Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Glad to Have Buffy Back

What Is It?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Issue #23: Predators and Prey (written by Drew Z. Greenberg).

Timing: BtVS, Season Eight. Short while after "Swell."

REVIEW: With #20, #21, and #22 really getting far away from the central cast of Season Eight, I was glad to have at least Buffy back in play for this issue. I was even more excited about the prospect of pairing her up with Andrew. When the spotlight shifts to that character, you can always expect to be entertained. I mean, just look at "Storyteller." In the face of darkness, he brings the much needed funny. On writing duties is Drew Z. Greenberg, who joined the writing staff of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the last two seasons. This is by far his best work other than 6x18, "Entropy," but he still hasn't managed to elevate the season back to where it should be and was. The Andrew dialogue is very chuckle-inducing, but Drew Goddard wrote Andrew dialogue that made me crack up. The sheer length of Andrew's raves and rants about pop culture in this book is probably the funniest moment, but I do wish a bit more work had gone into refining each line of dialogue.

What was great here, though, was the relationship between Buffy and Andrew. It's a simple story, showing how Andrew is trying to make up for letting Simone slip through his fingers by catching her, but it's very well told. The comic made me feel like I was watching an episode of the series, and that hasn't happened with Season Eight in quite a while. Buffy's dialogue is on point, and the little we see of Xander was also very well done. I love what Greenberg did with Simone, having her attitude, headquarters, and especially her larger setting as a whole (an island that she basically stole; don't tell Ben Linus) speak for both the crazy place her head is at and how deep the hatred for slayers currently is. For what seems to be a minor part of the issue, it was a great piece of character and plot development.

The one major problem I had with this issue was the climax. This is going to be pretty spoilery for the end of the issue, so highlight to read. (SPOILERS:) After the Italian Branch of Slayers comes to rescue Andrew (and Buffy, as an after-thought, which was a great touch), Buffy frees a Ragna Demon (sort of like the spider demon from Spike's "First Night" story, but much nastier and less human-facey) and leaves the room, shutting the demon in with Simone's slayers. Very odd. Would Buffy really let a demon loose among slayers, no matter how misguided they were? A demon that previously managed to capture a slayer, no less? And wasn't this already done with Angel when he shut the W&H lawyers in with Darla and Drusilla? Repetition of story lines aside, this could have been a great, truly telling moment that showcases how grey Buffy's morality has become. It's hundreds of times worse than her robbing banks, and could have been the character's turning point for the entire season. But it's not played that way. It's played with her taking Andrew home, telling him that he's part of the family and they all mess up sometimes. When Angel did this, it launched an entire beige Angel arc that showed how much he had forgotten what it meant to be a hero. But, in this issue, Buffy just lets the demon loose and then move on. What is going on?

If the ending had been different, this would have been very, very enjoyable. I still like the issue, and still thought the majority of it was good, but I can't get over the carelessness with which the ending was written. The rest was good enough to still give the issue a very high score, though, so there's that.

Art: Jeanty is Jeanty. His likenesses are spot on. The art here does seem rather rushed, and he is definitely giving less detail to characters in long distance shots, which was once his biggest strength. Simone's reaction panel when the Ragna is let loose seems to have been done by a different artist, especially because the colorist makes her blond. On the other hand, there are totally exceptional scenes like the Ragna's "web" of iron and steel. Overall, another good job from Mr. Jeanty.

Covers: As usual, Jo Chen impresses. She gives us the first realistic, painted look at Simone. It's a wonderfully done piece. Her Buffy likeness just keeps getting better and better. When you compare this cover to Chen's first cover of the season, it's phenomenal how much she's improved as an artist. Fantastic work. Jeanty's cover is definitely funny, showing Andrew as a Bond-esque figure with Buffy as his Bond girl. I don't get the logic behind putting it as a photo on a wooden table, which is way too similar to Jeanty's #8 variant. It would have been a better cover had it just been the Buffy/Andrew image as the full sized cover.

Rating: 8/10


Kenictionary said...

I think she had a strong feeling that Simone was going to get out of it alive. They definitely left it open. As where on Angel he was letting everyone die, and knew they would. So I don't think Buffy was too careless. I think it would have been more careless had she done nothing at all.

Wenxian said...

Seventeen Slayers (including Simone) against Shelob-lite... I think the odds are very much in favor of the rogue Slayers making it out alive (at least most of them). There was nothing to stop seventeen pissed off rogue Slayers from gunning the lot of them down as they made their retreat. Simone made it clear; her beef was with Andrew, and I don't think she would have just watched her quarry skedaddle. At least with the Ragna demon loose, it would provide enough of a diversion for Buffy and the rest (including the civilians) to get away safely.

Slayers are hardly defenseless, whereas throwing a couple of really evil vampires at a room full of lawyers, that's just a save the date for a bloodbath.

PatShand said...

Nice on the Shelob reference.

However... it boggles my mind that no one else seems to be bothered by this moment. Wexi, even you stating that "most of them" will make it out alive should show how morally grey, if not borderline black, Buffy's action was. If I bought the suggestion that Simone was going to try to stop them, which I don't think the text suggests at all, it would at least be a BIT easier to swallow. But I hope I'm not the only one that has a problem with Buffy letting a considerably pissed off spider demon out of its cage in a closed room full of slayers that she empowered. Because, as crappy as Buffy was as a person in early Season Seven, she never came close to this before.

Anyone who comments on this post in the future, I'd like it if you can leave your opinion on this matter in addition to any other comment you want to leave about the review. I really want to see how everyone else is reacting.

PatShand said...

BTW, bonus points on counting the number of slayers.

Wenxian said...

Actually, I counted the number of Slayers when Buffy and Andrew first enter the auditorium, and there were twenty girls (that could be seen). Seventeen was just the sixteen that Simone was bragging about, plus her. However, Simone did mention that she had at least one witch with her, so it's possible that some of them were witches.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see where it's textually established that Simone wasn't going to avenge her humiliation. As I said before, it's explicitly stated that Simone wants Andrew, and I doubt she was just going to let him waltz away. In addition, many of the panels have Simone's motley crew carrying various firearms, which does support the view that once there was nothing to stall them, they would be out on the balcony/balconies sniping away. It's pretty clear that Simone is relishing the power she has over regular people, and even more smug when she had a gun leveled at Buffy's chest.

Oh, and another thing... there's nothing stopping Simone and gang from running the heck away. As far as I could tell, they weren't locked in. Plus... it would be a great way to test the "guns=useless" in the Buffyverse argument that Emmie made a while back at SlayAlive. :)

Oh, and about the Shelob reference... I was really waiting for someone to take a crack at it... imagine my disappointment when no one did. *sigh*

Wenxian said...

Just thought I should also note that I was reminded of the scene in AtS where Angel leaves Darla and Dru to feast to their hearts' content. Just saying that objectively, the circumstances are vastly different.
I enjoyed reading your review, despite our disagreement about how that one scene played out.

Anonymous said...

I for one really liked this issue. I've really enjoyed this arc a lot more than Time of Your Life, aside from the absolutely atrocious #21 which I feel was the weakest moment of the series. I agree with you in that it finally felt like watching an episode of the series again, though I actually felt that about last month's as well. The dialogue in this issue was what did it for me, a simple story of how Buffy and Andrew's relationship has evolved over the years told mostly through banter.

I really didn't have a problem with the ending at all. All Buffy did was let the Spider out. Against 17 very well trained Slayers (as Simone and her gang have been said to be) Buffy clearly didn't think there was going to be much of a danger to them (she states as much in the last scene). It was nothing but a diversion to aid their escape. Added to that, Simone already took out the demon with her special gun thingy before, I don't see what would stop her from doing it again. Clearly we will see Simone again this season. I would have felt completely different if Buffy had to kill Simone by the end of this issue.

Andrew is possibly my least favourite character of the series. His integration into the gang pissed me off to no end basically because he was a one note character. With Storyteller, they attempted to tell an Andrew-centric story to make audiences finally feel for the character. I did not. His "redemption" at the end of the episode was forced and only later in the season do we see any real remorse for the murder he committed. But with Season 8 I've slowly been coming around to him. With this issue, I'm on board. This was the right type of redemption for Andrew to make, not forced crying because Buffy was threatening to kill him.

BarryShaft said...

That last one was me, by the way

Tom said...

I generally liked this issue but wasn't blown away by anything in it. Had a little trouble believing aspects of it -- a bunch of slayers just up and take over an island, really? What, the Italian government doesn't care?

The slayers have such awesome satellites that Andrew can remotely monitor all demon activity in Italy from wherever they are at the moment? I dunno, I try to be the kind of reader who'll suspend a moderate amount of disbelief when Joss (or one of his minions) asks me to, but this issue felt like a stretch to me.

I enjoyed the Andrew/Buffy relationship development. And I liked how the team of slayers that burst in near the end seemed to really care about Andrew and have his back.

And I was unfazed by Buffy's releasing the demon at the end -- I never had the sense that the thing was so powerful that it was likely to kill one of Simone's crew. And if one of them did get killed by the demon through sheer bad luck, well, being a rogue slayer is a dangerous business and they knew what they were getting into when they joined Simone. No worries. For me there's really no comparison at all between endangering a group of evil yet vulnerable lawyers, and endangering a group of rogue slayers.

Ral said...

I stopped reading this issue after Buffy released the Ragna demon. I wondered if we had been led to this point or if it was something just completely out of character. But hey, it's been a couple of months without her character front and center so it's possible she has reached her breaking point, what with Twilight and everything in general. I'm just gonna wait and see if they continue with this development or abandon it altogether in the next few issues. Hopefully she had no doubt Simone and her slayers would stop the Ragna when she let it loose, and I can continue liking Buffy for the time being.

Ditto to the not caring one way or the other about Andrew until Season 8.

Loki said...

Since Buffy was standing there arguing with her own slayers that they should take out Simone and her gang right away (which would indubitably cause many casualties), letting the Shelobette out to aid their escape is a step DOWN in violence. It might kill a couple of Simone's people - and it might not - but it certainly will allow for a less number of dead people than any alternative course of action I can see. So that doesn't bother me.

HOWEVER - it does mean someone technically human might die because of something Buffy did. Which isn't a problem to me, in these circumstances, but it IS highly interesting. And that she's this flippant about that is VERY interesting indeed. Not out of character at all, just slightly darker than her previous actions. Which is certainly in line with her development ever since season 6. Big picture trumps over case-by-case morals for the umpteenth time with Buffy in this issue, and I have to say I find it to not only be in character, but a little necessary. In her current position, if enemy casualties regardless of if they happen to be evil demons or eveil humans weren't an option, she would be failing miserably at her entire operation.

In general I liked this issue. I didn't have any single big problems with it, and if there were any small ones they must have been very small because none comes to mind as I type this out. No, it wasn't stellar, but it was entertaining, it was Buffyesque through and through, it moved the plot forward, it felt real and the characters felt right. I ask no more of the single issues. I ask a little bit more of the arcs, but of the single issues, this is as good as I expect them to manage. In other words, I'm pleased.

Loki said...

Oh, and this is probably the very first story where Andrew has interested me enough not to be an annoying presence in the story. (He's often been funny before, but "funny" doesn't annul annoying in my eyes. "Interesting" does.) His entire arc in it was rather touching. And I like how he styles himself Watcher. I wonder what the Watcher's Council Remnant would have to say about that.

Speaking of those guys, I wonder what they're up to.

Bellatrix said...

Hm, I was thinking about the Jeanty cover... I don't see it as a photo on a wooden table, I think. It reminds me more of a wooden door as seen in Andew's room on the last page. There are two posters on the wall, I could imagine this is meant to be a film poster that he would put on his door.
If I see it that way I like the cover even more.