Spike #1

The official continuation of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in comics form (with the concluded "Season 8" series and the currently ongoing "Season 9" comics) was overall a great idea, but I think even some of the most ardent fans will admit that there have been a few hiccups along the way. Up near the top of that list, I'd place near the conclusion of "Season 8" where Spike arrives with a steampunk spaceship piloted by gigantic insects. It was an out of the blue, head-scratching moment that felt designed simply to be bizarre, but unfortunately just came across as an idea that never fit in with its surroundings. Unfortunately, it's smack in the middle of that idea that Victor Gischler and Paul Lee have placed "Spike" #1, the first in a five-issue mini-series, and it turns out that they aren't able to do much of a better job with this poor concept.

Gischler's script is a mix of all the wrong elements; a brooding Spike with melodramatic internal monologues ("It'll always be darkness for me, luv. My sort can't take the light, can they?"), a lunar setting that doesn't lend itself to the character's strengths, and a whopping 8 page opening sequence with nothing but Spike and a mass of utterly indistinguishable and uninteresting bugs. Over the years I've seen all sorts of Spike fans appear in Buffy fandom (and let's be honest, it's that hardcore fandom who's going to track down a spin-off of a spin-off) and I don't think I've ever heard any of them say, "I would love to read about a moping Spike hanging out with alien insects on the moon." I understand that it's the situation that Gischler was handed, but this is a mini-series that could have just as easily opened with Spike explaining he was on leave from his crew of bugs, or something.

Lee's pencils are not as strong as I remember them. They're not bad, but they're utterly devoid of any personal style. He does a good job with James Marsters' likeness, and there's something amusing about armor-wearing insects having leis and grass skirts on thanks to Lee. But other than that, it's just a generic series of illustrations with an unusually buff Spike, with a lot of panels devoid of backgrounds. Nothing bad, but nothing memorable either.

There are a few cute bits. The solarium idea is nice, and when one of the bugs screams, "Amphibapocalypse is upon us!" when the moon frog attacks I laughed. But "Spike" #1 is the sort of comic that doesn't present any hook for the reader to continue, save for perhaps an abiding love for the title character. At this point, I'm not sure that's strong enough for most.

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