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Whedon Weekly: Harmony Bites and Dr. Horrible Wins

Welcome to the first installment of Whedon Weekly, a weekly feature devoted to the goings-on of writer/director/generally awesome person Joss Whedon. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator has a lot on his plate right now: he returns to TV after almost five years with next month's Dollhouse, debuting on the ominous date of Friday, February 13; he's involved in two comic book spin-offs of his work, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight and Angel: After the Fall, both of which are canonical continuations; he's gearing up for production on the horror film The Cabin in the Woods; and there might even be a Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog sequel at some point.

So, my fellow obsessives, the week in Whedon:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #21: "Harmonic Divergence"

Written by Buffy stalwart Jane Espenson, "Harmonic Divergence" finds the Buffyverse at an interesting crossroads. Bubble-headed vampire Harmony, previously Spike's girlfriend and Angel's assistant at Wolfram & Hart, apparently escaped being sucked into the hell dimension that consumed the rest of Angel's employ (as can be seen in After the Fall) to find stardom on an MTV reality show called Harmony Bites. The fine folks at Dark Horse Comics went all-out for this one, creating a MySpace page, putting out an online strip written by Espenson and drawn by Karl Moline of Fray fame, and drafting Espenson to write an in-character blog as Harmony over on the actual MTV's website.

Unfortunately, it doesn't entirely live up to the hype, and coming after last month's similarly underwhelming "After These Messages… We'll Be Right Back!," that's a bit of a disappointment. Having written such Buffy classics as "Earshot," "Same Time, Same Place," and "Conversations with Dead People," this isn't the comeback I was expecting from Espenson. The public's acceptance of vampires and Slayers is curiously casual; the way the issue handles it is confusing, to say the least. "Harmonic Divergence" is the first part of a five-issue arc in which vampires gain public support, so there's still time to explain this away, and considering this is the Buffyverse, who knows, it could always just be some sort of magical glamour anyway. Right now, though, it's an uncomfortable starting point.

Which isn't to say that it's bad. Harmony is as ditzy and hilarious as ever, and there's an effective subplot involving a newly-called Slayer who is turned off by Buffy's message of unity and togetherness, which she (perhaps correctly) implies to mean conformity. The girl decides to take on Harmony herself, with less than stellar results. But still, the season seems to be meandering in the wake of Joss' explosive "Time of Your Life" arc, and one hopes it will get back on track soon.

The next issue, "Swell," written by Steven S. DeKnight and illustrated by Georges Jeanty, is due for release on February 4. Also, solicitation info for #24 has arrived, showcasing another beautiful cover by Jo Chen.

Meanwhile, another insightful interview with Jeanty has popped up, and along with it a sketch for a possible future variant cover. We definitely haven't seen this image before, but there's no description accompanying it, so I'm just making an educated guess. It does seem to be a reversal of Chen's cover for #4; there, giant Dawn was holding regular-sized Buffy, while here a regular-sized Buffy is holding a tiny Dawn. Perhaps this is the last of Dawn's three transformations? From a giant to a centaur to Thumbelina. The girl's got no luck.

Blu-ray Blues

Some people seem to be having trouble watching the new Serenity Blu-ray on their PlayStation 3 systems. The movie seems to freeze at 1:12:54, with no way of getting around it. Not everyone is having this problem, though, so the cause is most likely a batch of defective discs; if you're a PS3 owner, be on the lookout.

The Horrible Team Puts Up Lyrics, and Wins the Public's Favor

So, if you're like me, you've already watched Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog an obscene amount of times before its DVD release last month (and you can still catch it online for free). And now that the DVD's here, it just keeps fueling my unhealthy obsession. A big factor in this is Commentary! The Musical, an all new musical sung by the cast and crew with songs almost as catchy as those in the film itself. Well, now our lovely Horrible team — Joss, brothers Jed and Zack, and Jed's fiancée Maurissa Tancharoen — have put up the Commentary! lyrics and liner notes, and now I kind of have to watch it again just so I can sing along. "I'm better, better than Neil…"

About Arlo J. Wiley

  • Shannon Howard

    Espenson’s “Conversations with Dead People” was something I rarely experienced in Whedon’s work–a truly horrifying episode. I love Joss Whedon, but he rarely scared me. Espenson did.