Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 8, Issue 21
Script: Jane Espenson, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Michelle Madsen, Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy
Executive Producer: Joss Whedon
Cover: Jo Chen
Blurb: Twilight and his goon squad bombed Buffy's Scottish castle, and forced the Slayers to flee their high-tech palace for more modest accommodations. Now they must reorganize and continue their fight against the forces of evil.
Unfortunately for Buffy, and Slayer legions spanning the world, the desire to protect humanity is undermind by a sudden need to hide from it.
Welcome to the new world order.
Page 01: We open on a pretty blonde with lovely blue eyes smiling a wide grin. She complains, "But I want in!"
Page 02: This is Harmony. She is standing outside of a swank club where a bouncer decides if you should be allowed in or not. Harmony doesn't get the nod. Plus, she's carrying around two Pomeranians, and the club doesn't allow animals inside either.
Someone vaguely familiar arrives and the papparazi go wild (this will end up being Andy Dick, which explains why he was only vaguely familiar).
Commentary: Actually, I thought at first that Harmony was Buffy (what with her eye color constantly changing) and Andy Dick could just as easily be Spike in William-attire.
Page 03: Harmony catches Andy's eye and he delays his entry into the club to say hi to her. She quickly takes him to an alley nearby.
Page 04: Harmony is totally getting her skank on in an alley, desperate as she is to "touch fame" ... uh, okay (Andy Dick?)....
The paparazzi have followed Andy Dick into the alley, though and are busy taking photos of him in this 'compromising position', as we note that Harmony is spending time around his neck. He looks very happy.
Page 05: Harmony has turned toward the cameras, and she is in full-on game face. Andy's neck is showing signs of having been bit, but he's more blissfully spaced out then dead. Harmony's voiceover tells someone to check out how hot she looks.
Page 06: Harmony is sitting in her room, looking at us. She addresses us with how much she likes her headshot. Incongruously, which is a word you can use to describe Harmony a lot, she's surrounded by pink and teddy bears and unicorn statues.
The tabloids have a field day with the photo of her in vampire face, blood running over her plump lips. They scream the headline, "Hot Vamp Gets Taste of A. Dick", cleverly.
Page 07: Well, the next thing we know, Harmony has gotten herself a powerful agent and is pitching a reality show to MTV about her daily exploits with her friends (to be cast later). She mentions the curiousity that men have nowadays, since they've learned that vampires can bite people without killing them.
Commentary: Angel's comic exploits are never specifically mentioned, but Harmony doesn't comment on the revelation that vampires are real. I think this is a hint/attempt to tie the two titles together. Vampires are already known in L.A. due to "Angel: After the Fall". Harmony's reveal isn't that she is a vampire, but that she can give men a contact high by biting them, but not killing them.
Page 08: It doesn't take long for Harmony to expand on Angel's local fame into a more U.S. market. She's been given her "reality show" with a storyline and everything and is living the low-rent personality dream.
Which is where Buffy and Willow pick up on what is happening in America. Harmony makes People magazine.
Page 09: She has billboards hawking her show. "Harmony Bites" goes into production on MTV's schedule.
In the meanwhile, elsewhere, a young woman complains that "But I want out". It's not about a swanky club and being seen though. She's the member of a gang, and her sisters aren't taking her wanting to leave the life too well.
Page 10: As the girl is being beat up by her former gang-mates, we see her Slayer-power activate. She gets a smile on her face and realizes in that exact moment that everything has just changed.
Commentary: And here is where things start to go awry. I thought we were flashing back to "BTVS: Chosen" here, and this would be taking place right after Willow's big spell, but it will turn out that isn't actually true. Which means, this Slayer isn't activated during the spell, but over a year later (as S8 is taking place a year after Sunnydale's implosion). This creates a huge problem that isn't addressed in any way.
We know this is taking place more or less currently, because Harmony's billboard is up while our Latina is confronting her gang about getting out. But, if she is a Slayer, shouldn't she have already been active? Why is she just now being Called?
Page 11: Our new Slayer feels completely free, probably for the first time in her life. She feels that her good luck won't last though. She sees the cheapy commercial that Andrew and Vi made to ask girls who are experiencing 'symptoms of great strength and dreams of being other girls' to call for assistance, but chooses not to contact them. About a week later, Andrew Wells finds her instead.
Page 12: Andrew tells the new Slayer that vampires are all about finding people who turn toward power because they have none of their own, only to then find themselves victimized by it. This strikes a chord with our young lady, describing her reasons for joining her gang, only to have them turn on her. She tells him she's in, and he makes a call to Buffy for her to speak to about her new destiny.
Page 13: As Buffy talks about Honor, Duty, Giant Snakes and Evil Candy, she sounds more like she's shouting slogans, than making a pitch. After the new Slayer hears "Togetherness! Unity! Sisterhood!", she hangs up on Buffy. This is sounding far too much like the things she heard when she was recruited into the street gang for her. This Slayer decides to go it alone.
Commentary: It's interesting that everyone wants to compare Buffy and the Slayers to something generally bad. General Voll considers them terrorist cells, he's also compared them to undisciplined armies and now our new Slayer compares her fellows to a street gang. This is just a hint of Buffy's future troubles as related to the Slayers' image, as Harmony and Angel gain in popularity and a 'celeb-culture' expands around vampires in general. Naturally, this can easily all be read as meta - what with 'True Blood', 'Twilight Saga', and the popularity surrounding Buffy/Angel's doomed romance and Spike's general popularity among the fandom, despite being an evil vampire throughout much of BTVS. Notice, too, that in the background Dawn is a centaur, so this is happening in 'real time', rather than in a flashback - so we have that timing problem of the Slayer's calling still hanging there, unexplained.
I also find interesting the way that Buffy's dialog is handled... it almost has the air of rote about it. Like she's given this pep talk so often that she doesn't even hear her words, anymore. She's just paraphrasing Giles' words to her in S1 and is repeating them without really remembering what sort of life that she's recruiting these girls into.
Page 14: Late that night, the new Slayer has gotten a tattoo to cover over her gang sign. Harmony comes bustling in to consider getting a tattoo on camera for her show. One of the script-runners or something shares with the Slayer that he doesn't think Harm's show is likely to make it, because nothing much has been happening on 'Harmony Bites'.
Commentary: We'll note that Clem has become one of Harmony's hanger-on assistants, which for some reason I can't explain really disappoints me in him.
Page 15: She asks about meeting Harmony alone, and he mentions that isn't likely. He tells her that there is a party at the show's rented house later though. They're looking for good-looking extras to fill out the scene. She puts a half-baked plan in motion to rid L.A. of one of its rising profile vampires.
Page 16: Our Slayer gal has gotten dolled up and she gets in, though her stake is confiscated. One of the vacuous party guests exclaims how wonderful it feels to get bitten, to our Slayer's revulsion. The show's producer or director or whatever shouts that the music is about to start and he needs everyone to party when Harmony and her 'friends' make their entrance.
Commentary: Reality Show. Right.
Page 17: As Harmony makes her big entrance, she's arguing with her "boyfriend" about dating other people, with him begging her to vamp him. She's non-committal. In the meantime, the director is yelling at the party-people not to look at Harmony and not to look into the camera.
Our Slayer, seeing her chance, looks for a piece of wood and focuses in on the clapper board in a stagehand's hand.
Page 18: She yanks it apart into a makeshift stake and rushes up the grand staircase for Harmony. Before she can go through with it, though, one of Harm's dogs runs past her and jumps on Clem's head, creating a distraction for the untrained Slayer. She more falls into Harmony, than makes a tactical strike.
Page 19: She gets in a good blow, sending Harmony's face to collide with the floor, but she's lost her makeshift stake in the fall. In the meantime, the camera crew, sound people, lighting, etc. are all surrounding them. A photographer is taking pictures and the flash distracts our unfocused Slayer, allowing Harmony to elbow her in the stomach and knock her off with a blow to the face.
Harmony's hand finds the clapboard stake.
Page 20: But just because she hasn't had formal training yet, doesn't mean the Slayer can't fight. She was in a gang after all... plus those inate abilities. Harmony takes a well-shod foot to the face and goes crashing through the railing. She falls to the floor below, but is able to land on her feet - though she complains it killed her ankles. Harm's is terrified because she recognizes she's facing a Slayer, but also because she fears everyone will be on her side and it'll hurt her show.
The Slayer dives over the balcony for her, while Harms flinches away - holding the stake up... and sending it right into the young woman.
Page 21: In front of the cameras, she clamps down on the Slayer's throat, killing her, which MTV has no qualms about airing in all of its bloody gore.
Later, Andrew and his Slayers, and Buffy and the Scoobies see the clips that have been playing all over the television. Far from turning people off to Harm's show, though, it just causes a ratings explosion. The sudden popularity of Harmony kicks off a wave of copy-cat vampire television ideas. Worse though, is that the young woman killed is turned into the villain of Harmony's 'storyline'... and by extension, the Slayers are turned into the villains.
Page 22: Buffy consults with Andrew as both are watching Anderson Cooper 360, where the shadowy Slayer Organization is the topic of interest. The special guest? Harmony, of course. Willow is left to exclaim that she doesn't think people realize they're the good guys, while Buffy says in shock that everyone has to know the vampires are the evil ones, right?
Commentary: Unfortunately, I could actually see this scenario play out like this, with cable news personalities questioning who decides who's evil, and a vampire with a bubbly personality completely warping the public's sense of what a vampire actually is... again, see Spike and Buffy fans (myself largely included - I'm in love with S5 Spike).
The Good: There is a large Meta-Contingent to this issue, with some clever observations about our culture's love for the blood-sucking fiends we should be hating.
It's nice to check in with Harmony ... and we get to see Clem!
I liked the Slayer and Harmony fighting one another in cocktail dresses... and it's nice when everyone remembers that despite being kind of pathetic, Harm is still a preternatural being, even if she won this fight by complete happenstance and the Slayer's inexperience.
The Bad: Well, I don't think this issue is nearly as clever as it thinks it is. Yeah, yeah... fans of vampires/celebrity culture/Hollywood's refusal to be in the 'real world'/the Slayers are totally like a gang. This all seems too obvious and very L.A., which is why I'm not a huge fan of Meta unless it's handled with a deft and light touch, which this issue isn't an example of.
Other Thoughts: In addition to the problem with the Slayer not having been called before without explanation, I also don't really like the can of worms that opens up with everyone the world over now knowing about the supernatural and the Slayers. I just don't see how you can introduce this if you're not ready to also deal with the radical effects this knowledge would have on modern civilization. Vampires existing open up too many theological questions regarding demons and God for it not to have some radical effects ... especially in less secular world cultures, and S8 has not been very good about following up on these 'huge issues' they introduce for the sake of a plot point or a throwaway line. I fear we'll see no impact from this... which is something that at least is being dealt with in Angel's comic with his local celebrity profile.
The Score: I like Harmony, but I just didn't find this issue to be clever or interesting. In fact, I was kind of bored by it...
2.75 out of 5