheer for, the equivalent of Darth Vader or Princess Leia in science fiction, or Sauron or Eowyn in fantasy?  Sacasa pulls from age-old classic stories, like Cain and Abel from the Bible, W.W. Jacobs’ The Monkey’s Paw, John Carpenter’s films including The Fog, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Robert Eggers’ The Witch, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and a classic horror film mirrored in the comics that might be a spoiler for Season 2–so we’ll hold that title back for now.

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Initially we figured the new Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina would merely fill the void left between seasons of Stranger Things, but this week’s teaser preview looks like the creators of Riverdale may touch on a look and feel from one of the all-time greatest television shows.  You, too, may also feel the vibe of horror similar to the greatest of all teen coming-of-age series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer But you might miss the details even if you don’t blink (like levitating or hanged witches, Sabrina entering a blue portal to another world, the above image of Sabrina entering the woods, and more).  Netflix has sneakily dropped in several brief scene images that look 100% Buffy the Vampire Slayer, including a Hellmouth-esque beast that could have come from the mind of Joss Whedon (and those three nasty characters seem to be from the same realm as the Gentlemen from the episode “Hush”).  How many times have we seen an image of Buffy readying to face demons on her now-classic TV show just like Sabrina in the above image?  At a minimum the new series may make up for the absence of another great horror series we miss, Grimm Ten episodes of the series will be arriving just in time for Halloween.  And along with the teaser, a new poster is out, echoing Sabrina’s 16th birthday as seen in the teaser, all pointing toward a decision to commit to the coven or not, which Sabrina will soon face.

If you peruse most of the entertainment websites over the past several hours you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone mentioning the comic book series the show is based on.  Even comic book sites are still dwelling on comparing this to the 1990s comedy version.  Sabrina was created for Archie Comics 56 years ago by writer George Gladir and artist Dan DeCarlo, and if you’ve been reading borg.com very long (like coverage here) you’re already familiar with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Robert Hack’s fantastically macabre series of the same name published under the Archie Horror imprint.  Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is based on the characters in the comic book series, detailing the compelling and, yes, chilling, re-imagining of Sabrina’s occult origins–not any of the several TV adaptations–mostly comedies–that have aired.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina stars The Legend of Korra’s Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina, with some well-known genre actors: The Lord of the Rings and War of the Worlds’ Miranda Otto (Zelda), Shaun of the Dead and Wonder Woman’s Lucy Davis (Hilda), Doctor Who and Gotham’s Michelle Gomez (Mary Wardell), Beverly Hills Cop and Perfect Strangers’ Bronson Pinchot (George Hawthorne), and Prince of Persia’s Richard Coyle (Father Blackwood), with Ross Lynch (Harvey Kinkle), Chance Perdomo (Ambrose), Jaz Sinclair (Rosalind), Tati Gabrielle (Prudence), Adeline Rudolph (Agatha), Abigail Cowen (Dorcas), and Lachlan Watson (Susie).  That’s Salem the cat sneaking around at the end of the teaser, and yes, we hear series star Kiernan Shipka is allergic to cats, so we’ll have fun watching how the show films them both together this season.

Check out all of these scene images that you may have missed, followed by the full teaser:

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After almost a week of rumor, the showrunner of a series that will continue the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer confirmed the series isn’t merely a rumor today.  Monica Owusu-Breen, a writer on popular genre series including Charmed, Fringe, Lost, Alias, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., has been working with Buffy creator Joss Whedon on a new story, and she has been tapped as showrunner for the new series.  Today Owusu-Breen confirmed the project is real, while also clarifying a new slayer is on her way, but not Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy from the original seven-year series.  Whedon will again serve as executive producer of the series, with returning producers going back to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, Gail Berman, Joe Earley, Fran Kazui, and Kaz Kazui.  “For some genre writers, it’s Star Wars.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my Star Wars,” Osuwu-Breen posted on Twitter today.  “Before I became a writer, I was a fan.  For seven seasons, I watched Buffy Summers grow up, find love, kill that love.  I watched her fight, and struggle and slay.  There is only one Buffy.  One Xander, one Willow, Giles, Cordelia, Oz, Tara, Kendra, Faith, Spike, Angel … They can’t be replaced.  Joss Whedon’s brilliant and beautiful series can’t be replicated.  I wouldn’t try to.  But here we are, 20 years later … and the world seems a lot scarier. So maybe, it could be time to meet a new Slayer … And that’s all I can say.”

Fans will recall that a new Slayer took the place of a Slayer that had been killed–at least in the early seasons of the show.  Kendra, a fantastic and charismatic killing machine played by Bianca Lawson, was a Jamaican potential slayer who replaced Buffy Summers’s Slayer for three episodes after Buffy’s first death on the show (Buffy was quickly revived with CPR).  Early word from the production is that the slayer to lead the new show will also be played by a black actress.  Upon Kendra’s death, we were introduced to her Slayer replacement Faith, played by Eliza Dushku, who would co-star in the series for 20 episodes.  At least sixteen other Slayers of various backgrounds were portrayed in the series following the episode “Chosen,” including one played by Felicia Day.  At least 1,800 new Slayers were discussed in the series, 500 of whom worked for Buffy Summers’ organization which deployed Slayers globally into ten separate squads.  Countless others were featured in Seasons 8-12 of the comic book series.

The idea of taking the Buffy-verse forward was discussed more upon the show’s 20th anniversary in 2016, and with so many series getting reboots it was inevitable Buffy’s time was coming.  Unlike all those other shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is in many fans’ list of top 10 television series of all time, so the producers will no doubt take careful steps with the franchise.  The brilliance of the Slayer storyline is actually perfect for continuation.  Like the five decades of Doctor Who, Buffy always has had a built-in mechanism to allow the transfer of lead actors over time, while keeping the series fresh and surviving as a long-term franchise.  As with the Doctor Who regeneration that has allowed for the latest new thirteenth lead actor to take over that series after some five decades, the replacement mechanism of a new Slayer for each dying Slayer has always been a make-ready key to ensure a going-forward show.  Few would disagree that Buffy, Kendra, and Faith were fantastic characters, fantastic Slayers.  No doubt the next in line can be just as exciting.

Here is Owusu-Breen’s Twitter post today clarifying the vision behind the new show:

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