Saturday, October 1, 2011

My Wife Enjoyed Predators And Prey Quite A Bit More Than I Did!

The Good: Great sense of continuity, Decent character development, Decent plot development
The Bad: More fractured than other "episodes," Binding (seriously!), Some of the artwork
The Basics: Funny, quirky and generally well-illustrated, Predators And Prey tells more fractured stories as the eighth season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer progresses.

Almost two years ago, for our six month anniversary with my wife, an avid fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, one of the gifts I purchased for her was the Buffy The Vampire Slayer graphic novel, (volume 5) Predators And Prey. This morning, I finally had the opportunity (while my store's software was down) to read it. After my wife raved about it for a week (she peeked inside and found herself reading the entire thing in a single sitting), I think I was expecting more. Still, I did enjoy this volume, but not as much as I had hoped to.

For those who do not understand the concept of Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight, it is pretty simple. Continuing the story of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (reviewed here!), from where the television series ended up, Buffy and her friends have relocated to Scotland with an army of Slayers and they have been training in order to take on the legions of vampires still roaming the world. This is happening at the same time as the fifth season of Angel and Predators And Prey is intended to be the fifth episode of the season. It also is a real mucking up of the sense of the Buffyverse and there are several chunks of the story where tension is lost simply because of how Angel developed.

For starters, one of the problems with Predators And Prey is that it is less of an "episode" than it is a collection of vignettes. The five comic books that are compiled into this trade paperback anthology are only loosely connected and they do not tell a single story over the course of the book. Instead, while the first "chapter" of Predators And Prey sets off an important event, the subsequent bits have that only peripherally as a factor of the events of those stories.

"Harmonic Divergence" is a simple and direct story which puts Harmony into the eighth season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. She starts her own reality show called "Harmony Bites" where she does her ditzy thing and sires people at parties (starting with Andy Dick in an alley) and MTV films her. The show is floundering until a new Slayer who has left a gang and is not eager to join the Slayer Army tries to stake Harmony on television. This has the effect of vilifying the Slayers and making vampires into a cool status symbol.

The problems with "Harmonic Divergence" are mostly in the continuity of the "episode." The incident makes Harmony an instant celebrity and while it is easy enough to believe that she would fall from grace quick enough to end up at Wolfram & Hart for the fifth season of Angel, it does not track that she would be able to do so without any consequences or mention. Fitting Harmony into Buffy is cute and has a very classic Buffy feel to it, especially with Harmony's little monologues, but it mucks up the timeline of the Buffyverse or makes it harder to accept Harmony in Angel. Most fans, no doubt, will let the comic book be forgotten before the more inarguably cannon episodes of Angel that would have followed this.

The second story, "Swell" is pretty wonderful. While the U.S. deals with Harmony as a celebrity and vampires as a status symbol, Satsu deals with the resulting merchandise in Tokyo. Kennedy arrives to help Satsu and give her a performance evaluation and the two lesbian Slayers commiserate on their place in the grand order. They uncover a plot from a demon army that takes over a factory of stuffed animal vampire kitties and they are forced to destroy it lest an army of puppet humans be used against Buffy and the Slayers in Scotland.

"Swell" is good, save the lack of consequence. While Satsu is reasonably disappointed that Buffy has not fallen in love with her following their night of lovemaking, when Satsu is used by one of the stuffed creatures, she suffers no real ill effects and while Buffy The Vampire Slayer is usually quite good at killing off its peripheral characters and I'm in no hurry to see Satsu bite the dust, the failure of her to truly suffer from her ordeal when others are pictured as desiccated zombies is disappointing. Also, this issue suffers from some pretty lame artwork, most notably on page 32 where Georges Jeanty makes thumbnail sketches of some of the characters and most of them are just unrecognizable.

Predators And Prey almost ties up a weird tacked-on subplot begun at the very end of one of the prior episodes. Buffy and Andrew go in search of Simone. Andrew, it seems, has good intel on the location of Simone's lieutenant as a ragna spider demon has trapped her. Buffy and Andrew go to rescue her, but are ambushed by Simone, who makes off with the Ragna and Andrew and Buffy track her and her cadre to an island they have taken over, expelling the natives from. As Buffy fights to regain control of the rogue cell, Andrew admits that he genetically engineered the demon to try to contribute to the team and this makes him a target for Simone and her entire team.

Predators And Prey is the big continuity nightmare in the eighth season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. First, Andrew mentions seeing Angel recently. That's fine; he did. But Andrew sees Angel in the twentieth episode of Angel Season Five. This is Episode five of the same (temporally) season. He also mentions Spike being alive and looking good to Buffy. This garners no reaction whatsoever from Buffy. While years and years have passed here in reality for the readers and writers in the Buffyverse, only a few months have passed since Sunnydale bit the dust with Spike in it. That Buffy would not even say anything learning that he is once again alive and well (and corporeal) is troubling. Otherwise, the issue works well as Buffy actually becomes more adult and helps to define what the Slayers are trying to do and how Andrew is actually a part of that now.

"Safe" picks up the Faith and Giles storyline begun in No Future For You. With Slayers being vilified worldwide, the Slayer Army is losing girls and one of the places they are losing them to is a sanctuary in Hanselstadt. Faith, after rescuing a Slayer named Courtney, and Giles head to Hanselstadt. Once there, they find the place a ghost town without any children and Giles is reunited with the only other (known) surviving Watcher, Duncan. Duncan explains the situation in Hanselstadt as Faith and Courtney walk into a pretty obvious trap.

As is frequently the case in the Buffyverse, things are not quite what they seem in Hanselstadt and Faith and Giles realize this pretty quickly. As a result, this becomes more of a character study and it is a welcome one for fans of Giles and Faith. This is well-illustrated, makes decent callbacks and progresses both characters and the story forward. Faith and Giles are recognizable in every panel and the creature that shows up uses the medium quite well as well. The whole "chapter" looks quite cool.

The trade paperback anthology concludes with "Living Doll," which rather abruptly ends the Dawn subplot of the Season Eight stories. Dawn, once again transformed, finds herself in the forest near the castle at the mercy of a dollmaker. A tiny porcelain doll, she tries to organize the other dolls into an army to escape or overthrow the dollmaker, but they will have none of that. This forces Buffy to actually look in on her little sister and she and the team investigate exactly what happened to Dawn. This leads Andrew to meet with the Thricewise and doll Dawn to finally make peace with him.

"Living Doll" is a mix of good artwork and bad - the fact that Andrew and the Thricewise look virtually identical is disturbing - but it is creative and it restores Dawn to a human form that most fans will appreciate. As well, it has a decent sense of character development to it. Beyond that, the story seems rather abrupt and like a placeholder.

The trade paperback anthology comes with a cover gallery from the issues as they were originally released. This makes it a "no loss" experience for those buying the trade paperback anthologies as opposed to collecting the actual comic books. The gallery and the Harmony pages at the back are quite cool.

Ultimately, though Predators And Prey seems like it is trying to speed up the concept of the eighth season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and while I enjoyed it and enthusiastically recommend it (especially to fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer), it has little enduring value outside that group of already-established fans. Fortunately, there is a sense of movement and it does make the reader wonder what is coming next!

For the other volumes in Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight, please check out my reviews of:
The Long Way Home
No Future For You
Wolves At The Gate
Time Of Your Life


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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