Buffy the Vampire Slayer #21

9th January 2009 | by | No Comments

After the last issue’s charming but pointless tribute to an undead cartoon series, “Season Eight” continues its preoccupation with it’s parent medium, focussing on the much-trailed “Harmony Bites” vampire reality TV show. Jane Espenson presents an unexpectedly complex single-issue story, managing to subtly re-write the franchise’s rules while keeping a light-hearted air to proceedings.

After four rigidly defined arcs, the decision to let the book’s various plotlines breath more organically is welcome. With the regular cast largely negated to cameos, the writer focuses her tale on the vampire’s conquest of MTV and the slayer who takes it upon herself to bring her down. What initially takes the reader aback is that the story isn’t an out and out satire of reality TV. There’s no particular punch lines or moments when events descend into a new level of farce. This is simply the means by which Espenson chooses to tell her story, with the only moment of socio-political commentary being subtly conveyed through the media’s willingness to cast the black girl who attacks the horrific Harmony as a villain. Rather than borrowing one of X-Men’s crusading politicians or resorting to the unconvincing military figures from Whedon’s first arc, the story uses this event to polarise public opinion against the slayer army, setting up an interesting, if less-than original, dynamic for future issues.

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Espenson occasionally betrays a lack of comics experience, with an early piece of innuendo from Harmony negated by the fact that the readers’ eyes have been immediately drawn to the next panel, which reveals the punch line. On the whole however, the writer succeeds in telling a very offbeat story, with the issue’s deficiencies coming from a creator with far more familiarity with comics. Despite having effectively had the previous five issues off, regular artist Georges Jeanty delivers some uncharacteristically weak work, with backgrounds frequently discarded and some very oddly proportioned figures. To be fair, his quirky style is better suited to close-ups than the massed crowd scenes the issue frequently calls for, with little demand for his charming trademark dot faces. However, when compared to a cover that sees Jo Chen exceeding even her high standards, its hard not to wish for a guest artist better suited to the subject matter. Despite these art issues and the slightly stereotypical doomed slayer, this story manages to entertain and confound the reader’s expectations.