BTVS: Season 8
Issue #23 - "Predators and Prey"
Script: Drew Z. Greenberg
Pencils: Georges Jeanty
Inks: Andy Owens
Colors: Michelle Madsen
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Executive Producer: The one, the only, 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 undermined by a sudden need to hide from it.
Welcome to the new world order.
Commentary: So, let's start the commentary with how much more I liked it when the supernatural wasn't public knowledge. It's just easier to read the stories being told when your brain isn't constantly wondering how the world is managing to go on pretty much as before with this sudden realization that vampires and super-women and presumably magic is now real. This is a relevent concern because of the way that this story is going to play out in this issue and the way it will be basically unresolved to picked up another day (maybe). It just doesn't seem practical that national army and navy forces wouldn't overrun the location of our tale... but we'll get to that in a bit.
Not a Spoiler Free Zone below
Page 01: A pair of green-sneakered feet are running toward us. Over this, a word blurb reports that Slayers aren't just co-workers, but they're family.
Page 02: Our blurb goes on about how if you attack one of the family, you attack them all....
The green sneakers belong to Andrew. He's in Buffy's new ad-hoc HQ. Slamming into the control center, he's warned by Buffy that if slams the door one more time, she'll make him eat it. Andy is very excited about something.
Page 03: Buffy apologizes for her harsh tone and Xander explains they're a bit stressed at the moment with the Harmony-reality-tv-show fallout (i.e. everyone thinks vampires are misunderstood and the Slayers are murderous psychos persecuting them). Andy blows this off in favor of his exciting news.
Which is, he has a lead on Simone's - rogue Slayer - location. This is good news because Simone isn't very stable and has been adding fuel to the anti-Slayer fire with her marauding ways. Buffy tells Andrew they're going after the located Slayer lieutentant, who they'll persuade to give up Simone's hideout.
Andy is excited by the prospect. Xander questions whether Buffy really wants to be trapped for hours and hours of travel with Andy. Buffy retorts that Andrew has totally matured since he'd taken over the Italy branch of Slayers....
Commentary: I suppose this is as good a time as any to discuss Simone. We first met this strong, interesting punk-girl in issue 2. She was a member of Andy's Italy squad and we knew she was going to be a future problem immediately. Simone, you see, wanted to use guns. GUNS! IN BUFFY! Well, we just knew that marked her for evil.
We next get Simone in the background of a scene during a vampire slaying. Although she isn't named, we can recognize it's meant to be her by her hairstyle. The main point of this scene is actually about the Buffy-decoy in issue 5, but after our main character for the issue is bitten saving her fellow Slayer, the girl she saved mentions that Simone wouldn't have had her back like that. Simone isn't a team player or willing to risk herself on behalf of the other barely-known-to-her girls she's fighting side by side with.
When we next see Simone, we're months later in issue 11 and she's gone rogue by that point, taking some of Andy's team with her. They've taken to sporting automatic weapons, robbing what appears to be a warehouse and not being shy about showing up on security cameras. Now, in Issue 10 Buffy's funding mechansim for the Slayer teams was revealed to Willow, who didn't know (though disturbingly, Xander did) - i.e. she robbed banks, justifying it as being a 'victimless crime' because the accounts were either illegitimate, secreted accounts or because everything was insured anyway. Simone is pointed out here that she's just following Buffy's model.
Xander suggests a strike team to go after the rogue Slayers, but Buffy doesn't approve or disapprove. She seems more intent on blaming her poor role modeling to getting after them. Which leads us back to this issue (after I got distracted by my 'Wolves at the Gate' reviews and spent too long not writing this)... Andrew's lead on Simone and her rebellious and criminal group of Slayers.
Page 04: So after assuring Xander that Andrew has matured, we find Buffy trapped with Andy who is prattling on non-stop, jumping from nerdy subject to nerdy subject.
Page 05: Finally, Andy's ramblings include something that Buffy feels she can comment upon... Daniel Craig in his swimtrunks as Bond, James Bond. Andrew states he has no opinion about Craig's swimtrunks, but his facial expression makes his claim dubious.
Commentary: It's okay Andrew... embrace.
Buffy and he find Simone's lieutenant, trapped as she is by a Ragna Spider Demon.
Page 06: Andrew and Buffy look over the demon's "web", made out of steel pipes. Nisha is trapped near the top in a magical glowball, where she waits to be consumed by the spider-demon.
Page 07: Buffy and Andrew climb up to free Nisha, but she's not exactly overflowing with the gratitude. This rankles Buffy, especially since Nisha is pretty sarcastic about it all. Nisha, however, reports that this particular breed of demon died out in the 11th century until *somebody* started experimenting with recombinant DNA in his off hours when bored.
Commentary: Of course, just where did Andrew find the DNA of an extinct demons species? And why, of all the things he could do, did he think it wise to breed a demonic spider back into existence? *SIGH* Joss and company seemed determined to undermine my respect for every single character he ever created.
Page 08: Nisha is freed with a minimum of fuss, but Buffy is far more focused on Andrew's irresponsible extracurricular activity. Which is why she's taken by surprise when a fist comes from off screen and hits her in the back of the head.
Page 09: Simone quickly slaps Andy to the ground as well. She's been teleported in by a powerful Wiccan she's gotten on her side. She complains to Buffy about capturing one of her own, but Buffy insists she come into their custody where they can sort out what she's been up to. Unsurprisingly, Simone doesn't agree with this. She pulls out a gun, but it's an energy zapper and it isn't for Buffy or Andrew, but for the Ragna.
Page 10: Simone, having stunned Andy's creation and temporarily gotten the better of Buffy and he, then teleports out with the Ragna and her compatriot. As Buffy and Andrew make their way down through the steel nest, Andrew explains he created the Ragna to track down Simone to capture her. He feels responsible as her Watcher for her going bad. Worse, he feels like he spent a lot of time to gain the respect of Buffy, Willow and Xander and now he may have blown that by being at fault, as he sees it, by losing control over one of his Slayers (and her recruits).
Commentary: I'm of a mixed mind on Andrew. I appreciate his becoming a Watcher and sticking with Buffy's organization, but I also think he'd be more valuable to her in research rather than leading a team. I think it would be entirely an Andrew thing to do to turn to some mystical means to track Simone, but the whole genetically create an extinct demon to do so smacks of ridiculous plot contrivance. I like that he takes his position in Buffy's group seriously and that he feels responsible for those under his watch, while at the same time wondering how he thought that creating demons was going to impress Buffy or protect the sense of respect he's earned.
I think it comes down to my liking that the writers are keeping Andrew involved and embracing his geekiness and basic personality, but I'm also not entirely happy with how they're developing him.
Page 11: Buffy points out to Andrew that losing a rogue Slayer wouldn't cause her to lose respect for him, hiding his involvement in creating a demon would. Andrew assures her that they'll be able to track the Ragna due to some manipulations he made, particularly inserting radioactive isotopes into it during its creation.
They take off for an island off the Italian coast.
Page 12: Buffy and Andrew are greeted by a little girl when they dock at the island. The girl warns them that they're not supposed to go into the village, because the 'angry woman' has told them that it is hers now. Buffy explains that they're there to "talk to" the angry woman. She tells the girl that someone needs to explain she can't just take over other people's homes.
Page 13: Andrew is able to track the Ragna to the opera house in the center of the village. Before he and Buffy go in for the confrontation, however, Andrew reminds her that he was trying to do the right thing when he created the demon to hunt down Simone. He also feels the need to comment on her love-life, telling her that he is a Spuffy over Bangel fan. He also tells her that even though he's in the minority, he liked it when she cut her hair.
She just gives him WTH looks.
Page 14: Buffy and Andrew go in through the front doors of the opera house, so it's no wonder when they walk right into Simone and her Slayers waiting for them....
Commentary: This struck me as extraordinarily dumb. It didn't take a tactical genius to figure that Simone would be waiting for them to follow behind her and to be ready.
Page 15: Buffy demands the Ragna back. There is concern that Simone will use the demon against innocent people to retain her control. Simone tells her that she doesn't really want to fight her, as she has come to respect Buffy. But, she points out, Buffy is outdated. She points to Harmony's stunt in becoming a tv personality proves that Buffy's way isn't working in this new world. She tells Buffy that there are two kinds of people left in the world, those that hope someone will kill them all and those who will be stupid enough to try. Simone intends to be ready for the latter and to instill fear in the former to keep them from becoming the latter.
Simone considers the island to be a perfect base from which to launch attacks and be the "agents of change and fear we were meant to be".
Commentary: Not only is Simone far more militant than Buffy or even Faith, but she has a really warped sense of what both Slayers and Leaders do. This points to a probable weakness in Buffy's entire setup. We've seen the Slayers doing a lot of practicing to hone their physical skills, but there has been no scenes focusing on their Slayer philosophy. Giles would often lecture Buffy about her duty and it isn't hard to imagine that Buffy would throw that overboard, but listening to Simone and seeing the number of Slayers on her side, I have to wonder if that wasn't a serious misjudgement. She's given power to hundreds of young women, but hasn't provided any instruction on what to do with this power. It may be sheer good fortune (or something in Slayer psychology) that there aren't many more Simone's causing havoc out there.
I also have to point out a weakness in the "whole world knows about the Slayers now" concept. We've learned that much of the population of this island has fled to the mainland. So, I have to seriously question why there isn't an army and navy already attempting to re-take this island. Even being Slayers, it doesn't seem credible that the Italian government would allow a few dozen girls to "annex" a piece of their territory. Buffy and Andrew shouldn't have been able to get to the island in the first place without having to navigate a military force and blockade of the island by the Italians.
Page 16: Simone offers Buffy the Ragna without a fight, if she'll agree to give her Andrew. Buffy finds this a surprise development, but Simone argues that the demon was only a Plan B, anyway. She's confident that her Slayers are going to take over either way. What she really wants is a bit of payback for Andy being something of a drill sergeant and bossing her around all of those months.
Buffy naturally refuses.
Page 17: Having had enough of this useless tete-a-tete, Buffy launches her attack, completely taking her 'captors' by surprise. Simone responds quickly, but Buffy has been at the fighting game too long not to have serious moves...
Page 18: ... Buffy leaps up and grabs a chandelier. Simone calls up to her that it looks like she's gotten herself trapped, but Buffy swings and uses the momentum to flip through the air. She drives the sword she's carrying into the stage curtain and slides down to the ground, but she also cuts the cords holding up the chandelier. This crashes to the ground, forcing Simone to dive out of the way.
Buffy is able to reach the ground before the other Slayer can recover and put the sword to her throat, ordering her to stand down.
Page 19: Unfortunately for Buffy, Simone has a handgun tucked in her waistband and draws it now, pointing out that she's outarmed and still outnumbered. She gives Buffy one last chance to make the trade... demon for Andrew... which Buffy refuses. Andrew offers that Buffy should take the deal in order to make everyone that Simone could use the demon against safer. He tries to quote Spock at her ('The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few... or the one.') but she cuts him off by mentioning that she's well versed in the 'book of nerd quotes' thanks to Xander, and she isn't impressed.
She tells Simone that she isn't the kind of person to leave her own people behind for any reason.
The other Slayer grins at Buffy and tells her it's a shame since Buffy is outnumbered 16 to 1, but a voice from off screen corrects her.
Page 20: Coming through the door is the rest of the Italian Slayer team of Andrew's, and they aren't about to let "Mr. Wells", their collective Watcher be made a prisoner of Simone's wacked-out group. They quickly move in and disarm Simone's team.
Buffy, anti-gun though she is, trains Simone's pistol on the Slayer holding Andrew by the neck and orders her to "give me back my nerd".
It's not a complete win for Buffy's Slayers, though. When she tries to order Simone and her crew taken into custody, the Italian team lead objects. It will lead to a huge fight, and it is unlikely that they'll be able to hold them without someone getting their hands on the plentiful amount of guns lying around. The Italian team lead strongly suggests leaving Simone's crew for now in control of the island and retreating, taking the remaining civilians with them for their own protection.
With the Slayer team backup her up not willing to engage in a possible firefight with Simone's crew, Buffy is left with no choice but to agree to put off their battle until another time.
Commentary: I'm not convinced by the writing here. Buffy's Slayers clearly have the upper hand, despite the risk of guns. It seems like now would have been the right time to press the advantage and take care of this festering problem, rather than let it sit. Especially galling is allowing Simone to retain control of the island (and that the Italian military still hasn't responded).
Page 21: The order is given for Andrew to lead his squad out. Buffy next turns the gun she now possesses from Simone onto the Ragna's cage. She shoots off the lock, allowing the demon to free itself. She tells Simone that she wanted the demon, now she has her.
A bit later on the mainland, Buffy and Andrew stand with the little girl from when they arrived and her aged grandmother looking across the channel. The little girl is complaining that they have nowhere to go and have lost their home. Buffy sympathizes and agrees that life isn't fair....
Commentary: I also feel like this is supposed to be calling back Buffy's claim that Simone "can't just take somebody's home from them" from earlier, when that is exactly what she has done and gotten away with. But, the point isn't really highlighted and probably should have been by the little girl, here. I also found it strange that no one mentions that Buffy has turned a demon loose on another group of Slayers with the intention/hope that at least some of them would be killed before its defeat. It seems strange to let this go by un-commented on by somebody in her group.
Page 22: Much later, back at the new HQ, Buffy and Andrew talk about recent events. He's busy gathering all of the information he has on the Ragna, just in case it isn't killed by Simone's team and they have to deal with it later. Buffy compliments him on being willing to sacrifice himself to protect others and tells him he should be proud. He isn't. He still feels guilty for misleading her about the Ragna's origins.
She admits he screwed up, but points out as a member of the family it's almost expected.
After she leaves, Andrew realizes she referred to him as part of the Scooby family and smiles to himself....
The Good: Simone's rebellious character has been simmering in the background through several issues, so it's nice to see it referred to again and her arc takes a huge leap forward.
A Buffy/Andrew team up story has been simmering also since Angel: "The Girl in Question", at least before the retcon that Buffy wasn't actually in Rome. It worked out quite well, I think.
I like Andrew's character redemption, up to his being willing to give himself to protect undefined civilians from Simone's plans.
I like the continued fallout of Buffy's decision to share her power with girls who weren't in Sunnydale and don't necessarily have the Sunnydale Potential's altruism.
The Bad: My only real problem is the lack of 'real world' consequences toward Simone's actions. There simply isn't anyway that the Italians wouldn't be all over that island.
Other Thoughts: I'm also not completely buying the Italian team's refusal to engage Simone when they had them dead to rights, already. Maybe if there were panels in which the two teams were holding each other at weapons point, but the way it was depicted, it seemed like Buffy's Slayers had them.
I also thought the whole Ragna bit was weirdly superfluous to the story. It's an odd bit to throw into the mix when it didn't really impact the story.
Finally, it doesn't impact on the scoring but I find myself mildly disappointed that there wasn't any pages where the artwork caught my breath, either. There is usually at least one pane or splash page that is gorgeous artwork... nothing really leaped out at me in this one.
The Score: This was an average tale, but nicely focused on a character who doesn't get regular exposure. I liked it, but it isn't all that memorable and I found myself disappointed at how the tale just kind of peters out. It's alright:
3.25 out of 5