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Buffy #22 ... reviewed









Buffy #22


'Swell'


Script: Steven S. DeKnight, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Michelle Madsen,
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt, Exec. Producer: Joss Whedon

Alternate Cover by: Georges Jeanty, Dexter Vines, Michelle Madsen


Blurbing: Twilight and his goon squad bombed Buffy's Scottish castle, and forced the Slayers to flee their high tech palace for more modest accomodations. 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 Japenese man yelling something. He's lying across a panel of shattered glass, blood splashed on his face. Someone off panel is asking what he is saying.


Commentary: Just for future comic book creators, you can never go wrong with opening on a panel with a bloodstained face.


Page 02: The gentleman is lying in the wreckage of a truck. We're in Japan where we've joined two Slayers looking down on him. One of these is Satsu, now in charge of the contingent there. The man was yelling about a giant monster.

Over the radio, another Slayer reports that she's found the creature - whatever it is - but her transmission is cut off by an obviously connecting blow.


Commentary: Satsu was placed in charge of the Japanese Slayers during the "Wolves at the Gate" adventure (#12-15) after a tryst with Buffy ended. It was decided it would be awkward for Satsu to stay on Buffy's team, what with her being in love with Buffy and the lead Slayer (and her boss) not being able to return that depth of feeling.


Page 03: When Satsu catches up to the battle, she finds a vaguely reptilian creature with four arms. What she should have been watching for though, is the tail. She cuts off one of its arms, but then gets clobbered.

Fortunately, from off panel, there is a electrical arc of some sort, because the creature gets zapped.


Page 04: The zapper was Kennedy, parachuting in with a fancy, big gun. Satsu is resentful of Kennedy dropping by, as she is there to run a performance review of the new cell leader. They exchange words while the creature is out of it.



Satsu resents Buffy sending in Kenn to perform the review, rather than coming herself. Kenn tells her to stop being a brat, as that is Kennedy's job and she doesn't like amateurs crowding her.


Commentary: I may not exactly like Kenn, but I do like that she recognizes her own faults and jokes about them. And, she's less grating in this issue than she was in BTVS: S7 and in past issues of S8. We can also tell that Satsu's problem isn't really that Buffy didn't drop by personally to evaluate her leadership, as the reasons she believes that Buffy may be avoiding her. I also find it really interesting that the writer here refers to the Slayer contingents as "cells", which is exactly what the Twilight General called them ... terrorist cells. Does that have a deeper meaning? Are we being subtly told that the Slayers may not be the good guys they think they are? Buffy has been robbing banks after all to finance her operations ... is that really far different than laundering money through them?

I find all of this deeply troubling. I like my Slayers as the good guys, full stop.


Page 05: The creature comes to, but a partner-kick between Satsu and Kennedy sends the creature off of a bridge. Of interest however, is the bag that the monster was carrying. A bag that is still being clenched by the hand attached to the arm which Satsu had sliced off with her katana.

As Satsu is retrieving the bag, she and Kennedy continue to discuss the situation with Buffy. Satsu's kiss, which awoke Buffy from her coma-spell cast by Amy (back in "The Long Way Home", #1-4), is mentioned. Kennedy points out that Satsu may have felt 'true love', but Buffy was never gay, despite their recent couple of nights of passion.

Satsu is resentful again that Buffy appears to have sent the other lesbian Slayer to talk to her, rather than treating her like any other team leader. Kennedy tells her Buffy didn't "send her", she volunteered to come to Japan, but Satsu returns that she volunteered because she's the other lesbian Slayer, so the resentment stands.


Commentary: Just where did the other Slayers go, however? Suddenly, Kenn and Satsu appear to be the only ones who were fighting the monster, so that they can have this chat.


Page 06: Kennedy has some more advice for Satsu in relation to getting over the straight girls, but then turns attention to her official reason for being there. She wants to start the evaluation with the bag Satsu retrieved.


Page 07: The thing in the bag is nothing more than a weird little moppet-critter... a stuffed doll called a "Vampy Cat". It is a variant of the "Happy Cat" brand of cutey-dolls, which is the Buffyverse version of the real world "Hello, Kitty" phenomenon, I'm guessing.


Commentary: I don't understand this phenomenon, so can't speak to it. I don't get "Pokemon" either. But, since I was into Thundercats for awhile, I'll assume the same principal is at work. You can tell we're copying Kitty because of the cat motif, but also because Kitty is produced by Sanrio, Cat is being produced by Santorio..., which isn't at all important actually.


Anyway, Satsu complains that vampires are not cute and fluffy. Kennedy puts the blame on Harmony's reality show taking off and making the public stupidly swallow the "undead bull" about being the victims of the big, bad Slayers (see issue 21).


Page 08: We leave the Slayers complaining to join our formerly four armed creature. He's in a lab of some sort, telling a - barely - human? demon in human guise? - man that the Slayers took the bait. The whatever-he-is compliments him on his work, and then offer his reward ... a quick death. Behind him, in shadow, is a vaguely teddy-bear shape with red glowing eyes matching our mysterious man.

Back at Slayer HQ, our little Vampy Cat doll animates....




Page 09: Unnoticed, it toddles around the HQ until it reaches Satsu sleeping. It 'vamps out' with glowing red eyes like both the mysterious man and the giant-teddy shape have.


Page 10: The next morning Kennedy is surprised to see Satsu made up like a geisha. What's more surprising is that Satsu explains she is wearing a special kimono to indicate that she is single and available for marriage. She complains that the Slayers should be finding husbands and being more meek and making normal babies. Further, they should all be ashamed of themselves for bringing so much misery and violence into the world with their behavior.

Kennedy naturally notices that Satsu is not sounding the least bit like she had just the night before. Plus, she's incessantly grin-y and bubbly. Kenn puts her hands on Satsu's shoulder and sensibly suggests they see the resident witch for a look.


Page 11: Satsu's answer to this is: a backhand, a rant about Slayers being the evil ones, and an insult toward Kenn's lesbianism.

Kennedy reacts the way she usually does... beating the crap out of the clearly possessed Satsu. Everyone can tell she's possessed by the black eyes with red pupils.




Page 12: Kennedy's kneeing Satsu in gut caused her to vomit up, and impressively, Vamp Cat comes rushing out of her gullet. It reports, out loud, to its "brothers" that it has been discovered. It leaps onto Kennedy, but is quickly sliced down.


Commentary: Uh... well, maybe you were discovered because you didn't even try to blend in? Because you immediately attacked everyone around you? Because you completely abandoned your host the second that resistence was met?

I hope this was an imperfect prototype thing, because this seemed like a really crappy plan to infiltrate the Slayers and take them over. Now, either this is an imperfect plan by the bad guys, or it's just crappy plot mechanics... we'll have to wait and see how it shakes out.


Page 13: Satsu is appalled by her traditional garb. She's also not happy with the taste of Vamp Cat body she can't get rid of.

The Slayers load up into a 'coptor and head for the Corporate HQ of the Vamp Cat producers.


Page 14: At the Santorio Corp., they find out mysterious man... he's lying dead, his bodily fluids sucked dry. The implication being he was possessed when we saw him, which is why he had red eyes and looked wrinkly. He's not the only one in that condition.

Satsu directs one of her subordinates to hop on a terminal, reminding the others that the Vamp Cat mentioned 'brothers'. They find out that a shipment of Vamp Cat dolls have left on a cargo ship already. That ship is carrying a half million of the "dolls" destined for Scotland ... and Buffy, Satsu realizes.

Kennedy realizes that the reason Satsu was invaded was to pull the location of their HQ from her memory.


Commentary: Things brings up a question about the Vamp Cat demons: Could they only communicate with each other verbally, and ergo outside of their hosts? Because that would explain why the doll wasn't too concerned with exiting Satsu. It's still a clumsy plot device though - it could just as easily stayed hidden, exited Satsu while she slept and then relayed the information and made its escape in the night. Also, whoever had taken control of the Santorio Corp. must not be involved in the Twilight Conspiracy because they apparently don't know that the Slayer HQ was destroyed ("Time of Your Life", issue 16-19).


Page 15: On board the freighter, Daikaiju, the crew are looking very much like the corporate people... all wrinkle-faced with the red eyes going. Kennedy and Satsu have managed to board, though it happened off-panel, somehow. They thought they'd done so undiscovered with Satsu carrying explosives, but they're discovered before they can begin to plant them.


Page 16: When Kennedy kicks out at the Captain of the ship, he literally falls to ashy pieces, his body being a dried out husk from being possessed by the Vamp Cat in him. The rest of the little demons also explode out of their host bodies to attack, leaving their hosts to fall into ashy heaps on the deck.


Commentary: The demon-Vamp-Cats also seem to have a misogynist streak ... first it was Possessed!Satsu insisting the Slayers should find husbands and have lots of babies, now the lead Vamp Cat in the assault specifically yells to eat the Slayer's ovaries. What is up with that?


Page 17: The Slayers are more powerful, but the Vamp Cats have the numbers. They try to invade the Slayer's mouths, but are unsuccessful.


Page 18: The Slayers seemed to have mostly won against their furry opponents when the deck start rumbling.

From the cargo hold, a giant Vampy Cat explodes up through the deck. The Swell reports that they are legion as Kennedy and Satsu are confronted with a giant Vampy Cat that is actually made up of hundreds of mini-Vampy Cats. He's like Devastator.




Page 19: Satsu reaches into her pack, and what I thought was dynamite, was actually flares. She lights one and the Gestalt Vampy Cat laughs off the threat of her "little sparkler".

The Gestalt also reports that they are in fact working for Twilight to defeat the Slayers by targeting their HQ and Buffy.


Commentary: And, naturally we'll have to fan-wank this now, because it's a screw up. Twilight's organization couldn't have sent these critters to the destroyed HQ, because they makes no sense. I can only think that the Vampy Cats are an outsourced contractor who didn't get the memo about the successful missile attack or they were being sent specifically to make sure that Buffy was killed and to clean up the scattered Slayers. Twilight had no way of knowing that Buffy herself wasn't in Scotland at the time - she was off in the future facing Fray and Dark Willow.


Page 20: Satsu's flare wasn't meant to attempt to torch the Gestalt Giant Vampy Cat however. It was to signal the submarine that the Slayer got ahold of!

They fire two torpedoes on the stricken freighter!


Page 21: Just as the torpedoes strike, Kennedy and Satsu abandon ship, with Satsu grabbing Kennedy to throw her over the side into the sea below.

Kennedy expresses shock at the Slayers even having a sub as this wasn't reported by them. Satsu tells her that vampires took it from the North Koreans and she took it back. She further tells her she was going to report it right after she got done playing with it.

You might expect Kennedy to be a bit bitchy about this (I did), but she breaks out into a huge grin and tells Satsu her evaluation is getting a huge smiley face.

In the meanwhile the cargo ship, and presumably the Vamp Cat Gestalt being are immolated and sent to the bottom of the ocean.


Commentary: Now, the sub is followed up on, but I can't help but think that there was a really wasted opportunity here. Wouldn't it have been clever if the Slayer Organization found a new HQ in North Korea?! In exchange for giving them their submarine back? How weird would it have been for the Slayers to find refuge in a nation whose regime is considered rogue by the international community, at the same time that they're already considered terrorists by Twilight (and by implication, the U.S. Government)?

It would have added to reasons for the government to consider them terrorists, while at the same time adding to this ongoing undercurrent of the Slayers not being the big heroes that Buffy meant them to be. She's already (by her thinking) been forced into a criminal activity to take care of her girls (the bank robberies) and now she could have (again, by her thinking) been forced to seek refuge in a despised nation in order to regroup ... each action taken designed to help the Slayers be heroes to the world, but each decision pushing them into destroying their reputations and turning more of the world against them, which seems to be the big arc for this season.

Wouldn't that have been more interesting than retreating to Tibet (despite the fact that I liked Oz, he could have come back in S9 instead)?



Page 22: But, back to what actually happens: Back in Japan, Kennedy and Satsu have reported into Buffy and Xander. Buffy reports that the other teams have intercepted the Vamp Cats being distributed and their factory. But it isn't nearly all good news!

Harmony has gone onto Larry King Live to complain that the Slayers' hatred knows no bounds. She whines that they've targeted fluffy, stuffed kitties for no other reason than that they had fangs. She makes it seem that their hatred of vampires is not only extreme, but completely unreasonable, driving them to disgusting acts against anything remotely with long teeth. Larry King points out that they're just so mean.

Satsu complains about the coverage and further wants to know why Harmony hasn't been introduced to a stake yet. Buffy replies that the last thing they need is for Harmony to be turned into a vampire-rights martyr. Until they can prove they're the good guys, they'll have to go underground to continue the fight.


Commentary: Buffy has a point here. I always wondered why Harmony has been allowed to walk free... except for her value as cheap comedy relief, of course ... but this explains nicely why Buffy wouldn't order her taken out. I'm glad of Harmony's use here to make the point that Buffy hasn't ignored her presence (the way she's ignored Dracula's, in my opinion) but that there is a tactical reason behind not killing her at this time.


Page 23: There's more discussion about the Slayers having to do and be better. Satsu agrees, throwing out her cinnamon lip gloss and telling Kennedy that they all need to take on a new flavor, which ties back to Kennedy making the same sort of comparison in her talk with Satsu about her getting over Buffy and finding a girl who can return her love....


The Good: The artwork is really strong in this one. I love the look of the cutey-vampy cats and the gruesome look of their zombie-like victims.

I actually liked Kennedy in this one - much less abrasive than she's usually portrayed. I also thought Satsu was well handled.

In fact, I liked the story and writing in this one a lot (with those minor caveats I'll mention below).

The continued transformation of Harmony from comedy relief to someone who is actually having a major impact on the Slayers' relationship with the rest of the world is interesting to me. I like that she's being taken a bit more seriously as a vampire and that she has basically stumbled into a new role as a spokesperson for 'vampire rights'.


The Bad: I really wish they hadn't tied The Swell into the Twilight plot. It just comes across as clumsy since targeting Buffy's HQ is dumb since it was already destroyed, with no explanation and this possessing dolls thing just doesn't seem like a Twilight-like plot. I don't see the organization, and especially General Voll tolerating so many human deaths by demonic fluffy toys in a half assed plot to finally make it to Buffy, assuming that Twilight somehow knew that she wasn't in Scotland when the missile hit (which turns out to be true). This would have been better as an independent demon plot.


Other Thoughts: Those caveats are how quickly and rather stupidly Satsu's possessor rousted himself from her. He could have been far more effective by not making it so obvious that there was something wrong with the host.

I'm also disappointed that they introduced the North Korean submarine, both because it was ham-handedly convenient and because they missed an obvious story idea. Plus, I'd like to know how Harmony would even be aware that the Slayers were the one targeting the Vamp Cat toys. A simple line of dialog would have made it clear about whether she's assuming it was them, or if there were actually witnesses to put the Slayers 'at fault'.

Finally, weird that no one wonders the exact involvement of the corporation in all this... were they part of the plot, made victims? Was this a demon deal (to challenge 'Hello, Kitty' in the market maybe) gone wrong? Were they just plain victims (maybe the CEO was taken over at some point)? We don't hear anyone wonder about it at all.

I liked the play on Japanese culture, in this case the "Hello, Kitty" and "DaiKaiju" phenomena. This also follows up on the Kaiju traits referenced in "Wolves at the Gate" in which Godzilla and his foes were mirrored several times.

I'm also happy that Satsu wasn't completely forgotten the moment that she transferred to Japan and that Kennedy is shown with a life outside of being Willow's girlfriend.


The Score: This was really a bit of fluff, being a single issue, but I really had fun reading it: 3.75 out of 5.


-end-
Tags: buffy season 8 reviews
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