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Buffy Season Eight: Swell

Harmony: "These slayers hacked, burned, and blew up millions of fluffy stuffed kitties! And why? Because they had tiny little fangs! They hate us so much they're killing toys now."
Larry King: "Well, that's just mean."


The slayers in Tokyo, led by Satsu, are tracking down a huge monster that has ripped off an armored car. Kennedy drops in (literally, by parachute) to check up on them. The monster ripped off a small bag labeled "Santorio Corp." that contains a small stuffed animal toy: a white vampire kitten. It's a prototype of a new toy called "Vampy Cat" due to hit the stores next week, which explains why it was in an armored car, I suppose. Satsu and Kennedy take down the monster and take the Vampy Cat back to the slayer lair.

Night. Quiet. Vampy Cat is sitting on a bench. Vampy Cat moves. Vampy Cat checks out the slayer lair. Vampy Cat pulls itself up on Satsu's bed, where Satsu is sleeping.

The next morning, Kennedy notices that Satsu is not herself. Satsu is talking about giving up girls, kissing boys and having babies, and leaving the slayer life behind because slayers are so evil. Kennedy tries to take Satsu to a local witch and Satsu responds with slayer moves. Big Satsu/Kennedy fight, with Satsu's eyes turning red. A big blow on Kennedy's part knocks a gross-looking, vomit-covered and still aggressive Vampy Cat right out of Satsu's mouth. Yech. Satsu slices and dices it with a handy sword. She's herself again, furious, hitting the mouthwash, and ready for payback.

Kennedy, Satsu and a slayer contingent helicopter to the Santorio Corp. They take out the crumbly guy with red eyes who sent the monster, and hitting the computers, they learn that vampy cat toys just went global, and a half a million of them are on a ship headed for Scotland. Which is why the vampy cat had taken Satsu -- to find out where Buffy was.

On the ship, Satsu and Kennedy are attacked by lots of red-eyed, long-toothed vampy cats and red-eyed, crumbly-looking guys. A head vampy cat, growing absolutely huge and looking like a panda on acid pretending to be the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, spouts a lot of misogynistic, slayer-hating crap. It says, "We are the Swell! We are legion!" The Swell work for Twilight.

Satsu makes vampy cats into chopped up stuffing while Kennedy kicks butt. Vampy cats try to get down their throats. Kennedy sends up a flare. A waiting submarine staffed by slayers torpedoes the ship, and Kennedy and Satsu hit the water as the ship and the huge vampy cat explode.

Kennedy and Satsu report to Buffy and Xander electronically. Buffy instructs the slayers to stay low profile, act human. Public opinion is currently in favor of those harmless, fun vampires and against the slayers. Clip of Harmony on Larry King talking about how persecuted vampires are.

Satsu throws the cinnamon lip gloss (metaphor for her fling with Buffy) in the trash as she leaves the Tokyo slayer lair with Kennedy. Time to move on.


This is the third stand-alone issue in a row, and the second centered around minor characters. I hope this isn't a trend. Although it wasn't bad, for an issue about two minor characters I care nothing about.

Twilight is not only a slayer-hater, he's a homophobe and a misogynist. Even though Twilight doesn't appear, the vampy cats (or Swell, or whatever) were his creatures, and there was a disturbing woman-hating, gay-hating theme.

I did think it was fun to base an issue around two lesbian slayers. Although at this point, I'm more interested in what's going on with the Scoobies as well as the slayers in Scotland. Dare I hope that Kennedy is interested in Satsu? I'd love it if Kennedy were interested in Satsu. Probably not. Sigh.

Bits and pieces:

-- At one point, Satsu said, "Buffy sends the other lesbian slayer to check up on me, and I'm the one you're yelling at?" I'm assuming that with a couple of thousand slayers in the world, more than two of them are lesbians.

-- Apparently, Satsu acquired a submarine because some vamps took it from the Koreans and she took it from the vamps. I'm sure the submarine will be back later, since we were told about it so pointedly.


Satsu: "If Buffy wants to review my ass, she can do it herself. Won't be the first time."
Kennedy: "Don't be a brat, Slinky. That's my profession, and I don't like amateurs crowding me."

Slayer: "Ducking is just as important as the hitting, Ayumi. More. Duck, don't get hit."
Ayumi: "That thing had four arms! I ducked the first three!"

Kennedy: "Oh, my god! What the hell are you wearing?!"
Satsu: "It's a furisode! Girls wear them when they come of age to show they're single and available for marriage. My parents bought it for me, before I destroyed them with my gayness. Ah, they were so right! The whole kissing girls thing? Blechh! Girls should kiss boys and have their babies!"

Kennedy: "I don't know what the geisha's gotten into you, but may we oughta mosey down to your resident witch and--"
Satsu: "Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty slayer!"
Ah, Planet of the Apes. You live forever.

Vampy Cat: "Attack, my brothers! Eat their #%&@ing ovaries!"

Buffy: "All the vampy cat shipments have been destroyed, along with the factory they spawned from. But--"
Satsu: "There's a but?"
Xander: "Big buts come with the slayer territory these days and I probably should have reviewed that sentence before unleashing it on the sensitive womenfolk."

Kennedy: "Not the hey-guess-what?-you-turned-me-gay speech you were probably hoping for, huh?"

A bit better than "Harmonic Divergence,"

Billie Doux reviewed all of Buffy and Angel, so she knows the plural of apocalypse.


  1. I'm glad you're reviewing the Buffy comics again, but I have to say, the fact that you're not enjoying them much really shows. I thought Harmonic Divergence was really bad, maybe the worst of the bunch, but I really loved this issue. Maybe because I actually like Satsu a lot, but also because I thought the whole vampy cat wackiness was hilarious.

    Hopefully the later issues are more to your liking.

  2. Thanks, Emma. In truth, I'm having trouble getting into the comics. It's obvious to me that it's not my medium, and it bothers me that everything seems to go so slowly and not get anywhere. Is season eight forever? Is there a conclusion in mind?

  3. Right Jane Espenson is doing a four issue arc that sees the return of Oz. After that there'll be another multi issue arc by Brad Meltzer before Joss takes over for the last arc that wrap everything up. This all means that season 8 should, hopefully, conclude sometime next year.

    I understand the feeling of things going slowly with theses. I've decided to stop by the individual issues for the time being and instead wait for when the collected edition comes out. That way I can read an entire arc in one sitting instead of over four or five months.

  4. Thanks, Mark. I hate leaving in the middle; I guess I can hang in that long, then. I'd like to see how Joss wraps it up.

  5. Billie, I just read that a one shot with Willow is rumoured to be coming out in November so Retreat Part 5 will probably be December.

    I didn't mind this issue but some of the sexist/homophobic overtones were a bit much though.

    Kennedy might have been right about telling Satsu to get over Buffy but she could've said it in a far less shrill manner.

    Cats are evil in this issue. Good job I'm more of a dog person.

  6. I love the comics.. the storylines are great. Harmony actually ended up being a problem for Buffy just like the always wanted (in a Harmony type way) Maybe now they'll finally kill her off :P

    But everything comes together and it's so great seeing all my fav characters kicking ass with no budget to worry about.

    Definitely no dont stop reviewing these!

  7. I understand how you're feeling about the comics, Billie. I am a comic fan, but not a massive one. I have enjoyed some of the major comic books like Watchmen, which was a really brilliant story. But part of the appeal stems from being able to buy the complete Watchmen story in one volume with all 12 issues, forming a complete story.

    I have enjoyed Buffy comics before. I thought Fray, Tales of the Slayers and Tales of the Vampires were great stories. A lot of the other comics were quite poor in my opinion, because there was so little involvement from people like Joss and Mutant Enemy. Part of the appeal was the fact that Frey was conceived as a miniseries, so you can buy it now and get the whole story in one book without having to wait for months.

    So having mild interest in comics I was very excited about season 8. In some ways it has lived up to my expectations, in others it hasn't quite. Even in the issues written by Joss, a lot of the dialogue just doesn't sound quite like it did in the show, except the odd line. I don't know whether that is due to the written word not being able to do justice to lines the actors would have been able to deliver well, or whether the writing just isn't quite as sharp.

    But there is a lot about the series to like. I think it's definitely a brave decision to make it on such an epic scale because that was the direction the end of season 7 dictated. And in some ways I think the structure of the story arcs fit that very well. Having four part arcs either preceded or followed by a one-off story gives it a nice rhythm, quite similar to the TV show, where there is room between story arcs to have stand alone episodes which could just be funny or entertaining without being directly connected to the main story.

    One of the problems with this format is that it can be hard to give all of the characters "page time", for example after Faith and Giles appearing in the No Future for You arc ending with volume 9they don't show up until volume 24, which is quite a break for two important characters.

    I think with volumes 21-25 they have deliberately decided to break from the "4 part arc plus one standalone" format in order to tie up some threads from earlier issues and check in with some of the characters we haven't seen that much of, like Andrew and Kennedy, and reintroduce Giles and Faith. I know that characters like Andrew, Kennedy, Satsu and Harmony don't appeal to everyone but I think it's a good decision simply to keep broadening the story, introducing more strands and giving a little more variety. Having the gang holed up in the castle in Scotland isn't going to work forever because they have to either wait for trouble to find them or leave in order to find it.

    I'm not sure why it doesn't bother me that much that we aren't getting to see as much of the main characters everyone actually cares about because of the diversions into minor characters. It's possibly because I just don't care about them as much on the page as I did seeing them on screen.

    I don't know why, but the Harmonic Divergence issue really worked for me. I think part of it is that it leads to a massive and interesting upheaval in the Buffyverse (although one that does feel quite similar to True Blood). Of course it wasn't entirely believable, but in its satire upon our shallow celebrity and reality TV based culture it worked completely. The overt cruelty of reality TV show and the mental/emotional pain it often inflicts upon its participants often has me wondering when it will eventually branch out into physical pain or death. It's extremely unlikely but when it has been explored in sci-fi like Dr Who it's funny how little needs to be changed to turn familiar TV shows into frightening dramatic concepts. "With the lowest amount of public votes, you have been evicted from the Big Brother house. You will now be killed."

  8. I think they could have introduced an element of realism into the story in order to make the widespread acceptance of vampires and condemnation of slayers a little more believable, for example even a quick page showing Harmony being put on trial for murder, being freed for arguing self-defence, and the trial being another media storm. But to viewers it was shown that the slayer attacked Harmony first, there is a massive pop-cultural fixation on vampires at the moment with Twilight and True Blood and there has possibly been anti slayer propaganda fuelled by the bank robbing and chaos created by Simone and her gang, which Buffy did participate in at the start too!

    My only real frustration is that it does take so long for the story to develop. Because of the nature of comics, you can imagine each issue being expanded and deepened to fill a 45 minute TV episode. But as they are, 20 or 30 issues would not have been able to provide the same satisfaction as a 22 episode season of the show, so I think it's understandable that they might have to go up to 40 or 50 issues. The problem is the waiting we have to endure for all of these issues to be released.

    I have been following the comics via the trade paperbacks. I think it's preferable to buying individual issues because it's nice to get a substantial story in one volume, but only two or three are released each year, so again there's no denying that we're still only halfway through a season after two years of releases. It's definitely a slow schedule, but I do think it will be worth it in the end.

    And Billie, I would strongly recommend the Tales of the Slayers book if you want an anthology of intelligent slayer based stories. Fray also works brilliantly as a complete story and I found the characters much more likeable and the future world easier to understand. But I understand if you don't want to investigate them sometime, the comic as a medium just isn't satisfying for some people.

  9. Thanks, Marc. Very strong, well-thought out comments. I think that as you said, the comic as a medium just isn't satisfying for me. I thought it would be. I was into them for awhile when I was a teenager, and I read books constantly, so I'm definitely a reader. We can never choose what we like, though. It chooses us.


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