REVIEW: Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Season 9 #15

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Or – “Will There Be A Season 10?”

When Dark Horse announced the debut of Buffy Season 9 a couple of years ago, I wasn’t entirely sure that I was interested.  Season 8 had some serious narrative and editorial drift, and kind of fell apart 3/4 of the way through before managing to barely get itself together in the end, and the end of all magic left Season 9 in a weird position, given that most of the cast either used magic or came from magical origins in the first place.  After a bit of controversy early on, Season 9 has settled into a weird groove and seems to be working towards something bigger.  Is this the issue that turns the whole season into a crowning moment of awesome?  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SEASON 9 #15
Writer: Drew Z. Greenberg

Penciler: Karl Moline/Ben Dewey
Inker: Andy Owens
Cover Artist: Phil Noto
Colorist: Michelle Madsen
Letter: Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
Editor: Scott Allie & Sierra Hahn
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Season 9:  Buffy Summers is the slayer, chosen to fight blah blah blah fishcakes.  Since the end of Season 8, she has dealt with a number of issues both personal and “professional”, including a new batch of monsters dubbed ‘zompires.’  Of course, none of this is relevant, as this issue isn’t about her at all…

THERE’S ALWAYS A LULL LATE IN THE SEASON..

For some reason, the name Jane Espenson always fills me with dread, even though I’ve liked many of the things she’s been a part of.  The fact that she was behind the simply dreadful (and repititious) events of ‘Torchwood: Miracle Day’ keeps popping up in my head.  As I opened this issue, I realized that I missed the last one, and I’m leaping head-first into Part Two of Billy The Vampire Slayer!  In the space of a few pages, we get the story of young Billy, his Watcher Devon (who is a kid his age, and also the love interest) and his general inability to be a super-awesome slayer.  There’s some pretty cute interactions between the two characters, but what we end up getting throughout the first half of the issue is a gender-swapped version of the early seasons of the Buffy TV series with some cute-meet flirting rolled up into it.  The addition of the nigh-constant use of the non-word “zompire”, the use of Buffy-speak for Billy and his paramour (something that now sounds 15 years out of date) and a constant flirting between the two lads leads to a very strange reading experience for me.  On the one hand, I kind of like Billy, but the dialogue comes across as very twee and sing-songy throughout the issue, using the phrase “thumpity-thump” repeatedly to describe fear and flirtation alike.

THE OLD ‘BACKDOOR PILOT’ ROUTINE…

What’s most difficult to reconcile for me is the expectation that Zompires (ugh) are more powerful even than the old-school vampires (set by this series for the last year), leaving me wondering what two normal, powerless teenagers are going to be able to do about the zompire invasion.  Buffy herself nearly died half a dozen times (and actually died at least twice) in the Sunnydale days, and that’s WITH a full roster of super-powers.  Karl Moline does some pretty strong work in the issue, but two things stick out as problematic for me:  Billy’s watcher/boyfriend (who’s name, by the way, doesn’t seem to appeare anywhere in the issue) has big pointy anime hair throughout the issue, and Billy always seems to have a huge toothy grin that takes over 30% of his face, even when things are at their most dire.  There’s a subplot involving Billy’s grandma which feels like a ham-fisted way to force our hero into mystical combat with the monsters, and the issue ends with what seems to be a time-jump forward and Buffy agreeing to take Billy on patrol as we fade to black.  Her message (that no one is alone and that it gets better) is one that I appreciate, but the issue itself is pretty lackluster overall.  Had their been a stronger tie to the ongoing Buffy series, this could have been an excellent story, but what it ends up feeling like is an awkward story-as-lesson or the first shots across the bow for a spin-off starring Billy and Devon.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  AWKWARDLY SHOEHORNED IN, ULTIMATELY SKIPPABLE.

There’s a big conflict that comes from stories like this, stories that come with a moral or message, in that I often feel that critiquing the story can come across as rejecting the underlying message being sent.  In that, I appreciate that Billy and Devon have found each other in their harsh world, and that they’ve come to find Buffy to find their way as slayers and as a couple.  But the story beats getting there are entirely predictable, and the dialogue is in several place cringe-inducing.  The epilogue with Buffy feels tacked on, an attempt to make an existing story feel contemporary with Buffy’s reality, leaving Billy’s tale feeling like padding for the inevitable trade paperback.  Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Season 9 #15 doesn’t ever grow out of it’s awkward stage, and never fully gels in terms of storytelling (though the art is mostly acceptable), earning 2 out of 5 stars overall.  Given the number of characters in the mythos who might have tied Billy’s coming-of-age into the continuity (including the main character, who has flirted with bisexuality in the comics) and it just feels like an opportunity was missed here…

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!

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