Thanksgiving has come and gone (here’s hoping that you had a good one), and Dark Horse Comics served up its fourth issue of Spike: A Dark Place to eager comic book sniffers of the Whedonite variety. While many found the Buffyverse comic feast offered by writer Victor Gischler and the art team of Paul Lee (pencils), Andy Owens (inks), and Cris Peter (colors) completely satisfying, your friendly neighborhood Comic Book Slayer was left wanting more.
Here’s a quick summary of Issue #4:
This issue opens with Spike’s bug crew still worried that their fearless warrior is under the sway of the courtesan demon, Morgan. Still, they decide to wait for confirmation of their suspicions before taking action.
While traveling to their Hellmouth destination, Spike and Morgan continue to get closer. Morgan attempts to get Spike to open up regarding his relationship with Buffy, and it seems like they might be bonding when the bug crew informs them they’ve reached the location of the Hellmouth they are seeking: Easter Island.
Having landed on the Polynesian island paradise, Morgan picks up her pursuit of Spike, claiming that in the blonde vampire she’s found a purpose that’s been lacking in her life. Despite her feminine wiles and desire to bring out the “greatness” in Spike, our ensouled hero turns down the courtesan demon, unable to shake his lingering feelings for Buffy.
Enraged by Spike’s rebuttal, the tension between Spike and Morgan hits a peak when it’s revealed that she has a shard of The Seed and plans to use it to open Easter Island’s Hellmouth. Spike and Morgan begin to duke it out, and when the bug crew arrives to help their master, Morgan bursts through the ship’s window, making a run for the Hellmouth.
Lovelorn Spike. “ . . . a part of me cherishes every moment I’ve spent miserable over her.” Gischler has had a great grasp of Spike’s voice, but with this beautiful line (and a few others) he brings back my favorite side of the blonde vampire. Even when he was soulless and in villain mode, Spike’s always worn his heart on his sleeve and that is part of the charm that has won him such a large and vocal fan base. Spike is the ultimate fanboy for romantic, burning, passionate love, and whether he’s monologuing as “love’s b—h,” enduring bloody torture at a god’s hands for his beloved and her little sis, or holding the Slayer through the night when all others have abandoned her, this is where the character lives. He’s willing to take the metaphorical and emotional punches even if it only grants him the bittersweet taste of unrequited love. Many fans worried about Spike solving his Buffy addiction with a hint of sultry Morgan, but I’m glad to see that Gischler knows the character so well and has gotten to the heart of the matter when it comes to Spike’s true feelings for the Slayer.
When did the bugs get boring? Fans have ripped on Spike’s bug crew since they showed up, but I’ve always had a special place in my heart for them. There was just something so weirdly perfect about the idea of Spike and his bug crew gallivanting from dimension to dimension in his steampunk spaceship. Unfortunately, in this issue I finally reached the place where most have been for a while: the bugs were “blah.” I know they’re supposed to represent the readers’ concerns regarding Morgan and her influence on Spike, but I feel the opportunity to flesh out these characters has really been squandered at this point. I was hoping for more characterization rather than defining the bug crew by “the leader,” “the suspicious one,” etc.
How could it not be a Hellmouth? Easter Island is a fine Hellmouth, but given the reactions in the last issue (“How could it not be a Hellmouth?”), I was expecting some sort of Whedon-type twist. Instead, we get a reveal that lacks any humor, under cutting, or the vaguest bit of bizarrely appropriate weirdness.
Retread much? I’m sure not everyone feels this way, but for anyone who has spent time reading the various Spike and Angel comics from IDW, this whole “Spike getting over Buffy” and “Spike and the hot temptress he can’t love” is very old hat. I know Gischler has a slightly new twist on it and this is a necessary place for Dark Horse to take its readers, but I feel like I’ve read this mini-series a few times already. (I miss you, Brian Lynch!)
The Ugly (Fan Buzz, that is . . . )
Despite my problems with the book, fan reaction has been very positive for this issue, with many feeling that Gischler has mastered Spike’s dialogue. Spike: A Dark Place #4 received a great review from Comics Grinder, but Bloody Disgusting and SciFi Pulse were closer to my opinion.
So, I guess everyone else disagrees with me. While there were a few reviewers that felt the issue was sub-par, most fans in the forums seemed to really enjoy this issue. Given how much I liked the previous issues, I will count this as a fluke of opinion on my part and hope that Issue #5 brings the awesomeness back.
Blame Scott Allie. Nah, I’m just joking! Scott Allie has been fantastic for the Buffyverse, but, unfortunately, he confirmed via Twitter that Spike: A Dark Place #5 will be delayed and there is currently no final release date. Curse you, forces of evil!
That all for now, Scoobies. I’ll be back later this week with a review of Angel & Faith #16.
’Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer