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Review: Spike #1 by Victor Gischler, Paul Lee and Andy Owens

Review: Spike #1 by Victor Gischler, Paul Lee and Andy OwensLouie Falcetti writes;

I'm a Buffy fan, but I never got into Angel so don't yell at me. I know the first season is rocky and I'm supposed to stick with it and I'm going to get to it. Part of the reason why I never went for the big, brooding haircut was my love of his chain smoking, trash talking, English counterpart, Spike. Angel is the tortured crush for sweet, love sick, high school kids, doe eyed and quivering lipped, who want nothing more than to rest their heads on his beefy chest and…I don't know. In the 90s it'd be "read Jewel's poetry", but I don't know what the 21st century equivalent is. The lyrics of skrillex? I digress. Spike on the other hand, speaks to a different sort, those who want their boys bad (ok I'll grant you that they probably don't want to be nearly raped, but he didn't have a soul at that point, cut him some slack) and their love tough (again, not that tough).

Spike doesn't give a shit and that's why we love him. He's like the Deadpool of the Buffyverse, in that he's a trash talking, fan favorite who fans can't get enough of. Just look at any convention footage of actor James Marsters, and watch the poor man get hassled time and time again by fans desperate to hear him sexily belt out "Rest in Peace". Dark Horse has given the people what they want with new 5 Issue Limited Series Spike: A Dark Place.

If you haven't been following the Buffyverse since it returned in comic form with Season 8, you may not know that Season 8 was a clusterfuck of enormous proportions. It caused rifts in fandom and even Joss himself commented on it's flawed (yet noble) execution. Season 9 has been an (as promised) back to basics approach to Buffydom, concentrating more on the Slayer and her immediate world of broken hearts and urban danger rather than enormous world changing mystical…things. (Confession Time! I've read it a few times and still have trouble explaining Season 8) Add to the fact that Spike was a part of a little cross-company copyright character hot potato, in which stories from two different publishers had to be taken into account and continuity and canon did somersaults that would make the X-men blush, you can be excused for not knowing how Spike ended up to be a captain of a bug piloted spaceship.

Which is how Spike: A Dark Place #1 starts off, with Spike as captain of a spaceship crewed by bugs. Don't laugh. Well you can laugh at the funny parts, which there are plenty of ("Amphibapocalypse" immediately springs to mind), but don't laugh at the concept. At least not in that deriding way that you do. Like you're soooo above a comic with a vampire playing Mal to a firefly crew of giant insects in steampunk looking spacesuits. This comic is a perfect example of the conflicting demands of most genre fans, from Buffy to beyond. We say we don't want to see the same stories we've seen a million times before, but then when someone does something different, we get angry and demand a return to our old standard. Anyone can write a story where Spike lurks around city streets, hassling low level demons, pissing off the majors, chain smoking and acting like a bastard. But it takes a real talent to, well, just for the sake of writing it again, have Spike captain a spaceship with a crew of giant bugs.

Gischler has Spike's voice down, from his cynical world view, to his caustic wit, to his genuine loneliness at having to leave Buffy. Granted anyone would feel down if they fled to literally the dark side of the moon to try to forget about a heartbreak. Gischler also finds ways to tell the story so far organically within it's pages, rather than opting for a cramped (and confusing) paragraph of seven attempting to explain how we got to this point. At no time in the book does any of the exposition feel like exposition which is an incredibly tricky thing to get right in comics. Gischler also manages to pace the book splendidly allowing Spike his real moments of emotional angst to fully play out before, you know, having him hoisted on to the shoulders of his insect crew to be thrown into a solarium re-outfitted to resemble a beach themed beer ad.

My only experience with Gischler before this was writing X-Men and I have to admit that I wasn't a big fan of his run, though I now realize that he probably didn't have a lot of creative room to wiggle when scripting company mandated cross over events, although those did involve vampires too… In any event, whatever apprehensions I had to his work are gone as he's proven with this comic to be a writer that can balance humor, drama and action in an entertaining, fast paced package.

The art is great too, with Owens' inks giving Spike's features the right amount of solemn introspection or violent anger and Lee's pencils capturing the freaked out weirdness of the invading frog aliens as well as Spike's fanged out, punch filled rebuttal.

From what I've heard while this maybe only a 5 issue limited series, that doesn't mean we necessarily won't get more Spike minis in the future. Which is great news, especially since tall, dark and annoying gets his own ongoing. (Much love to the Angel & Faith team, you make that tortured tough guy with the dead heart of gold work) If you've been following the Buffy books odds are you've purchased this book already, and to you I say, "Well done". If you've been waiting for a moment to come back to Buffydom, give Spike a chance, unless you're afraid you might like it?

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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