Having suffered a ‘regulation episode’ that almost destroyed an entire city block, Billy now finds himself in the infirmary of the Genetic Alteration and Pyrokinesis Research Institute. The founder of the institute, Doctor Westbrook, explains to him that he has a rare DNA structure, giving him the ability to control and manipulate fire, and urges him to remain under his supervision in order to better understand and focus his power. However, after his psychiatrist is revealed to be an undercover G.A.P.R.I. agent, Billy reacts angrily and leaves the institute accompanied by Mr Kennedy, the G.A.P.R.I agent he previously attempted to incinerate.
The issue opens from the hazy perspective of a pregnant woman, who in addition to being in labour, is also suffering from a condition known as ‘hyperthermia’, an affliction that burns the sufferer from the inside out. The woman dies in childbirth and is later revealed to be Billy’s mother, clarifying why his father held him responsible for her death, and why they have such a fractured relationship.
Billy’s recalcitrant attitude towards authority deteriorates further when he discovers that G.A.P.R.I. had been monitoring his progress since birth. His sense of betrayal at their lack of intervention serving only to fuel his determination to go it alone, despite repeated warnings of the inherent dangers of his unfocused abilities. Over the course of the story arc Billy gradually learns how to activate his power, initially using it to exact revenge on those he perceives to have wronged him. When he does try to use his powers for good, intervening in an attempted rape incident, he is rewarded with cries of “freak!”. Seemingly, the character can’t catch a break. The sudden onset of a torrential downpour symbolically illustrating this point.
This issue also gave us a glimpse into the clandestine G.A.P.R.I, and a sense of the power and influence they wield. The cover-up of the explosion implying that they are a government agency. Their motivations are pretty murky at this point, but clearly Billy is an important asset they wish to secure.
Although lacking a little in the originality stakes, this is a nicely poised slow burner. Let’s hope it doesn’t fizzle out.
You can grab yourself a copy of the first two issues of Billy the Pyro on ComiXology.