I'm sure I'm not the only person who raised an eyebrow at some of the early, pre-publication descriptions of "Billy the Vampire Slayer." Kicking off in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9," Jane Espenson, Drew Z. Greenberg (who co-plotted the story with Espenson), Karl Moline and Andy Owens have introduced the first male Slayer, a gay teenager named Billy in a small rural town. And based on that brief plot snippet, it's easy to be a little worried about the potential idea that being gay is somehow linked to being female. Happily, I'm here to tell you that this issue doesn't go down that road at all, and instead Espenson, Moline and company have turned out a comic to be proud of.
In "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" #14, Espenson makes it pretty clear that this isn't a comic about Billy becoming a Slayer because of being gay. Or rather, he's not chosen by the powers that create Slayers. Instead this becomes a story about a kid who's been bullied that learns to stand up for himself even as the world around him crumbles, and uses his life experiences to become a self-made hero. Taken on its own, that's a good sort of story no matter what, and watching Billy turn from victim to victor is the sort of tale that you can get behind easily. It's a standard hero transformation from Espenson and Greenberg, and that works.
In the greater context of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," though, there's an extra punch to this story. With magic having been wiped out from the world at the end of the previous series, no new Slayers are being called and in fact the lack of magic is making prospects a little grim for defeating the supernatural creatures still in the world. That's why "Billy the Vampire Slayer" works so well; it's about someone who doesn't get any sort of extra magical kick still finding a way to rise up and become a hero in the context of this world. It's one of the things that worked about the character of Xander over the years, and it's nice to see that echoed in Billy.
Moline's return to the world of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is a welcome one, and his art is strong. No one else draws characters quite like him, with their lanky but energetic forms, and I've missed them. When we finally meet Devon, there's something about his smile that suddenly makes his nickname of "Cute Devon" click into place, for instance. Then you turn the page, and the horror inside Cubesmasher Video is so grim and nasty that it makes that previous glimpse of Devon and Billy all the more appealing. It's a nicely drawn book, and I'm glad that Moline is back.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" #14 could have been a disaster, but it makes the comic all the more appealing in how well it succeeds. This is easily my favorite issue of the new series to date, and it's turned the book into one where I'm eager to see what happens next. All in all, a good show by all parties involved.