Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x22: "Swell"

Written by Steven S. DeKnight
Directed by Georges Jeanty

Kennedy (re dynamite): “Sure that’s enough?”
Satsu: “If not, we’ll try Plan B.”
Kennedy: “What’s Plan B?”
Swell: “Same as “A”. You die.”

With all later comics taking a pairing dynamic, the second part of this vampires are martyrs arc continues to deliver on the severity of such a public revelation. If things keep getting so popular, Harmony might have to do a crossover with The Hills, MTV’s other soulless big hitter.

This issue nicely takes us back to Tokyo where there’s a busload of casualties and you don’t need to speak Japanese to realise that some poor sod is screaming big monster. However for those confused, Satsu is happy to play translator when she isn’t bemoaning fellow slayer’s Ayumi’s inability to duck.

In Ayumi’s defence, it’s a little hard to duck when the demon wanting to make mincemeat out of you happens to possess four arms that they have no problem in using. In fact the demon in question doesn’t pause long enough to continue it’s attack.

Satsu might have been reasonably lucky in managing to slice off one the demon’s arms but even her ducking skills aren’t that potent today. Luckily for her, the arrival of Kennedy means the demon’s knocked out temporarily. Well, luck might be stretching it just a bit.

I find it amazing that in the space of twenty two issues it’s only now that Kennedy and Satsu are actually interacting. Ever since Buffy and Satsu were caught sleeping with each other in “Wolves At The Gate Part 1”, both Willow and Kennedy have voiced more than enough opinions on Buffy’s sexuality.

Kennedy even admitted back in “Time Of Your Life Part 1” that she thought Buffy was a homophobe and even expressed some jealousy over Buffy and Willow’s friendship. Although Satsu may or may not have been aware of this, she’s certainly not that pleased to see Kennedy.

Also much as I like Satsu, Kennedy raises a good point. When it comes to bratty behaviour, Kennedy really is an expert and Satsu does herself no favours by immediately going on the defensive. That being said, she does have every right to be suspicious as to why Kennedy wants to do her evaluation.

It also doesn’t take Kennedy long to start immediately spouting off about Satsu’s tryst with Buffy. In fact Kennedy goes a little overboard in stating to Satsu that Buffy is straight in spite of recent events. In a way, Kennedy’s probably saying what a lot of readers said when they read “Wolves At The Gate Part 1” but she does come across as unnecessarily pushing about it.

There’s no denying that Buffy is indeed a heterosexual woman (unless there’s something that Joss Whedon wants to tell us later) but I don’t really see what business it is of Kennedy’s either. While it’s clear that time apart hasn’t diminished Satsu’s feelings for Buffy, I think Satsu is more than aware that Buffy isn’t going to come out.

More importantly when Kennedy isn’t taking it upon herself to dispense love advice, her and Satsu do undercover a bag from the now three armed demon. A million different things could’ve been in that bag but Vampy Cats were probably not the thing I would’ve guessed.

Harmony’s increased popularity has now seen merchandising with these little critters and Satsu’s disgust is understandable. There is nothing cute about the spiel Harmony’s been spinning the general public about vampires and this nasty little product is further evidence.

When we’re not seeing three armed Gunyarr-San getting killed by a giant Vampy Cat, one of the furry little buggers decides to slope around and claim itself a victim. Who better a victim to claim than Satsu of course, given how much she knows about Buffy and company?

You could tell that Satsu was first possessed with the huge smile. The Geisha ensemble was then a vital second clue. The main event was having Satsu go into graphic detail about her history. I wish I could say it was shocking that Satsu’s parents weren’t accepting of her sexuality but unfortunately, it’s something that I could’ve telegraphed.

However the biggest crunch is when Satsu started going on about making babies and citing slayers are aggressive. Plus she gave Kennedy one hell of a backhand before Kennedy managed to get the Vampy Cat out of Satsu’s stomach by making her sick.

So aside from hating slayers, Vampy Cats are also sexist homophobes. In other words, these are definitely one little batch of critters that should not be on sale any time. Needless to say while Satsu manages to stop the same Vampy Cat from possessing Kennedy, she’s also rather horrified by what’s she wearing. Clearly that furisode was one item that Satsu wasn’t planning on wearing any time soon.

It’s also not great that when she learned what else the Vampy Cat made her do, she gets a bigger desire to hit something a lot. In fact, Satsu is quite aggressive in this area but she’s gracious enough to thank Kennedy for saving her butt as well.

The worst news comes however when another slayer realises that 500,000 worth of Vampy Cats are heading to Scotland. Gee, I wonder who could’ve possibly made that particular order. It also neatly explained why the Vampy Cat possessed Satsu for a brief time.

Because of this, Satsu and Kennedy decide to take matters into their own hands and when you’ve got dynamite at your disposal, there’s a certain amount of damage that can also happen as well.

The problem is that the Vampy Cats themselves are also quick on the attack. They spot Kennedy and Satsu instantly and begin attacking with expert ease. As another reviewer recently pointed out, there’s also a rather disturbing rape metaphor with the way the Vampy Cats try to force themselves inside Kennedy.

Given that Steven S. DeKnight gave us a literal and disturbing rape scene in “Seeing Red”, this is still quite uncomfortable to read. In fact these creatures really are fuelled with a hatred that even usurps certain Big Bads we’ve had in the series. The “Swell” part of this comic then comes into play with a big giant Vampy Cat.

A little scarier (but still sort of silly) than it’s smaller creations, it’s not much of a shock that Twilight is then revealed to be behind the Vampy Cats heading for Scotland. Satsu herself is pretty unfazed by the reveal as well.

It makes sense that Twilight would find some way of capitalizing on Harmony’s outing of vampires. For all we know, she could be another member of his beleaguered gang that consists of the government, Amy, Warren and Riley. The Swell themselves are also more than happy to continue spouting anti-Slayer stuff.

However one of the better parts of this issue was Satsu’s solution for defeating the Swell. It’s always handy to have a submarine at the ready and the Swell gets defeated nicely by Satsu’s acquisition of a submarine. Kennedy wasn’t the only smiling with glee in that moment.

The last two pages briefly give us some Buffy and Xander action. You’ve got Harmony on a talk show lamenting about the dangers of slayers and Satsu wondering why Harmony hasn’t been killed off yet.

Buffy’s reasons for keeping Harmony alive are believable. Killing Harmony turns her into a bigger villain and thanks to them not stopping Harmony earlier on; all slayers are public enemies for the time being. More interesting is that Buffy tells Satsu that they need to concentrate on being more human than less.

Satsu reacted to this by ditching her cinnamon lip gloss in probably a further attempt to get Buffy out of her system. Kennedy did start this issue by telling Satsu to move on from Buffy so she should be at least satisfied that Satsu took heed of her. As for me, I’m hoping that this isn’t the last we see of the girl.

Also in “Swell”

The cover I got was the one with Kennedy and Satsu all sword play outside the latter’s base of operation.

Slayer: “What’s your plan?”
Satsu: “Blood. Screaming. The usual.”

I noticed that the cover of these comics are now saying Executive Producer Joss Whedon.

Kennedy: “Satsu, you were promoted to cell leader like two minutes ago. Standard op to run a performance review. Especially since your report on the Korean incident was beyond vague.”
Satsu: “If Buffy wants to review my ass she can do it herself. Won’t be the first time.”

Satsu (re Buffy): “It wasn’t just wrinkles. It was true love.”
Kennedy: “Yeah, yeah. Everybody knows the story. Your kiss brought Buffy out of a mystical coma. But Sleeping Beauty wasn’t gay and neither is Buffy. Despite recently taking a skinny dip in that pool.”

Anyone notice the “Grrr! Argh!” with the Vampy Cats?

Kennedy (to Satsu, re Buffy): “You had a thing, I get it! Time to towel off and face the hetero. You’re gay, Buffy’s not. My advice? Lose the cinnamon lippy gloss you laid on her and try kissing someone who can give you their heart. Not just their body.”

Satsu: “Vampires aren’t cute and fluffy! And a kitty cat? Come on!”
Kennedy: “Since that idiot Harmony’s reality show took off, everybody’s obsessed with fangs and lumpy foreheads. Public’s swallowing their undead bull by the handful.”

Kennedy seems to wear a lot of blues and greens in these comic books. I’ve been re-reading the other ones she’s appeared in.

Slayer: “Ducking is just as important as the hitting, Ayumi. More. Duck, don’t get hit.”
Ayumi: “That thing had four arms. I ducked the first three.”

Kennedy: “I don’t know what the Geisha’s gotten into you but maybe we oughta mosey down to your resident witch and-”
Satsu (possessed): “Take your stinking paws off me, you dirty damn slayer.”

Kennedy made something of an issue about Satsu’s beds and coffee before spotting the girl in her furisode.

Satsu: “Oh God, my stomach.”
Kennedy: “Maybe you should have stayed behind.”
Satsu (re Vampy Cat): “Screw that. Whole bottle of mouthwash and I can still taste that furry little bastard. I want to hit something. A lot.”

Swell: “We are the Swell! We are legion! The slayer blight will be cleansed in a sea of blood. Twilight commands it! Hail Twilight!”
Kennedy: “Twilight?”
Satsu: “Figures a bunch of stuffed assholes would be working for that tool.”

We got an ad for both Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Dollhouse, the latter starting at long last on Friday February 13th, 9pm on FOX.

Kennedy: “You have a freaking sub?”
Satsu: “Bunch of vamps took it from the Koreans. I took it back.”
Kennedy: “You could have mentioned that in your report.”
Satsu: “Was gonna. After I got done playing with it.”
Kennedy: “Your eval’s so getting a smiley face.”

Buffy (to Satsu): “We need to stop being whatever we’ve been and focus on being more than human or the less-than is gonna win. Keep the sub handy. I think we’re gonna need it.”
Kennedy: “Not the hey-guess-what?-you-turned-me-gay speech you were probably hoping for, huh?”

Harmony’s outing of vampires has spilled over to the “After The Fall” comics on Angel to interesting effect.

Satsu: “Let’s go shopping.”
Kennedy: “Shopping?”
Satsu: “Buffy’s right. The world’s coming apart. It’s time to stop being who we were and get a new flavour.”

The next issue, “Predators And Prey” comes out on March 4th.

Although I’m more into this arc than the previous one, “Swell” loses points for way too much emphasis on ovaries and sexuality speak. Steven S. DeKnight is a good writer but there were times in this issue where I felt he should’ve dialled it down a little.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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