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Graphic Novel Review: Buffy Season Eight Volume Five: Predators And Prey by Whedon and Jeanty

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The fifth volume of Buffy Season Eight is patched up from several different short stories, collated together to illustrate a world where vampires are the latest-hottest trend, all thanks to the most clueless, blondest, and shallowest vampire to have ever been undead – Harmony Kendall.

Buffy Season Eight: Predators and PreyRemember Harmony? She was Cordelia’s best frienemy back in high school. Then on graduation day, suddenly a vampire. Then for a while, Spike’s lover. Then LA, where she met Cordelia again, only to prove herself as inadequate a friend and creature-of-the-night as ever. And finally in this volume, a reality show star in the becoming.

While vampires’ popularity is on the rise, slayers suffer from a real bad case of bad publicity, as they are portrayed by the “media” as a bunch of dangerous haters. Could it be that people don’t always get who the good guys are? Do Reality shows really show reality, and are these shows evil? I could think of several real life parallels to those not-so-fictional dilemmas, so the volume’s cute sarcasm did not go unappreciated by me.

The first story of the volume (called “Harmonic Divergence”) lays out Harmony’s road to famedom. How exactly did she become our vamp of the hour? It actually happened by literally sinking her teeth into someone famous, so you could say she blood-sucked her way into fame, only in an empowering way. After receiving enough attention from the biting incident, she sells her idea for a show to MTV (nobody really remembers what these letters stand for… it’s just a popular reality channel now) and the rest is fictional history.

While Harmony is leading her Vida Loca in LA, Buffy fails to recruit a newly discovered slayer. This young slayer doesn’t seem to fall for the somewhat frayed recruitment speech of “together-sisterhood-duty-honor” that Buffy tries to convey by phone. Later on, this slayer tries to answer her calling all by herself, and sadly ends up being killed by Harmony — live on TV — and even presented as the bad-guy who attacked beloved and famous Harmony.

Buffy Season Eight: Predators and PreyNext, in the second story (called “Swell”) we’re back in Japan, where Satsu and Kennedy are the slayers in charge. Vampire craziness is reigning supreme here — in the form of vampy-cat stuffed toys. As you may well imagine, these fluffy undead felines end up being quite murderous little toys.

On the third story (called “Predator and Prey”) Buffy and Andrew go together on a mission to rescue a slayer from a group of other rogue slayers and also a giant spider. It may have been that Andrew created at least part of the problem at hand, just because he felt insecure about being part of the Scooby family.

Meanwhile in the fourth story (called “Safe”), Faith and Giles meet with yet another new and confused slayer. Together they uncover a hideous conspiracy involving the former members of the watcher council. The ex-watchers had allegedly built a “slayer sanctuary” for slayers who don’t wish to follow the path of slayage. Again, as expected, the so-called sanctuary is not really a sanctuary, but more like a death trap instead.

In the last story (Called “Living Doll”) Dawn goes through the last phase of her enchantment-curse where she is transformed into a wooden doll and seized by a very strange doll maker and his other puppets. In the end, she finally amends things with Kenny the Thricewise, who then removes the curse from Dawn, before she may transform further into more disturbing and disgusting things.

At the end of the volume we get two extra short stories that were originally published on “MySpace Dark Horse Presents.” The first one, called “Harmony Bites,” follows one day in Harmony’s life, in which she has an epic word-fight (and some wishful killing) with her best buddy Clem, the saggy and soft-hearted daemon.

The second MySpace story is a crazy little one about a Japanese girl who gets one of these vampy-cat toys mentioned earlier. The vampy-cat ends up eating the brains and innards all of the other cruel kids that made fun of the little girl.

Also worth mentioning, is that the volume includes a cover of a fictional magazine, portraying Harmony on it, along with some funny headlines such as “Does he want to sire you? How to tell for sure!” or “Harm’s closet: Beyond Goth to Glam.” The volume ends up with an interview with Harmony, where we learn about her plans for the future:

“I’ve been toying with the idea of making a pact with the forces below and tapping into some very dark energy at the world destroying level. There’s also a possibility of a country-music album….”

So, what did I make of this volume, written by several different writers? It was easy to read and mostly fun. I liked that it’s composed from several stories and (fictional) magazine scraps, but (and there’s a big but here) the stories were definitely undeveloped, hurried and unrefined. 

The same can be said about the volume’s art by Georges Jeanty, which I’m generally OK with, but in this volume, it was too plain, too generic, inaccurate and generally lacking any impressive scenes or panels.

This wasn’t a bad read after all, but it’s quite hard to tell its added value for the series as a whole. I enjoyed the lightness of the volume, and hopefully the next one is better both in story and art.

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