Billy Demon Slayer S2#1: Hamster Troubles (2005)

Editor Hayden Fryer
Publisher Siberian Productions
Writer Hayden Fryer
Art and Colours Hayden Fryer
Cover Alesha Gosling, David Mayes, Guy Dernee
Genre Demonic

Talk us through it

Hamster Troubles kicks off immediately after the events portrayed in Demon Slayer Series 1, or at least that's my assumption from the first page of the book. Billy has learnt the dangers of taking a shower with cultists on the loose, no nothing to do with dropping the soap, more to do with God and the Devil apparently no longer existing. Don't ask, hunt out the first series to get the full scoop.

Billy is back in Walksville Sydney and is happy enough to head off to school with Loren and Blake. The only downside is that Blake has apparently eaten something Noel gave him, leaving Blake with stomach troubles. Seems Noel is something of a budding Frankenstein and is immersed in exploring things he shouldn't via injecting the school hamster, Nibbles, with some formula of diabolic content.

One thing leads to another and that evening Billy is forced to do battle with a demonic hamster intent on carnage. There's something of an anticlimax coming at you, but has Noel learnt his lesson, has Blake's stomach issue resolved itself, and who or what didn't get to claim a body?

Ready to meet Billy and his mates?


"I thought to taste death would enlighten me to life" - Noel

Strangely for a comic that is apparently about demon slayage we kick off the first issue of the second season of Billy Demon Slayer with a light heartened amusing take on the old Frankenstein folly. You know the one about your archetypical mad Scientist trying to usurp the powers of god, create life by dubious means, and force the local peasantry to take up flaming torches and pitchforks. That sort of thing never ends well you may have noticed. Anywise what Hayden Fryer does do is drop something of a bridging issue here to help out those of us that haven't read through series one and to refresh the memories of those who have. We get to meet the wise cracking Billy, his mates Loren and Blake who may or may not be of integral importance to series two, and the whole school environment Billy calls home. It's pretty much a crash course that doesn't waste any time in getting us where we need to be and we're all good to go with series two by the end of the comic, right gang?

Almost forgot to mention that we also get a standalone story that, while not howling at the moon on moonlit moors, does manage to deliver a new riff on the Frankenstein thing. I don't think I've ever quite read such an original take on Mary Shelley's gothic masterpiece before. This could be due to the slight reek of sulphur in a hinted at demonic angle, or of course the whole diabolically inclined hamster thing. The only way this could of got any better was if the hamster was replaced by a gerbil, a PVC pipe had of been introduced, and a well known celebrity had of ended up with a demonic rodent up his arse. But hey you can't have everything, though LiLo glassing someone was a highlight of my week thus far, unfortunately no demonic critters involved. Before my Editor blows a gasket over this paragraph, I should point out that Mr Fryer in no way expects Hamster Troubles to be taken seriously, demonic little furry friend, think about it.

So in essence Hayden Fryer is trying to pull off one of the most difficult of all vehicles in the dark genre garage, the horror comedy. You either get this one right, people laugh at all the right places, or you get it incredibly wrong, people laugh at the whole concept. For every comedy that works there are another hundred or so that fall flat on their collective faces. Fryer pretty much nails it by having a firm grasp of the concept of "farce", the events going down in this comic are so off the planet that they achieve a sort of self defending status that you can't poke sticks at. There's such an insanely original notion to Hamster Troubles that you have to applaud Hayden Fryer for taking a risk and dropping the whole mojo on us. A manic psychopathic hamster and one of the best anti climatic twists I've ever read won me over, there's quite the talent invested in this comic.

The horror elements are included here to some degree though Hamster Troubles clearly isn't going down town terror-ville. Besides the diabolically inclined hamster from hell's play pen and our budding Frankenstein, was that a hint of the fog that Marduk faced off against in the prologue? It might just be a device Hayden Fryer uses to convey meaning of course, sort of a fog of war horror, but I've got my fingers crossed that a certain set of swords may just be losing their hold on a certain Mummu; death, zombification, and possession to follow, news at nine. While realising that Billy Demon Slayer is never going to play in the same blood pen as say The List we might be in for a rollicking good demonic tale in future instalments. Please note as a comic Billy Demon Slayer is all ages, religions, genres, and current circle of hell existence. I would imagine that no one is going to be offended by the content except perhaps members of PETA or the extreme right Fundo religious groups.

Turning away from the script the artwork shows the same style as was introduced previously. The covers are in colour while the interior is your standard black and white panels with this sort of greyish, sorry colour blind over here, hue to certain elements. For sure the style reminds of something I've run across before, we all have influences folks, but I simply can't put my finger on what that something is. If anyone has a notion then write on in and I'll say yay or nay in a future review. There's a sort of cartoonish representation going down here rather than an attempt at realism, it would be a mistake to go real world in my opinion, which really works for the subject matter at hand. We'll have to see if it holds up against heavy horror overtones, assuming the series is headed in that direction of course.

One of the great aspects of Hayden Fryer's artwork here is something I can't really talk about overly without giving away great chunks of the plot and one of the funnier things to tickle my warped sense of humour in along time. There's a belief in horror that you should always hold the ace card up your sleeve, don't let the audience see the zipper running down the monster's back, keep that one big moment till late in the show, Hayden Fryer achieves this in an unexpected way. We're talking smoke and mirrors with Fryer suggesting things via glimpses and half seen things hiding in darkness. It's the perfect use of tension and atmosphere to lead the reader down one path before suddenly dead ending that path and going in another direction. You'll have to read the comic to fill in the blanks here folks, just remember there's more under the covers than what you may initially think.

Summary Execution ...

Hamster Troubles wasn't exactly what I was expecting, that's a good thing kids, and I wasn't quite sure of what to take from the comic. A couple of readings put me more on Hayden Fryer's bandwidth, what's the frequency Kenneth, and I ended up grooving along to things as a unique take on one of horror's little soap operas went down. I'm cool with reading things a thing times to get over preconceptions, and really dug the way Fryer delivered here. Yeah I had a good time, but am still to get my Demon Slayer groove on.

I mentioned last Billy Demon Slayer review what the options are for dialling in are right? For those with limited attention spans, or who have lost all ability to navigate websites, the official site can be found by clicking through.

[Tech Note, the first of my intrusions, a cookie trail is coming folks (easier navigation)]

Take some time out of your business schedule of skinning the neighbourhood cats alive and check out the whole Billy Demon Slayer thing. It'll be worth your while and there's not a whole lot of investment involved. While not being dragged into things as yet I'm appreciating each issue and really want to see where the overall plot might go from here. Be warned Hamster Troubles might just give you a new view of the pet rodents in your house, always knew those guinea pigs were hell's emissaries.

ScaryMinds Rates this read as ...

  Solid venture into horror/comedy waters that won't leave you without a paddle.