Review: ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9′ #14 & #15

buffy914

Dark Horse Comics’ Billy the Vampire Slayer is a two-part standalone arc for season 9, brought to you by fan-favourite BuffyVerse writers, Jane Espenson (Once Upon a Time) and Drew Z. Greenberg (Warehouse 13). Full of world-building, political advocacy, and a spin on the series’ original mythology, issues #14 and #15 introduce readers to a rabid spread of zompires infesting a small Californian town; and to the first gay male “Slayer” who takes it upon himself to get rid of them.

WRITTEN BY: Jane Espenson, Drew Z. Greenberg
ART BY: Karl Moline
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASE: November 14th

Obviously, Joss Whedon’s universe has come a long way since 1997, but fans need not worry about the reimagining of the true Slayer calling. Billy Lane is a self-proclaimed male vampire “slayer”, whom Jane Espenson labels as a gay vigilante, à la Batman. His destiny isn’t written in the stars, nor does he possess any superpowers. Like Xander, fighting the good fight is a choice he makes because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s in his blood. So, with help from his crush Devon, who appoints himself as his “Watcher”, Billy begins his training. Whether the two are ready to take on the rapidly growing zombie/vampire population sans Buffy’s help, you’ll have to read it to find out.

Karl Moline’s artwork showcases the rapid spread of these creatures in the most simplistic, yet essentially effective way. The zompire world-building involved in both art and writing dramatically paints a town that’s overrun with these hybrids who are multiplying at an alarming rate. Moline’s work with pencils adopts a slightly caricaturesque style of art that is visually different than what Season 9 is used to, but seems natural in the context of the arc. Andy Owens does a memorable job inking the pages, particularly regarding his shading techniques to make the zompires look as sinister as they do. His work compliments Michelle Madsen’s colours really well, as she utilizes darker tones to set an ominous mood for the environment Billy is living in. Their wonderfully gory presentation of a zompire ripping off the back of a man’s head gets bonus points from me.

If anyone is skeptical about the addition of Billy Lane, just know that Espenson and Greenberg don’t play into the stereotypes most gay characters are modeled after. Nor are they pandering to the target market, or trying to follow the recent trend of high profile gay characters being announced in popular comics. Sure, there is an unsurprising, but culturally relevant, reference to Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” Campaign, but it’s neither cheap nor contrived. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the “NO H8” sweater Billy rocks in the same panel.

Overall, it’s a very honest and authentic story that examines traditional gender roles prescribed by heterosexual society, and hopefully seeing them as something more fluid. Part One, written by Espenson, will surprise you and have you rooting for Billy to win, as there’s an obvious metaphor behind the zompires and the homophobic bullies he has to deal with; a sad truth in today’s society incorporated by both writers. Part Two, penned by Greenberg, showcases Billy’s determination and his efforts to earn his “Slayer” title whilst dealing with all of life’s problems. Not only is this a coming of age story, but it’s a love story as well. One that is almost reminiscent of Buffy and Angel circa season one; the trench coat and gelled hair that Devon sports only adds to the visual.

Disregarding some continuity errors surrounding zompires and their apparent ability to enter houses without being invited in, this was a nice break from regular Season 9 programming. Though why they decided to put these two issues in the middle of the series when it should have been a “Tales of the Slayers” one-shot or an Annual is beyond me. Whether Billy will fare well as an ongoing character is still debateable, but for what this standalone is worth, it’s an admirable start.

3.5/5 Skulls

Reviewed by – ShadowJayd