The Story so Far: I am reading and reviewing the Buffyverse comic series’ that are canon with the television shows they are based on, including Buffy Season 8, Fray, Spike, Angel & Faith and Angel: After the Fall among others. I will post a final reading list when I’ve caught up to season 10.
I’ve included links to my previous posts in this reading marathon at the bottom of the page.
This Week: Review of Buffy Season 8, volume 3 (Library Hardcover Edition).
Overview: More Harmony than you can wave a stick at which, depending on how well you wave sticks, is a lot. Jo Chen once again does a phenomenal job painting the covers. No one brings these characters to life as well as Chen. However, story-wise this volume is severely lacking. It is mostly compiled of one-shots that do little to develop the characters or further the story. The writing is not as strong in this volume and the plot has gone from extraordinary to excessive. Still worth a read if you’re a Buffy fan.
Harmonic Divergence (Issue #21)
Harmonic Divergence opens with Harmony feeding on celebrity Andy Dick. Her photo is taken and published, launching her to instant tabloid stardom. If you remember from Angel: After the Fall, the world knows all about vampires now so Harmony being one is not the shocker it might be if Angel hadn’t already outed their race when he averted the apocalypse. Now vampires are the hot new celebrities. Naturally, this does not bode well for vampire slayers.
A side plot flashes back to when Willow activated all potential slayers. At that moment, a girl attempting to break away from the street gang she belongs to, uses her new-found powers to reclaim her independence. Naturally, when Andrew shows up to recruit her to join the Slayer Army she is reluctant to sign up. Her experience casts the Slayer Army in a new light. We see Buffy’s army as a gang that lures members in with promises of sisterhood and protection, but publicly only displays violence.
Jane Espenson has always been one of the television series’ most entertaining writers. Her writing in this comic is as funny and thought-provoking as her best episodes. I enjoyed her pop cultures references (though I’m not sure how current a reference Andy Dick is) and her commentary on the superficial nature of reality television was hilarious. However, I was less impressed with artist Georges Jeanty. His depiction of Harmony scarcely resembles the character from the television series. In fact the way he draws her, she looks almost like Buffy with wavy hair. If it weren’t for Willow and Xander appearing in panels with Buffy, I wouldn’t have been able to tell the two apart.
Included in the issue is a magazine spread all about Harmony. The first page is a Q&A with Harmony and the facing page is an article called “Slayers: Why They Hate America.” There are also some great ads for the fictitious reality show “Harmony Bites” and the stuffed Vampy Cat toy. I enjoyed the Harmony interview. Her responses were funny though I’m doubtful that Harmony would know what the word “disingenuous” means nevertheless be able to use it in a sentence.
Swell (Issue #22)
Ah Vampy Cat. So cute, so fluffy, so deadly. Kennedy arrives in Japan to evaluate Satsu i.e. see how her broken heart is mending. The visit is cut short when Twilight unleashes an army of plush Vampy Cat toys on the slayers. They look silly, but when these stuffys come to life, it will take more than a simple punting to take them down.
Swell is a cross between the season three episdoe “Bad Eggs” and the pre-canon Buffy comic “The Latest Craze.” The Vampy Cat is like a body snatcher Beanie Baby. The Buffyverse has done this before to an extent but, the Vampy Cat is the most adorable execution of the concept to date.
The focus of the story is on how Satsu is dealing though it floats along the surface and never delves deeply into her character. Usually, BTVS does a great job of blending drama and comedy, but in this issue it fell flat. Swell reads like a Saturday Morning Cartoon squished between issues to fill out the season. Despite the flaws, this is a fast-paced and enjoyable read.
Predators & Prey (Issue #23)
“We’re not just coworkers, we’re family.”
Probably one of the worst brain-washing phrases to emerge from the corporate world, and now the Slayer Army is using it. In reality, the Slayer Army is nothing like a family. With their recent rash of crimes against humanity, they’re more like a terrorist group. Now renegade slayer, Simone has factioned off and created her own troop of gun-wielding slayers intent on using their slayer strength and heavy artillery to take whatever it is they want from civilians. Luckily, Buffy’s encounter with Twilight has reaffirmed her moral integrity. She sets off with Andrew to put a stop to Simone and her minions.
If you enjoyed all the snarky slayer banter of season seven, you will appreciate this issue. If not, you will be left, like I was, missing the days when Buffy slayed vampires with her Scoobies.
I did like how the issue opened with this concept of an organization being like a family. I thought it was trying to show how very cultish that statement is as Epenson did with Harmonic Divergence, instead this issue uses the statement to reveal that Andrew is a trusted member of the Scooby Gang now. I’m not buying it personally. The ending seemed overly sentimental and took what could have been an interesting view of the Slayer Army and made it trite.
Safe (Issue #24)
Faith and Giles follow a rogue slayer to a sanctuary, a place where slayers that don’t want to fight alongside Buffy are holding up. What they find instead is a one of the last remaining watchers from the former council and a town of frightened people.
I’m really enjoying the development of Faith’s character this season. She is handling villianization of slayers by the media better than Buffy, probably because she is used to being painted as the bad guy.
This was an interesting read. Also, artist Cliff Richards is amazing! He did a fantastic job depicting Faith and Giles. I hope he returns for future issues.
My only real complaint with this issue is that I wish it were longer, preferably expanded into an arc. This slew of one-shots are easy enough to get through, but only so much story can be squeezed into a single issue. I imagine the purpose of these issues is to update us on the characters that have gone their separate ways before bringing them all together to face Twilight. If I’m right, that will be one hell of a battle.
Living Doll (Issue #25)
Another one-shot. In this one, Dawn turns into another mystical whatsit (hint hint it’s in the title) and whining and needing to be rescued ensue. Xander and Buffy set off to find Dawn after she goes missing while Andrew finds Kenny to force him to put a stop to Dawn’s transformations once and for all.
An interesting read and a much-needed end to the Dawn and Kenny storyline. As much as I’m grateful to have Buffy back for season 8, I was never on-board with Dawn being a giant and then a centaur. Thankfully, that’s all behind us now. Also, for once Dawn makes some good points. There are too many slayers around. To add to that, they fill too many pages that could be devoted to more face-time with our favorite Scoobies.
At this point, I’m rooting for Twilight. Here’s hoping he can find a way to deactivate the Slayer Army so the series can focus on characters fans of the show actually want to read about.
Retreat (Issues #26-30)
The moment I saw Oz on the beautiful Jo Chen cover for issue #26 I did a little happy dance. Unfortunately, my love for this arc ends there.
In Retreat, Buffy discovers that their enemies are able to track the Slayer Army’s magic and pinpoint their location. So what does she do? She has Willow and the Wicca squad cast a massive spell to transport the submarine they are hiding out in to Tibet. These reads like a desperate attempt to include Oz in the issue. Not that I’m complaining. I love Oz and it was amazing to see him again, but I don’t see how Oz learning to control his werewolf transformations over the course of many months correlates to him having the ability to teach the slayers and witches to give their abilities over to the Earth.
But of course, by the magic of comics he teaches them and within days they are magic free. Geez, where was Oz when Willow needed to be rehabilitated during season six? His four-day magic cleanse could have saved her months of withdrawals. But hey who needs logic? Certainly, not this issue that only gets more convoluted with each page and ends in the grand finale of ridiculousness. Hold on to your butts, Buffy readers. You’re in for a bumpy ride.
Harmony Bites (Dark Horse Presents #18)
Curious about Harmony’s reality show that all the characters keep talking about? Well, now you can finally check out a full episode. It’s like any other celebrity vanity fest only in this one, the starlet drinks blood. I loved that Clem is in this story. He is a good foil for Harmony. This story was originally published in Dark Horse Presents. For your reading marathon, it fits well after issue #21 Harmonic Divergence.
Harmony Comes to the Nation (Dark Horse Presents #25)
Another short and sweet, Dark Horse Presents addition. In this one, Stephen Colbert interviews Harmony about her new reality show and her thoughts on the slayer menace. It’s only a couple of pages long but it’s a fun read particularly if you enjoy Colbert.
I recommend reading Harmony Comes to the Nation after issue #22 Swell.
Vampy Cat Play Friend (Dark Horse Presents #19)
“Vampy Cat, Vampy Cat what are they feeding you? Vampy Cat, Vampy Cat it’s not your fault.”
Okay, that’s not in this issue but it’s about the only thing that could make this comic better. This story is about a little girl with a Vampy Cat of her very own that attacks her enemies. Now I really want a Vampy Cat of my very own. Fun issue. Reads sort of like a commercial for Vampy Cat. Read this issue right before you read issue #22 Swell.
- Fray, Angel: After the Fall 1-2, and Spike: After the Fall
- The Conclusion of Angel: After the Fall
- Asylum, Shadow Puppets, and Spike: The Complete Series
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, Volume 1
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, Volume 2
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, volume 4!