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Buffy – Season Eight: Predators and Prey

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

BuffySeason8_V5When the schedule for these issues was first posted on Wikipedia, it listed numbers 21 – 25 as an arc entitled Predators and Prey; to wit, I held off writing about them because I don’t want to bother writing about whole arcs until they’re completed.  How annoying then that they didn’t end up forming an arc at all, really (even though, as you can see from the picture at left, they will be packaged together for the TPB); how even more annoying that they also ended up completely ruining Season Eight, not directly, but by actually destroying the entire Buffyverse as we know it.  Yes, it is that serious.  The Buffyverse isn’t just scratched right now, it’s broken.  There are little hell-demons dancing over its burning wreckage.  And as awful as this is, somehow it’s even made worse by the fact that it wasn’t by dint of some writing or mistakes — it stems from a conscious decision on the part of the creative team to alter things so completely we can’t ever go back.  Obviously I hugely disagree with that decision, which is why I’m saying everything’s broken.  Maybe you disagree with me.

The best way to get into it is probably to just go through each issue one at a time, since, as I mentioned, they are all so different.  First off . . .

Harmonic Divergence

. . . the one that ruined it all.  Remember how earlier I said I hoped that Dawn and MechaDawn’s little (big) romp through the streets of Tokyo would just sort of go unnoticed by the world at large?  How I didn’t like the idea of the whole entire world being completely aware of Vampires and Slayers and Demons and whatnot?  Well, with this one issue (and, obviously, all of Angel — After the Fall, but I’ll get in to that later) the whole entire world knows everything.  The story is no longer about a small group of intrepid heroes working to save the world from the unknown horrors of the world (and other worlds); it’s now a story about a huge group of heroes trying to save the world while dealing with public-image problems and the geo-political machinations of governments and armies and secret evil cabals.  So obviously — little different.

Now, you could argue that something like this was inevitable — that the series really had nowhere else to go at this point, especially after both Season 4 (which proved the government already did know about all this stuff), and turning 2000-ish girls into Slayers; and in a way I get that.  The problem is that now, all the charm is gone.  It goes from using one of the strongest facets of classic fantasy — small group of heroes fighting against larger, stronger odds — into something akin to a Tom Clancy novel; which, however you want to swing it, is not Buffy.  So, yeah — gotta say, R.I.P. to the Buffyverse . . . what follows now is something completely else.

Same thing happened over in Angel: ATF; once L.A. got back from ‘hell,’ everyone still remembered and now Angel is a celeb too.  At least, in this, they’re being consistent, further pointing toward an eventual reconciliation of the two series.  But still <insert ‘shedding single tear’ emoticon here>.

And just to get back to this actual issue for a second — the public really seeing vampires as the heroes and the Slayers as the villains?  C’mon —  that’s really quite stupid.  It strains credibility even for a Buffy story.  Another reason why this series is currently spiralling down the drain.

Swell

A completely needless, pointless, only mildly — mildly — entertaining filler issue.  Kennedy and Satsu?  Who gives a fuck?  Seems like it was conceived simply as an excuse to make a bunch of unfunny lesbian jokes.

Predators and Prey

Again — boring, needless, distracting, and done completely, completely wrong.  I’d be fine with an issue focusing on Andrew, but if you’re gonna do that, guess what?  You have to get a writer who actually knows how to write Andrew!  The dialogue in this issue is awful.  I can’t believe it was actually written by Drew Z. Greenberg; he’s one of the Buffy alum, he should know what he’s doing, but he gets Andrew all wrong.  Andrew isn’t just a bunch of pop-culture references thrown together into a heap for no apparent reason; Andrew is that mixed with a sort of dramatizing, teenage-esque innocence which is both disarming and funny (“Let us talk of Vampyrs!”).  Greenberg, unfortunately, only does the pop-culture references (and some pretty obvious ones at that), and has the rest of his dialogue be so normal and boring it could have been spoken by anyone.  I was actually shocked at the blandness of it.

Safe

This was the only decent issue out of the whole ‘arc’ — how strange that it came from a spot writer who hadn’t worked on the series at all up to this point.  It was nice to get back to Faith and Giles, and the story was solid, if not overly original, though seeing a little history-of-Faith was certainly interesting.  Although I don’t quite understand why the demon exploded in flames.  Oh well.  Mystical flames, I guess.

Living Doll

So — Dawn has this huge problem all throughout the series . . . 25 issues now . . . and then, suddenly, it’s all resolved in one, quick, boring little story.  Living, talking dolls?  Yeah — that’s WAY been done already.

Again — who planned all this out?  Is there even a plan?  This series has gone so far off the rails it’s not even a train anymore — maybe some type of dingy pontoon boat spinning maniacally out of control on a swollen river.

The editor, Scott Allie, says at the end of this that the purpose of these issues was to ‘shake everything up a bit,’ and, with the upcoming arc Retreat, ‘to shake it back together.’  Let’s just hope they’re more adept at putting things back together than they were at pulling it all apart, because for me, it feels like we got a Humpty Dumpty here which isn’t ever going to go back together properly.  And it was all fairly boring.
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12 Comments leave one →
  1. Adam permalink
    Tuesday, May 19, 2009 4:55 am

    Who “gives a fuck” about Satsu and Kennedy? I do.

    Why on earth would it be a bad thing to have an issue devoted to different characters to flesh them out a bit? That’s what a good series does, it lets us explore all of the characters in the story. You may not care about either of them but I’m very glad to see them both out of Buffy/Willow’s shadow and operating on their own. It shows a different side to them which is very much needed. The Buffyverse has a long history of doing this sort of thing, the character “partnerships” like Buffy/Cordy in ‘Homecoming’ or Willow/Anya in ‘Triangle’ are done to flesh out relationships and partner up characters that usually don’t share a lot of time together. It adds new layers to the cast and ‘Swell’ is no exception.

    • Tuesday, May 19, 2009 10:48 am

      Well, I’m glad you’re invested in Satsu and Kennedy — for me, they aren’t major enough supporting characters to warrant their own face-time. Having Buffy/Cordy or Willow/Anya together is okay, because they’re all franchise characters. Satsu and Kennedy — not ‘opening credits’ material, if you know what I mean (neither is Andrew, which is why it’s okay to have an issue devoted to him as long as Buffy goes along, which she did — though Andrew has been around a lot longer than Satsu and Kennedy as well).

      Another problem with it is that — as Kennedy herself points out — they’re basically the same character. So again, it doesn’t make their interactions all that interesting.

      • Adam permalink
        Monday, May 25, 2009 11:21 pm

        Buffy and Cordelia were also “basically the same character.” That’s why they always clashed, because Cordelia was jealous of Buffy and Buffy used to be “Spordelia.” They both wanted that Homecoming crown, they both were fierce strong women. They both had egos that clashed and their similarities also allowed them to bond. Cordelia respected Buffy on another level than she did Xander or Willow, she credits Buffy for making either of them marginally cooler by hanging out with them.

        That’s also why a Kennedy/Satsu partnership was the way to go. Kennedy knows what it’s like to go through the tough times thanks to her sexual orientation which makes her an appropriate character to help get her past her issues. The same way the writers used Willow to speak to her in ‘Wolves At The Gate.’

        • Thursday, May 28, 2009 12:06 am

          Buffy and Cordy were hardly the same character, esp. in Season 3. They had some similarities, sure, but overall they were way different, and it was these differences which were at the heart of their confrontations. Cordy wanted the homecoming crown because she thought it was her birthright, but Buffy only wanted it because she wanted to do something ‘normal’ for a change.

          Kennedy and Satsu, though — really, what is there to set them apart right now? Both are young, spunky Slayers in love with one of the female leads of the show . . . that’s about it. The only difference is that Satsu’s Japanese (and they’re not really accounting for those cultural differences, much, are they?)

          My point is that it was just sloppy, and I was expecting better.

          • Adam permalink
            Tuesday, June 2, 2009 2:19 am

            I really disagree. Satsu and Kennedy are not the same character whatsoever. The fact that Satsu has no problems taking orders for the majority of the time immediately sets her apart from Kennedy. Satsu also didn’t feel “worthy” of being Buffy’s choice to rescue Willow in TLWY whereas Kennedy would have absolutely jumped at the chance. They have a completely different manner.

  2. James permalink
    Thursday, May 21, 2009 8:50 pm

    Wow, every one is a critic. I personally feel that the creators of Season 8 are doing an awesome job seeing theey are working with one of the most difficult media transitions; i.e. from television to comics. I always asked myself “How are they going to pull this off?” But they did annd it has been beautiful so far. Keep up the awesome work!

  3. Brad permalink
    Thursday, June 18, 2009 1:24 am

    All of your criticisms are based entirely on opinion. Also, any credibility you may have is overshadowed by your whiny-ness.

    • Monday, June 29, 2009 10:34 pm

      My God. It’s the INTERNET. It’s a blog. I’m not going for balanced, sophisticated, erudite discussion here. It’s facetiously supposed to be ‘opinionated’ so that it can try to be somewhat ‘entertaining;’ however, if you actually read a bit closer and pay attention, I think you’ll find that I back up my ‘opinion’ with a fairly reasonable amount of critical analysis.

      The core of my point of how this arc changed the Buffyverse is not opinion, it’s analysis. If you don’t agree with that analysis, find a way to prove it.

      • Chris permalink
        Monday, January 11, 2010 8:20 pm

        How dare you criticize art! What gives you the right?! My critique of your critique is so much more valid than your critique.

        I’m kidding, although the way some people react to any kind of critical analysis of Joss Whedon, you probably wouldn’t have known it unless I told you. ;)

        It’s hilarious to me how so many fans hold him up as some sort of artistic genius, worthy of being analyzed alongside Shakespeare, but the moment anyone has an analysis that contradicts what Joss is trying to get across, suddenly the critic is “overthinking” it.

        I agree that Season 8 sucks, but I would say the destruction of the Buffyverse started loooooong before this arc. I don’t actually have much of a problem with the whole world knowing “the secret,” though I can see why you do. And there is certainly no defense for the sudden “Vampires, yay!” reaction of the general public.

        But the stupidity and moral degradation of the characters and plots has been going on since at least Season 6. Season 8 is merely repeating the mistakes of the final two seasons, while making them exponentially worse.

        Did you enjoy watching Buffy use a bad guy for sex because she was so cripplingly lonely and refused to try and work her issues out with her friends? No? Well, here, you’ll love seeing her use an innocent girl whom she barely knows for the same purpose!

        How about when Xander summoned a demon and didn’t say anything about it when he knew it was going around killing people? Or when he almost married a woman who had no remorse over killing a whole mess of people? Wasn’t that a hoot? Hey, let’s have him be BFFs with Dracula for no logical character or story reason!

        Hey, you guys just love it when Giles and Willow are both drifting apart from Buffy, right? Right?

        And we know you love to hear Dawn whine!

        Right?!

        • Chris permalink
          Monday, January 11, 2010 8:25 pm

          All the writers are doing with this series are what they consider “funny” or “cool,” with absolutely no regard for the ramifications toward the characters or the larger story. They’ve basically admitted this in interviews. I’m dismayed that this is still such a high-selling comic. The only reason to buy this series is if you’re so addicted to Buffy that you can’t give it up no matter how bad it gets. Which I admit affected me at first, but after that nonsense with Dracula, I just decided I could no longer contribute money to such hackery.

  4. Tuesday, August 31, 2010 2:38 pm

    Thanks for pointing me here. Interesting read – you raise some points I haven’t thought about.

    Here’s my 2c:

    Harmonic Divergence.
    Conceptually silly. The idea of vampires as new media darlings is too outrageous for a dramatic narrative; Joss tried to pull it off in the genre based on suspension of disbelief. With mixed results.

    Swell.
    Gigantic insider joke. Back in 2002 DeKnight had been harassed by Willow/Tara fans, who called themselves “Kittens” for killing off Tara in “Seeing Red”. They accused him and Joss of causing harm to gay and lesbian community; it was a big fuss. Seven years later DeKnight could finally strike back with a story about lesbians against evil kittens. (He could write a fanfic, if his hands were itching).

    Living Doll.
    …Really, Joss, really? Dawn had to apologize to Kenny who tortured her all that time and almost got her killed? I have no words.

    • Tuesday, August 31, 2010 10:29 pm

      Okay — Swell makes a lot more sense now. But did we need it in Season 8? I don’t think so.

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