12
Oct
2012
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9 #14
Review
Chris
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9, #14
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Story: Jane Espenson & Drew Greenberg
Writer: Jane Espenson
Penciler: Karl Moline


Buffy the Vampire Slayer #14 is the highly advertised introduction of Billy the Vampire Slayer! Dark Horse Editorial has been working overtime to promote this new character who is unique in that he is a human male slayer, fighting the forces that go bump in the night with no super powers to speak of, just rigorous batman-esque training. Also, he likes boys.

The idea of a male slayer is not exactly a novel one in the Buffyverse. Angel introduced Gunn in its first season as a character unique because he was a human who could go toe to toe with vampires, and Xander was no slouch in the dusting department by the time the Scoobies left Sunnydale. We've already had "male slayers" in everything but title so, I'm less inclined to buy into the novelty of the character of Billy. But just because the hook isn't quite as unique as Scott Allie and company would have us believe doesn't make this a bad issue. Quite the opposite, this is one of the most enjoyable issues of this Season to date.

Espenson manages to really sell Billy as an interesting and likable protagonist in only a few pages. The thing that really makes you want to root for Billy is that even with so few people in his corner, he remains upbeat, chooses to be a part of the world, and fights back against the people who hate him for no other reason than he's different. Billy doesn't have a chip on his shoulder, he's a genuinely nice guy but that doesn't mean he's just gonna sit back and take anyone's crap.

Espenson had a bit of an issue making the jump from TV scripting to comics scripting in her first run on Buffy Season 8, however here she has worked out the kinks and crafts narration that is clever and easy to follow, and dialogue that feels natural and Whedony. My one complaint with the writing of this issue was the character of Devon. Devon is more plot device than character, showing up to tell Billy what he needs to know and suggesting a path for his future. It all seems a little too convenient for a story that had a really natural flow up until the final few pages.

Karl Moline is no stranger to the Buffy titles but this is not one of his stronger outings. In what is mostly a quiet, emotional story, Moline's exaggerated facial expressions don't capture the nuance necessary to really sell these scenes. Some of the action is also more confusing than it should be, requiring the reader to study certain panels to understand what has transpired. The most glaring example is when Devon rescues Billy from the jock turned Vampire. One minute Billy is about to die, the next he is on the roof of a garage with Devon, and it took me a couple rereads to notice Devon's arms grabbing Billy and pulling him up in the previous panel.

This is a fun standalone origin story that I might even have suspected would be Billy's only appearance in the Buffyverse had I not known better from advance solicitations. While bordering on after school special, this story never strays into eye rolling territory. Now that Billy has received his origin story, I'm sold on the character and look forward to when he pops up with the Scoobies in San Fran.

Grade B+


Tags: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
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