"Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Volume 5 - Predators and Prey" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James "Spez" Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Originally published as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 8) #21-25 and MySpace Dark Horse Presents #18-19
Written by Jane Espenson, Steven S. DeKnight, Drew Z. Greenberg, Jim Krueger, and Doug Petrie
Illustrated by Georges Jeanty, Cliff Richards, Karl Moline and Camilla D'errico
2009, 144 Pages
Trade Paperback released on October 7th, 2009
While I'm not a fan of the "Freak of the Week" episodes of TV shows, I am a huge fan of a well-done one-shot comic book. A lot can be done in a single issue story, but they're not often handled seriously and are mostly treated as fill-in issues. That's not the case here in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Volume 5 - Predators and Prey. The five issues collected here serve as a check-in for the main characters (and some not-so-main characters) as well as a major change in the perception of vampires. These are far from filler issues.
Each of the five issues center on a different character. The first, Harmonic Divergence, deals with perhaps my most hated character from the series, Harmony Kendell. I hated her in Buffy. I hated her more in Angel. Now she's invaded the comic book. Fortunately Jane Espenson handles her in such a way that I don't want to tear the pages out of the book. Plus she writes a story that is so smart and interesting that it feels silly that no one did this sooner. Harmony is caught by the tabloids sucking the blood from a C-List celebrity and gets her own reality TV series on MTV. Vampires are in (eerily just like in real life) and they can now roam the streets openly.
This leads directly into the next issue, Swell, written by Steven S. DeKnight, which has Willow's main-squeeze Kennedy dropping in on new Japan field leader — and former Buffy lover — Satsu for an evaluation. They end up taking out an evil toy manufacturer that's created hordes of fluffy little vampire cat dolls that possess people with their cuddly powers. Oh, and did I mention that the Japan group of slayers has a submarine?
Unfortunately this is blown up in the media by the aforementioned Harmony and now slayers are seen as the bad guys and the vampires are like a wounded minority. This setup is brilliant as it turns the whole Buffy world upside down. Now the hunters become the hunted and the Scoobies have to re-think their entire approach to defending the world from demonic evil.
The highlight of Predators and Prey is the title story written by Drew Z. Greenberg. It encapsulates everything that the Buffy series is about in one issue. Andrew finds the location of a rogue slayer and goes on a road trip with Buffy to track her down. He feels responsible for her because he was her watcher. What follows is a hilarious and well-written trip around the world with Andrew talking about such nerd topics as Jedis vs. Superman, Jem, and the Terminator until they finally get to their destination. I won't get into too many details, but Andrew is trying to atone for his mistakes with Buffy and, in true Whedon-verse fashion, there's a heart-warming tale of family and friendship and how the two can mean the same thing. There's also a lot of ass-kicking and a creepy spider demon too.
Next up is Safe by Jim Krueger, which checks in on Faith and Giles as the pair of them travel around the world picking up renegade slayers. They discover a town that's called a slayer sanctuary, where slayers can go if they don't want to have such a responsibility on their backs. Vampires stay away from it and the town feels safe. Faith swings by in an effort to kick these girls back into gear, but all is not what it seems.
The last issue collected here is Living Doll by Doug Petrie and this wraps up the magical adventures of Buffy's sister, Dawn. She's been a giant and a centaur and now a doll. We learn a bit more about her relationship with the demon that started this whole mess, too, and I'm glad that that storyline is over. It was fun while it lasted (seriously, giant Dawn attacking Tokyo in Wolves at the Gate is amazing), but there's only so much they can do with this. I'll be interested to see what Dawn ends up doing at the slayer camp now.
But that's not all, Buffy fans! With this volume you also get two short stories from MySpace Dark Horse Presents that spin out from the first two issues. One about Harmony and one about the cuddly vampy cats. Neither of them add much to the series, but they're nice to flip through.
As usual, Georges Jeanty handles most of the art on this book. Also, as usual, I'm not a big fan. I do have to say though that his vampy cats are equally adorable and terrifying. He does big action well, but the faces of the characters are still a little off. Cliff Richards drew the Faith-centric issue and managed to mimic Jeanty's style pretty closely. He's a lot better in the face department, though. Karl Moline returns for the Harmony short story. There's not a lot of action so I feel Moline's talents were wasted to an extent. Finally, Camilla D'Errico draws the vampy cat short story and it fits the tone of those creatures and that tale so perfectly. It's cute, but still terrifying.
Volume 5 is a break from the overall Twilight story that's been weaving through the series from the beginning. However, it's moved along with little bits and pieces. More importantly, this volume resets the status quo of the characters and their current situations. It ties up some loose ends, allowing the writers to concentrate on the "Big Bad" for the rest of the series. As usual, Buffy Season 8 still sounds like a Buffy story. The witty dialogue and fun writing is all there as the season takes its first steps towards the end.