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31 December 2013 @ 06:55 am
BTVS Slayer Review: Season 9, Issue 15  
15_cov


Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Season 9, Issue 15

"Billy the Vampire Slayer, Part II"

Story: Jane Espenson, Drew Z. Greenberg, Script: Drew Z. Greenberg, Pencils: Karl Moline, Ben Dewey, Inks: Andy Owens
Colors: Michelle Madsen, Letters: Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt (Comicraft's), 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 on Billy, the new hunter back in the school gymnasium. He's there with Cute-Devon.


Page 02: As he works on the speed-punching bag, we see that Devon has been joined by Katie. They watch the speed bag beat Billy up, and Devon admits that there is still some work to be done to get Billy into zompire-fighting shape.

As he fills Katie in, she figures out that Devon has a big ol' crush on our Billy.


Page 03: This is interrupted by Billy's return with the speed-bag... with a sword in it. Devon points out that he's running out of speed-bags and Billy will need to come up with a new way to deal with his sparring. Billy banters back that he's running out of knives, so y'know, sacrifices all around.

This segues into night, where Billy and Devon are hunched down behind the latter's car out at the abandoned video store, where we know our hoard to be.

Devon has put together eyewitness reports that suggested to him (correctly) that the zompires are hoarding at the store's strip mall. Dev makes it clear that they are there for intel, not engagement yet.

There is flirty banter.


Page 04: As Devon and Billy are watching, another 'nest-mate' arrives, telling Devon that he guessed correctly.

page04


Commentary: This timeline is confused, here. I thought that the zompires were gathered because we're meant to take this as hours later from the practice time in the gym. I'd presumed that we're in the pre-dawn and that is why new zompires are arriving... to bed down for the day.

But, the conversation immediately afterward that segues into the news report we're about to see about an attack on the library, suggests that the zomps weren't getting ready to bed down, but were gathering for an attack? More on why this gets so unclear in a second, though.



Page 05: Devon tries for a count of how many they're going to be dealing with, when Billy banters that his count is one short. While they were distracted, a zompire female has gotten the drop on them and is currently planning on making Billy her meal.

He tries babble to distract her intent, as he fumbles at his pocket for his stake.

Devon makes this unnecessary by getting behind her and staking her in the back. When Billy complains he could've done that himself, Devon shares rule number one: Always keep your stake at hand.

He also tells Billy that he's not fighting, yet. This is something Billy isn't thrilled to hear.

page05


Commentary: Okay, I'm just not buying Billy's reactions here. He's new to all of this, and he hasn't freaked out a single time? Not when the zompire-jock busts into his room through the wall? Not now, where he's caught flat-footed with a mouth full of fangs next to his face?

And, Devon? He's not just a bit freaked out, and maybe a little angry at both of them for being so unprepared and unobservant? Really?



Page 06: As Billy is complaining about not fighting, Devon breaks out into a huge grin. This is confusing. He explains that he likes Billy's "moxie", but that as his Watcher, it's his job to determine when Billy is ready not just to fight, but to decimate the zomp-hoard, and he's not there yet.

Later, in his room, Billy is jacked up with adrenaline.


Page 07: Devon sympathizes with the "thumpity-thump" of the rush, and tries to turn conversation toward maybe feeling that way about Billy himself. But before the words get spoken, Billy's attention is distracted by the television reporting a local vampire attack on the library. The reporter claims a group of vampires have taken hostages, there.

Billy tells Devon that his grandmother volunteers there....


Commentary: And, this is where the timeline is broken. Why were the zompires amassed in the strip mall to be spied on, if it was already night? And why were two other zompires proceeding to the mall, instead of out getting their feed on?

It has to be evening for Sky to be at the library for the attack, so the hoard of zomps being gathered to hang out doesn't make sense to me.

And, let's just forget that Devon was able to determine the zompires likely location from witness reports, while the cops couldn't. I'll chalk that up to some local cluelessness on the whole monster-habit issue.



Page 08: As the reporter warns that the footage hasn't been reviewed for edit yet, we see raw cell phone recordings from those inside the library during the initial rush on them... which they apparently streamed...? Surely, there wasn't enough time to record a video file and email it to the station.

Anyway, we see an old man get the neck bite. Devon suggests maybe Sky got out, but Billy is sure she didn't. He gathers up his stakes.

Devon tries to tell Billy they're not ready, and suggests that the police will handle it, but Billy isn't having any of that.


Page 09: Billy is appalled and shouts Devon down that the police don't know how to deal with zompires, while Devon makes things between them worse by telling Billy that he can't win; This is backpedaled into can't-win-yet-without-a-plan-of-action.

It's too little, too late and Billy slams out to go save his grandmother, leaving Devon standing in his otherwise empty room staring at the door.


Page 10: Billy arrives to find the front and rear of the library surrounded by the PD. There are amazingly few bystanders.

He internally monologues about choices and how to fight back when the odds are against you.


Page 11: The answer is to take to the woods around the side of the library, where apparently the police didn't have anyone posted to keep gawkers away from the building.

Billy chats to himself verbosely about knowing the ins and outs of the entire place due to using it to avoid the bullies.

He starts to loosen a brick from the library's outer wall. He's interrupted by a command to stop and a hand on his shoulder.


Page 12: No, it's not the police being competent. We see Devon, who has come to help. He spotlights Billy's habit of verbally monologuing to himself. Billy wonders what Devon is doing there, after that scene at the house, and Devon admits that he likes him... a lot.

This is a shock to our newly minted monster hunter.


Page 13: Devon takes over working at the loose bricks in the building's facade, while Billy deals with the sudden knowledge that his flirt-object actually is attracted back. He does this with laughter, which wasn't what Devon expected, or one would think, hope for.

Billy points out that if Devon likes him so much, choosing to take on the role of Watcher and sending Billy into situations where he's likely to be harmed was an odd choice. The absurdity strikes Devon's funny bone next and they both collapse into a tension-relieving laughing jag.


Commentary: Ugh. Okay, Billy does remember that Sky is either dead on the library floor or is hiding for her dear life inside, right? And, the 'Ha-Ha-Ha' blurbage is suggesting riotous laughter... but the police hear none of this extended interlude?

This whole scene is just weird. And I get what it's supposed to be doing, in keeping with Devon & Billy's early-Scoobie vibe -- but it just isn't working, because we haven't seen any of the initial signs of shock, fear, disbelief that this could be happening to them that is sort of necessary for us to buy that they've dealt with the unnatural consequences of the zompire-filled world before moving onto the "who else is going to stop this" part of the hero journey.

Plus, even if Billy and Devon's team up against the zompires was better set up to make them a new generation of heroes, this scene is still ill-placed considering Sky's danger/possible brutal death that Billy is supposed to be here to save her from.

This scene of them talking about their feelings seems to be taking crucial time away from saving Billy's grandmother's life!



Page 14: Devon brings up clearing the air about what their relationship status is going to be, after they get through dealing with the more urgent situation [finally].

They end up in an office, across the lobby from an another row of offices where Billy noticed Sky rushing to hide on the tv broadcast images.


Page 15: To Devon's observation that there is a lobby of zompires between they and Sky's rescue, Billy points out a double set of mezzanine stairs that will allow them to bypass the distracted hoard. Devon points out that if a zomp looks up, they're screwed.

Billy is confident that his few days of training has made them experts in stealth, and if that fails, then they'll fight their way through.

The stealth part fails before they're even out of the office, as another of Billy's high-school compatriots suddenly charges him from stage right and knocks him off of his feet.

page15


Commentary: And, yet, somehow Billy is going to survive this to become a new Scooby? Remember how through the years of Buffy, the vampires became less and less of an actual threat, compared to all of the super-duper powered demons and gods that Team Sunnydale and Team Los Angeles were routinely subjected to?

Yeah. Isn't it a little early to be stripping the zompires of their menace potential?

And I still can't get over the complete lack of any emotional consequences of Billy and Devon's seeing people they knew turned into monsters. I mean even Buffy still once in a while expresses some shock and grief.



Page 16: Fortunately for Billy, Devon is there again, as he loses his clenched stake. Devon shares Rule Two: Always have a spare.

Which doesn't appear to be fully relevant, since his dusting of Letterman #2 has resulted in their presence being blown, big time.

Billy suggests time to run.


Page 17: Billy tells Devon while they're hoofing it up to the mezzanine that he'll take on the task of staking, while Devon gets his grandmother out.

They share a kiss for inspiration. Billy is ready to kick ass.


Page 18: Billy manages to barely hold his own, while Devon gets to the secured room where Sky is and break the door down to "save her"... while actually drawing attention to where more meals are hidden.

As Billy's attack on a zomp!female is interrupted by being grabbed from behind by a male, he calls to Devon, who is also being confronted by one of the monsters....


Page 19: Billy is able to hit off his male attacker with the flat end of the stake backward into the monster's face. It allows him to stake the woman, then swing the stake backward and into the attacking male.

Meanwhile, Devon is wrestling mostly ineffectually with his attacker, while the hostages cower uselessly.

For some reason, they're not all immediately swarmed by the dozen other zompires in the room.


page19



Page 20: Billy is able to stake Devon's attacker in the back, saving him and allowing them to have a huge hug. Sky joins them. Apparently, the other zompires don't want to intrude on the moment.

Buffy takes up Billy's earlier monologue about choices and decisions about the best way to fight back, by advising that he remember that he's not alone in the fight.

We don't see how Billy and Devon managed to avoid the crowd of zompires waiting for them to break from their hug, but apparently they've now relocated to San Fran.


Commentary: I suppose we're to assume that they contacted Buffy via Tweet, or via Devon's sister who once met her in the coffee shop??

And Buffy was all, "uh sure, I got nothing better to do but take on two amateurs... come on up to San Fran and I'll be your personal mentor"..?

And Sky and Katie were fully on board with Billy's new plan to be a half-assed, inexperienced monster hunter in a new city crawling with zompires. Very supportive. Very.



Page 21: We find that Buffy is with Robert Dowling, who shares with Billy and Devon that they're now part of a team.

Buffy invites Billy out on his first official Team Buffy patrol.


Commentary: Which is, again, giving me icky feelings that we're having our Scooby Gang replaced with new regular characters as Xand, Dawn and Willow are off doing whatever. I think this is logical... the gang can't be connected at the hip, indefinitely... but I'm still not liking it, much.

Especially since of the new characters introduced so far, the only semi-regular I'm liking is Koh. We're going to need some real team building scenes and fleshing out these newbies in order to get us comfortable with them if this is the direction the comic is going to go.



Page 22: Buffy assures Billy and Devon that they belong.



The Good: I guess I do like that Billy and Devon didn't instantly become Team Bad Ass. It's a nice change of pace from what we're usually seeing.

Gay-inclusion is welcome, of course. Especially, if Billy is to be more integrated than Andrew has been.


The Bad: The reactions of all of these characters just doesn't feel true to life, at all.

The Billy/Devon relationship talk is extremely poorly timed and inappropriate for what is going on at the time.

The transition from the library under assault to being in San Fran was really jarring and clumsy, with it being very unlikely that Billy, Devon and the would-be-rescued having actually made it out of there with their limbs attached.

Buffy's "you belong" was anvilicious.


Other Thoughts: I'm generally disappointed in this story and un-attached to these characters, which is a general theme with all of our supporting cast, lately. If the Scoobies are being transitioned out, we're going to need much more engaging storytelling for the replacement members or large portions of this comic is going to be tedious going forward.

I also kept thinking of all of the young Slayers out there... are you telling me that 100% of them are now anti-Buffy? Wouldn't it make more sense to introduce one or two of these other characters, rather than a high school kid and his high school aged wannabe-Watcher? Buffy should have at least one person on her new team that has some real experience. It'd be really cool if Satsu was the one to forgive Buffy's "The Seed" choice and come aboard to  support her. It'd also be pretty cool if Clem would separate from Harmony because of reasons and join Team Buffy, instead.


The Score: Again, all I can say is "meh" -- with a side of "oh, come on".


2.75 outta 5 stars.


Next Review: No clue. Really, none.


--end--


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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Barbrahirah on December 31st, 2013 03:51 pm (UTC)
I really got the feeling that at this point in the comic, they had no idea what they were doing, and were just flailing randomly around to fill time.
harsens_rob: Faith_Buffyharsens_rob on January 1st, 2014 05:44 pm (UTC)
heh-heh-heh
I'm not sure I'd go that far. I think they did have an overall goal in mind, but weren't all together (the whole of the creative team, guest writers, etc) in how they were getting there.

It feels like the main goal is to split the Scooby Gang apart and introduce new characters for Buffy to revolve around. I can see the basic logic... you can have stories with the gang that don't revolve around Buffy and widen the 'verse a bit more. You can see this already with Spike and Willow's limited series. But I don't think that the step-by-step to get from A to Z has been mapped out beforehand and that is why it feels like things are wandering around.

It also feels like this season has been about returning Buffy to her role as leader of a more intimate group after S8's generally negative reception to her leading the world-wide army [I'm not sure they get WHY it failed for the fans].

I think they want to return Buffy to the Scooby Gang, without returning to status quo of the Scoobies always being the Scoobies and having the main foursome (with Dawn, instead of Giles) get stuck repeating the same old-same old formula.

They're trying to return Buffy to what the fans liked about the series' more intimate feel, without getting stuck in the rut of having her friends remain static.

Or, I'm reading too much into it and seeing patterns where none exist.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )