‘Spike: A Dark Place’ #5 Review: Crash Landing

Cover of 'Spike: A Dark Place' #5 by Jenny Frison.
Cover of ‘Spike: A Dark Place’ #5 by Jenny Frison.

This week saw the wrap up of Dark Horse Comics’ Spike: A Dark Place miniseries focusing on Buffy’s platinum blonde vampire. While the creative team of Victor Gischler (writer), Paul Lee (pencils), Andy Owens (inks), and Cris Peter (Colors) has surprised and entertained me during multiple moments of Spike: A Dark Place, the final and fifth issue of the series felt lackluster and predictable – an unfortunate crash landing following a fairly smooth flight. Let’s hope it reads better in TPB form!

SPOILERS BELOW
Here’s a quick summary of Issue #5:

This issue opens with Spike and his bug crew determined to stop the demonic Morgan from opening the Hellmouth located at Easter Island. Spike pursues Morgan on foot while his bug crew offers backup in their ship. Despite their efforts, Morgan uses the shard of The Seed to command the guardians (those famous Easter Island statues) to open the Hellmouth. Much to her surprise, Morgan and Spike both find themselves being chased by the stone guardians when the rocky titans become aware of them.

Sebastian, in the pilot seat of the bug ship, fires upon the guardians, attempting to help Spike. While the bugs momentarily save their leader, the guardians begin to merge, forming a solitary and gigantic form. The uber-guardian strikes the bug ship, damaging it, and is just about to squish Spike when Morgan grabs him and flies to safety.

Meanwhile, the bug crew evacuates their fatally damaged ship, with a heroic Sebastian remaining in the cockpit so that he can protect Spike and his brothers by sacrificing himself with a kamikaze attack that destroys the uber-guardian.

Later, Spike bids the bug crew adieu (They’re setting up home in one of Easter Island’s caves.) and tells Morgan to “sod off.” Just as he’s contemplating a return to San Francisco, his phone rings . . . with Angel on the other end.

The Good

Look where Spike’s heading . . . back to his old hometown! It’s somewhat depressing to say, but the most exciting part of the issue for me was the ending that hinted at what lies in the future for William the Bloody. I’m not sure what part Spike has to play in Angel & Faith, but Christos Gage’s run on the series has been amazing, and I’m very excited to see one of my favorite characters joining the UK-based team.

The coconut joke. The one where the bugs joke that they’ll be constructing a new spaceship “out of bamboo and coconuts.” That was hilarious.

The Bad

Confirmed: Morgan was just another disposable hottie to throw at Spike. I kept hoping for a “deeper” reveal with this character, but, in the end, there wasn’t much to her beyond being a one-note form of temptation for our male lead and a simplistic antagonist used to push the plot forward. We’ve seen this character (and the outfit) before, and, at this point, it’s just kind of boring.

Jenny Frison’s cover. I don’t want to knock Frison too much, because her work is usually top notch, but this issue’s cover just seems . . . uninspired. Who knows if the subject matter was an editorial decision, but ending the series with a generic depiction of Spike with his hands in his pockets just feels a bit “meh.” (That said, props to Steve Morris for his alternate cover featuring Spike rockin’ a wrench and a panty-tossing bug audience.)

Alternate cover for 'Spike: A Dark Place' #5 by Steve Morris.
Alternate cover for ‘Spike: A Dark Place’ #5 by Steve Morris.

So, there goes the greatly underused bug crew and their magnificent ship. *Sigh* I had such high hopes for Spike and his wacky, alien bug crew. When they showed up in Season 8 with Spike cursing unknown, other dimensional wankers and then crashed through the face of Big Ben, I knew good things were in store. Joss Whedon has indicated that originally the idea was for Spike to spend Season 9 jumping from dimension to dimension (and adventure to adventure) with his loyal bug buddies, like some sort of of snarky, vampire time pirate. These plans were apparently scrapped when it became clear that the readers were looking for Season 9 to be more self-contained and character-focused, and less epic, intergalactic adventure. I understand the move, but it really seems to have left the bug crew (and their ship) with nothing but abandoned story threads. While there have been moments of brilliance regarding the bugs, it feels like a huge opportunity was lost to allow these characters to grow on the readers and to give them real, intricate, and complex personalities. While Sebastian’s sacrifice was sad to see, it also rang hollow. Perhaps it was overshadowed by the fairly obvious way Spike: A Dark Placewas used to find a way to clear the bug crew and their ship from the board, almost as if none of the writers knew what to do with them now that the arc of Season 9 had changed. Perhaps it was Spike’s muted reaction (or non-reaction) to the death of Sebastian. Either way, I’m sad to see the bugs go out this way. They deserved better.

The Ugly (Fan Buzz, that is…)

Fan reaction has been pretty rough for this issue, with many readers questioning the necessity of this little “adventure” for Spike.

Was Spike: A Dark Place just somewhere for Blondie Bear to tread water for a while? The biggest complaint I saw from fans was that Spike: A Dark Place was basically a waste of time. With no really huge character changes for Spike, and no really lasting effects from the mini-series, many felt that Spike’s “vacation” from Buffy really only served to get him out of the main title and get rid of his bug crew and their spaceship.

Have Angel and Spike been calling each other post-Twilight?Fans sure seemed confused about this one, with some even mistaking Angel for Detective Dowling! While I didn’t have any issues recognizing “The Dark Avenger,” I will agree that the conversation between Spike and Angel does imply that they’ve spoken since the Twilight fiasco and that’s just . . . odd. When did they chat? Why did they chat? And, would they really do this behind Buffy’s back? We’ll just have to wait and see if Angel & Faith clears any of this up.

That’s all for now, comic book-sniffers! I will be back next week with my review of the latest issue of Angel & Faith (now including Spike!).

’Till the end of the world,

-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer

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