I just got the latest issue in the Buffy Season 8 comic book series in the mail (#22 "Swell"), which features lesbian slayers Kennedy and Satsu on the cover, looking like this:
Before I give my thoughts on this issue, here’s a rundown of what happened. (If you’ve already read the issue, you can skip to my review at the bottom.)
Kennedy drops in on new Slayer squad leader Satsu for a performance evaluation. Satsu is still hung up on Buffy and a little bitter that their torrid affair didn’t turn into a lasting relationship, but Kennedy assures Satsu that "you’re not the only fool to ever wrinkle the sheets with a straight girl."
When Satsu tries to protest that it was more than just a fling, Kennedy tells her to get over it already: "Lose the cinnamon lippy gloss you laid on her and try kissing someone how can give you their heart. Not just their body."
What they find in the bag are Vampy Cats — stuffed animals manufactured supposedly to capitalize on Harmony’s recent rise to fame via her own MTV reality show glamorizing the vampire lifestyle (in a brilliant parody of MTV’s recent development of bad reality shows like A Double Shot at Love).
It turns out the Vampy Cats are evil, and designed to wipe out the Slayers — starting with Satsu, who unwittingly ingests a Vampy Cat and starts behaving oddly. First she dons a traditional Japanese kimono, explaining "My parents bought it for me. Before I destroyed them with my gayness." Then she makes conservative homophobic statements, like, "Girls should kiss boys and have their babies" and criticizes the Slayers as "a bunch of self-righteous little ovaries!" And finally, she gets into a physical altercation with Kennedy (never a good idea), taunting her with "That the best you got, girl licker?" before she is finally purged of the Vampy Cat doll and comes to her lesbian senses.
In the end, the Slayers defeat the Swarm (who were sent by the current Big Bad known as Twilight); Kennedy tells Satsu "your eval’s SO getting a smiley face;" and Buffy announces that it’s time for the Slayers to adopt a much lower profile, because, thanks to Harmony’s media smear campaign, "we’re hated and feared more than the bloodsucking undead" so "we need to stop being whatever we’ve been and focus."
The issue ends with Satsu indicating she’s finally over Buffy by telling Kennedy she’s ready to go shopping for a new flavor of lip gloss.
Overall, I enjoyed the issue, even it was a little more campy and lot less subtle than most Buffy storylines. If I had to pick a word to describe this issue, it would be "cute" — which works as a break from some of the more serious issues, but would probably get annoying on an ongoing basis.
Given the lack of visibility for lesbians in other entertainment mediums these days, it was great to have an entire issue of one of the most popular comic book series revolve around two lesbian characters (lesbians of color, no less!), and it was nice to learn more about two of the series’ less-developed characters.
The conversation between Kennedy and Satsu about Buffy will probably strike some readers as too heavy handed — as a way for the writers to drive home the point that Buffy’s straight — but I don’t think that’s their intention. I think the writers are just using this conversation as a common point of interest between Kennedy and Satsu — as an excuse to bring them together in a somewhat organic way and to show some development in Satsu’s character.
But I’m still undecided about the effectiveness of making the Swarm so cartoon-ishly sexist and homophobic. I generally don’t have any complaints about making a correlation between sexism, homophobia, and evil, but the way this was executed just seems so, well, clunky.
On the other hand, an episode about stuffed animals trying to destroy the world is pretty cartoon-ish and campy to begin with, and the storyline also shows Slayers flying helicopters and commandeering a Korean submarine, so there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t totally make sense in this issue.
But these kind of inconsistencies/plot contrivances — how did the Slayers suddenly learn how to operate sophisticated military weapons? — will probably bug some readers more than they do me. I’m kinda willing to believe almost anything is possible in the Buffyverse. I don’t really care about minor inconsistencies as long as the stories are entertaining, at least somewhat believable, and include lines like this one from Xander:
Big Buts come with the Slayer territory these days and I probably should have reviewed that sentence before unleashing it on the sensitive womenfolk.
So that’s my take on the issue — what’s yours?