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Buffy Season Eight Vol. 5: Predators and Prey

on Fri, 02/04/2011 - 00:00

“Slayers,” a fictionalized Anderson Cooper tells his television audience. “What is this shadowy organization? We’ve done some digging. They say they’re our protectors, as fighters in some grand battle against ‘evil,’ but who decides what is evil? And, some are asking, who protects us from them?”

The fifth volume of the Buffy Season Eight comic book series, “Predators and Prey,” is more a series of standalone stories that are loosely tied together by the main title rather than a unified narrative. As alluded to in the quote above, the existence of vampires and slayers becomes common knowledge within the pages of “Predators and Prey” and casts doubt in the public eye as to which supernatural entity is truly good and which is evil. The debate is initiated by the most unexpected of sources—Buffy Summers’ former ditz high school classmate turned vampire, Harmony Kendall. Through the course of both the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show and its spin-off Angel, Harmony is as clueless of a vampire as she was a teenage girl living in Sunnydale, and in the opening story of “Predators and Prey,” she takes advantage of the growing awareness of vampires to pitch a reality show to MTV.

“You can just follow me around, and watch my life, see me with my friends, who you can cast people for, and I’ll mostly be biting people at wild parties,” she tells the network executives. The executives, however, believe that there isn’t a true “villain” in the narrative for the series to be successful but greenlight the show, entitled Harmony Bites, nonetheless.

While Harmony Kendall appears to be succeeding in her quest for fame, the opposite is becoming increasingly true for Buffy Summers and her mission of uniting all of the slayers in the world. When Andrew Wells locates a recent potential turned “chosen one,” for instance, he attempts to recruit her into Buffy’s fold. A former Los Angeles gang member who has become disillusioned with the lifestyle, she initially says “yes” to the prospect of fighting the good fight and standing up for the helpless. Buffy’s cell phone sales pitch, however, is filled with such catch phrases as “family,” “togetherness” and “unity.” The words sound too much like those used by her former gang sisters, so the new slayer decides to fight the good fight on her own.

Unfortunately, her first solo mission is to save the fans of Harmony Bites that have been duped into believing that vampires are neither evil nor the enemy. She finds her way onto the show as an extra and makes her move as soon as the star of the series arrives. Despite fighting skills that primarily consisted of hair-pulling and a series of flailing hand-slaps in the past, Harmony somehow gains the advantage and sinks her teeth into the slayer’s neck. Although the image is repulsive, it transforms the ratings-struggling Harmony Bites into a major television hit.

“All the show needed was a villain!” the MTV executives exclaim. “And now we have thousands of them. It seems there’s a whole slayer army. Very organized, very violent. Best villains since the Nazis!”

While Buffy Summers and her loyal followers are far from villains, the same cannot not be said for all of the new slayers. While the second volume in the Buffy Season Eight series focused on a member of British Royalty intent on killing Buffy and leading the remaining slayers to a position of social superiority and global domination, another rogue “chosen one” has her own plans in “Predators and Prey.” Simone Doffler, who sports a shaven head with a lone patch of purple hair on top, was under the watchful eye of Andrew Wells before abandoning her calling and organizing a gang of fellow slayer thugs. She has since made her way to an island off the coast of Italy and evicted the residents in order to secure a criminal base of operation.

“Haven’t you heard?” she asks when Buffy confronts her. “We’re the bad guys now. People think vamps are cool and slayers are the threat. Difference between you and me? I am a threat.”

Feeling responsible for Simone’s rampage across Europe, Andrew secretly regenerated an extinct Ragna Spider Demon to track her down. The former member of the Evil Troika from Season Six has been attempting to redeem himself since the end of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series but his latest attempt at proving his worthiness backfires when Simone captures the demon and demands Andrew in exchange for handing it over to Buffy.

“Losing an insane, gun-loving pink slayer isn’t the way to make me lose faith in you,” the head slayer had told her geek wannabe-sidekick earlier. “Lying to me is.” Despite Andrew’s indiscretion, however, Buffy Summers stands by him in the showdown with Simone Doffler and although she is not able to put an end to the rogue slayer’s criminal activity, Buffy and Andrew make it out of the encounter alive.

The original rogue slayer, meanwhile—Faith Lehane—has been traveling the world with the last remaining member of the Watchers Council, Rupert Giles, in an attempt to keep other wayward slayers from straying too far off the path of virtue and righteousness. The journey leads them to Courtney, a new slayer who has gone missing from her squad, and a “slayer sanctuary” deep in the Carpathian Mountains.

“For slayers that don’t want to be, you know,” Courtney explains. “We get to choose whether we want to be chosen or not.”

Unfortunately, the sanctuary is actually a ploy by inhabitants of the small town in order to pacify a demon that has been terrorizing them for decades. The demon feeds on fear and the slayers who arrive looking for safety are offered up as meals in place of the residents. In the end, Faith is able to defeat the creature but in doing so leaves the village open to other supernatural threats that have previously been afraid to enter the area.

“That’s not our problem,” Giles tells the townsfolk. “You’re murderers! You deserve to die!”

“But we’re slayers, and we don’t let people die,” Faith Lehane counters. “Not even crappy ones.” Faith, Courtney and Giles thus take up arms themselves to fight off the small band of vampires that have been waiting for the right opportunity to strike.

While Buffy Summers has had to deal with her own cadre of demons and vampires throughout the pages of the overall Buffy Season Eight narrative—as well as threats by the US military, new slayers with their own agendas, a trip into the future and the growing showdown with “Big Bad” Twilight—her personal life has likewise been as tumultuous as ever. A brief sexual tryst with fellow slayer Satsu in the third volume of the series ended when Buffy named her as the head of operations in Japan. It wasn’t until “Predators and Prey,” however, that the lovelorn Satsu finally gathered the strength to move on from the relationship.

Then there was little sister Dawn Summers who had grown to be over 50-feet tall by the start of Buffy Season Eight, the supernatural aftereffect of sleeping with a thricewise demon. Dawn later was transformed into a half-human, half-horse centaur and in the final story of “Predators and Prey,” a porcelain doll. Enough is enough as they say, so Buffy and her core group of fellow Sunnydale alums finally take action by transporting Dawn’s former boyfriend Kenny to their home base in Scotland. It turns out, however, that the younger Summer’s troubles had nothing to do with sleeping with Kenny—the thricewise demon put a spell on her after she slept with his roommate instead.

“I knew Kenny was a thricewise,” Dawn tells Buffy after the spell has been reversed. “Dated him anyway. Pissed him off. Maybe I wanted you to save me. A few years ago, you were the only slayer, I was your only sister. Now I’m surrounded by, like, a thousand sorta-little sisters I can’t possibly compete with.”

Despite containing a collection of short, separate stories as opposed to a unified narrative, “Predators and Prey” does an effective job of further expanding the Buffy Season Eight landscape and the inherent difficulties that “the original, except no substitute” slayer has to contend. Although the “Big Bad” of the season, the masked Twilight, fails to make an appearance, it is obvious that Buffy Summers once again has the weight of the world on her shoulders—and in more ways than one.

Anthony Letizia

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