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29 December 2013 @ 10:08 am
BTVS Review: Season 9, Issue 14  
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Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Season 9, Issue 14

"Billy the Vampire Slayer, Part I"

Writer: Jane Espenson, Story: Jane Espenson & Drew Z. Greenberg, Pencils: Karl Moline, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Michelle Madsen,
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt, Cover: Phil Noto

Blurb: Magic is gone and life continues, but not without its hiccups. Humans and demons alike are experiencing some serious growing pains and sharing a new kind of threat: Zompires!

This new evil - part vampire, part zombie - is descending upon a small California town where a new kind of Slayer is about to be mysteriously born into a world without magic...


Page 01: We open with a boy and a girl in the bed of a pickup. They are buzzed overhead by a landing jet, which is apparently their idea of hanging out.

Our boy will undoubtedly be Billy. The girl is his bestie, Katie. Boy is lamenting the fact that he doesn't have a boyfriend.


Page 02: Katie is ribbing Billy about his unrequited crush on Cute-Devon. Billy laments some more. This is interrupted by another jet coming in for a landing.


Page 03: As our friends take a moment, in the hold of the landing jet, a zompire bursts out of its coffin from where the dead person was being delivered home.

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Page 04: The tarmac crew comes to unload the jet and are quickly slaughtered by our new zompire.


Page 05: Later, Billy is returning home from Katie's when he's accosted by some high school jocks. Apparently, Billy is quite out in his little town, which is upsetting some of the machismoes. You know how it is.

We get an info-dump that Billy now lives with his "hippie-granny" because his parents threw him out of the house. Also, Billy's last name is Lane.

Billy tries to walk around his tormenters, but as is so often the case, this doesn't work. One of our jocks implies that it would be best for everyone if Billy kills himself.


Page 06: Billy slips out of his hoodie and the grasp of our jerk-jocks and runs home. There he is greeted by his granny, who recognizing he's had a bad night, holds him in a tight hug.


Page 07: As Billy is dealing with being different, we're given a quick run down on the state of the town... which is that it's about to be overrun by zompires before anyone realizes what is happening.


Page 08: The following morning, as the zompire hoard rests, Billy prepares for another day at school. Grannie reminds him that home-schooling is still an option on the table, but he insists that he can handle the pressure. We see from his bag that handling the pressure involves learning to box. Grannie doesn't really like this, as she's pacifist.


Page 09: At school before classes, he works out in the gym. This includes boxing the bag and skipping rope, trying to condition his body for self-defense. We see a shadow of someone in the background.

By the time that Billy realizes he isn't alone, the person is right next to him. This causes him to tangle up in the rope and fall to the floor.


Page 10: His companion turns out to be Cute-Devon. They exchange dialog indicating that a) Devon has noticed Billy and b) he's there for a specific reason "just looking around" that he keeps mysteriously vague and c) that Billy's pining away for Devon may not actually be pointless.


Page 11: Meanwhile, in the local closed down and abandoned video store, the zompire hoard has reached dozens if not hundreds. Some unluckys have been dragged in with them and are quickly butchered. We're told that the zompires don't need to rest like the vampires they've spawned from, but can kill and multiply around the clock as long as they're out of the sunlight.

Billy's town looks to be on a path toward doomsday.


Commentary: I apologize for the lack of commentary to this point. There simply hasn't been much of interest. Billy hasn't yet been well defined, except for being a teen gay with a crush and the set up to introduce us to him played out a bit too much like an after-school special, right down to Katie's "It gets better".

The zompire hoarding is introducing some tension, but I'm not sure I buy just how quickly they're taking hold of the town. You'd think that the plane crew would've been missed, and since everyone in the world is aware of the monsters now, that local law enforcement would take especial interest when people go missing as a group suddenly.

With this a given, it seems logical that all of the readily accessible abandoned buildings would be searched nearly immediately, even if zompires wasn't the first thought. Half a dozen airport workers don't just leave their job and vanish, after all. This set up would've worked prior to vampires being public knowledge, but now it just feels a bit clumsy.

And with the setting being a small town, it's difficult to believe that no one has noticed dozens of missing all in, apparently, one night.



Page 12: That evening, just before nightfall, Billy is talking with his gal-pal on his cell. He's riding high on his brief encounter still with Cute-Devon. When he reaches his Gran's house, he's again confronted by jerk-jock, though.


Page 13: Jerk-Jock mentions that Billy shouldn't be so blase about wandering around at night, what with the rumors that vampires are stalking the town [So, uh, apparently the missing people weren't unnoticed? 'Cause, we sure don't see any signs from Billy's point of view that he or his grandmother or his friend was aware].

Billy has decided though that he's done taking Jerk-Jock's crap and the torment ends here and now. He gets himself psyched up to go fist to fist with Jerk-Jock.

Before the beatdown can begin, however, blood suddenly appears on Jerk-Jock's forehead and he gets a stunned expression on his face. There is a shadow behind him, unnoticed by Billy.

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Page 14: As Jerk-Jock collapses and Billy WTH's, another one of the jerks from high school rears up. Except that he's not just a high school jock, anymore. He's a zompire, and he's just killed Billy's tormentor.

Billy is left stunned, staring at he-who-used-to-be-Post.


Commentary: This part was exceptionally clumsily handled. There is no way for Post to attack and kill Garron, without Billy's seeing the entire thing in close-up.

And, although Garron's death has a nicely gruesome quality to it, it's just not sensible. There is no way that the top of his skull could be pulled off the way that it is, unless it was a screw-off skull-top. It also doesn't make sense in terms of the zompire's attack style -- it's hard to see him eating Garron now, so why wouldn't he have just grabbed the jerk-jock and ripped into his throat, except for dramatic effect.



Page 15: Billy prepares to try to fight off Post-zompire, even though he's clear on his poor chances. While Post-zomp stands there glaring and snarling, we see a pair of hands behind Billy reaching down for him.


Page 16: This turns out to be Cute-Devon, who is currently tucked up on Billy's Grandmother's low-slung roof. He snatches up Billy under his arms, and as he lifts, and Post-zomp launches himself forward, Billy delivers a kick to the zompire's face.

Devon is able to drag Billy up onto the roof with him, as Billy greets him with a grin and a shocked sense of disbelief over the entire thing. Both share cute banter, before Billy invites Devon through his skylight into his room.


Commentary: Oh, the lack of physics is making my head hurt. How exactly did Devon hang down low enough to grab Billy under his arms, without tumbling off the roof? How did he manage to dead-weight lift Billy off the ground without any leverage? How was he not yanked off the rooftop while attempting to drag Billy up without anyone there to hold onto his legs to keep him from falling downward with the added weight of Billy?

My further questions include: How come the Zompire, after that ridiculously over-the-top attack on Garron, fail to immediately leap at Billy's throat before any of the above could take place? Why is Billy and Devon acting so casually about this near fatal attack by monster? Why is Billy being flirty, rather than peeing his pants? If the missing people have generated rumors of vampires marauding the town, why are we not seeing any evidence of increased patrols around town? If rumors are flying around town as well, why was Billy seemingly completely clueless about any of it? What the hell is Devon doing on Billy's roof in the first place... is he stalking Billy through his skylight windows?



Page 17: Once inside Billy's bedroom, he asks after what happened to Post. Devon has the 4-1-1 because he's a regular follower of Buffy's Twitter account and fills Billy in on the crucial details. It turns out that Devon's sister lives in San Fran and had run into Buffy at the coffee shop where Buffy was waitressing. Since then, Devon has been studying up on the known lore for the Slayers and keeping tabs via Tweet about the new zompire threat.

Devon is actually there because he's gotten the idea that Billy would make a swell vampire slayer, for some reason.


Commentary: Can somebody explain the NO BILLY poster on Billy's wall? (Oops. Nevermind. It's a "No Bully" poster.)

Also -- Devon's background can almost make sense, I guess, but I'm failing to make the leap with him that Billy would be a monster hunter candidate, and I'm questioning just how much "slayer studying" he could do. Are the Slayers just blabbing all of their history and secrets on the damned social media, now?



Page 18: While Billy is trying to point out that the Slayers are especially called, and Devon is countering that you don't need special powers, just good training to fight zompires, the zomp that they forgot hasn't forgotten about them.

Post-zomp hasn't gone anywhere, and smashes suddenly through Billy's bedroom window. Without the magical rules in effect, and/or with the zompires unusual nature, they don't need invites. Devon is tackled to the floor.

Devon watches with a "oh, shit" look on his face, as Billy apparently rushes away, leaving him to be zomp-chow.


Page 19: But, obvs, this isn't what it appears. Instead, he grabs out a dresser drawer to smash into Post-zomp's head.

This at least gives Devon some room to try to wrestle off Post, while also providing Billy with some convenient wood shards.


Page 20: With Post-zomp still into Devon-sweets, Billy is able to stake him through the back.

[A good trick since Billy is of average build, and yet somehow is able to pin Post-zomp through his Letterman jacket, through his back, and into his shriveled heart in one strike with no particular training. Hmmmm....]

With Post-zomp dusted, Billy falls into Devon's arms. They're staring at each other when Granny comes in and sasses if she's interrupting something.

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Page 21: We don't see the explanation of what actually happened to Granny Sky, because we join Devon and Billy the next day out at the airfield, watching jets land.

They discuss the fact that Post-zomp couldn't be the only one in town and that with the missing people, there could be hundreds [or thousands -- but I think that's a bit extreme] of them running around by this point.

Devon, despite wanting to half-assed recruit Billy before, now has thought better of his crazy plan. He tells Billy that he hadn't thought of thousands of zompires and implies that maybe they should run for it.

Billy's concerned that by the time they fetch Buffy to deal, the mass could reach unstoppable proportions.


Page 22: After thinking it through, they decide to proceed with their wacky plan of Billy being a monster hunter [who by the way, I'm refusing to call a Slayer], with Devon as his half-assed Watcher... and possible romantic interest.


Commentary: And, although I think Jane wants us to think of Billy and Devon as a Scooby-lite coalition, I can't stop comparing them to the Sam/Dean/Bobby team instead. And they're still going to come up desperately short.



The Good: As Billy, I believe, is going to be a semi-regular at the least, they've given him adequate space to give a sense of background to him. That's a good.

I like the artwork when it's focused on the zompires.


The Bad: The first zompire attack on Billy and Devon is extremely clumsy and ill-portrayed, as explained.


Other Thoughts: I think Devon actually could've used more details in his background to explain exactly why he knows all about the Watcher part of the Slayer lore and why he's so gung-ho to be one. His motivations feel really sketchy.

I also don't like how nobody seems to react like normal people here - Billy, Devon and Sky seem awfully blase about monster attacks on them/their home.

The zompire plague that is seemingly decimating the town, judging by its portrayal as a small place in the middle of fields isn't portrayed very well. We see nearly no impact compared to the number of zompires we're seeing. The whole town should be in quarantine/evacuation with National Guardsmen patrolling it for the amount of people that would have to be suddenly missing/attacking as zompires that are depicted. The Billy/Devon storyline would've worked better, I think, if they'd kept Devon's background/sister-connection to Buffy angle but combined it with Riley and Sam guest starring with a commando team fighting the zompire menace to save the town, and have that be the introduction to Billy of being a monster hunter. Then have the already flirty Billy/Devon team up as the half-assed Watcher/"Slayer" team they build by the end of the issue.


The Score: I found the issue pretty blah, with severe flaws in the story telling to get us to the Billy-as-hunter, Devon-as-his-watcher ending. I found Devon to be inadequately written, which made his connection to Billy and his ideas about being a watcher/hunter combo unconvincing. I think the issue needed more development time to work out the story.


2.75 out of 5 stars.


Next Review: "Billy the Vampire Slayer, Part II" in BTVS, Season 9, Issue 15


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