Spike #2&3 Double Feature, Summary and Review
Second issue starts with Spike playing the nonchalantly doomed antihero, keeping the fish guys talking until they agree to let him live so he can guide them through Sunnydale. The boss villain explains that they got stranded on the moon by hitching a ride on a flying space monster after the Seed broke. They need the shards to get home.
Spike brings the fish squad through the tunnels in the Hellmouth crater, where every setting from the show seems to be represented within the space of a few panels. He's still restrained by the frog-demon's tongue, but still relaxed, smoking, and pondering his thoughts of home and feeling of unfinished business. Back on the ship, Sebastian and Frisky successfully take out their guard while asking each other if Spike really cares about them.
In the tunnels, Spike flashes back to his farewell conversation (monologue) with Buffy and thinks about how having a soul ties him to people and places. The fish guy's getting impatient, but Spike points out the Seed Chamber; they're there. So is a pretty lady in a skin-tight outfit, and she confirms that the shards are gone, and were before she got there. She wanted them to help her go home - she and Spike connect instantly on this point. The boss fish is angry, of course, so a fight erupts.
The lady turns into a fairly classic she-demon, Spike frees himself by misdirecting the boss's sword-slash into the frog's tongue, and the cavalry (bugs) rushes in. Spike kills the boss just in time to save the demon lady (who has now been identified as a succubus). She thanks him and they introduce themselves; her name is Morgan. They start talking about where the shards are now, but then another pair of figures bursts through the ceiling. On the last page, they're revealed as Nash and Pearl. Spike lights a cigarette.
The next issue starts with a flashback to Rome, 1953. Pearl is luxuriating after having sex with an ugly bug demon, but he soon kills the mood by announcing he's going to eat her. She calls in Nash and the two of them fight the demon, but it's not looking good for them until Spike bursts through the window with a sword. He says the demon owes him money from cards, and lops its head off.
At some point Drusilla has entered, and she tells Spike that he's won an admirer by saving Pearl, and that she owes him a reward. Spike agrees - flash forward to the scene from the last issue in the Sunnydale crater. Spike and Pearl flirt with/insult each other while everyone else acts confused (except for Nash, who explains he was unconscious at the time that his sister and Spike met). Pearl says she was naive to think he was a hero, and experience makes one see oneself and others more clearly, which gets him brooding again - he thinks she's harder and crazier since last time they met, and that he's neither a hero nor a villain. She snaps in his face to bring him out of it.
Spike acts like he's going to say goodbye and just leave, but he quietly tells Sebastian to get ready to grab Morgan and run. Sure enough, Pearl stops him and says they're looking for the shards of the Seed, and Nash threatens to search Spike for them. Spike vamps out and breaks his finger, and the fight - Spike vs. Pearl and Nash - breaks out. He manages to send them into a pillar, which, upon breaking, brings the ceiling down on them. Spike runs, getting to the ship just as Morgan and the bugs are. As the ship takes off, we see Pearl and Nash crawling out of the crater.
Safely in orbit, Spike asks Morgan if he can give her a lift somewhere. She wants to go to a Hellmouth, and points one out on the ship's navigation (it's not stated if this is Cleveland, only that Spike hadn't previously known about it). They set a course for the place, and Morgan asks to take a shower. Sebastian privately questions the wisdom of this plan, and Spike tears him down until he realizes that the bug might have a point about Morgan having a shard of the Seed on her already.
Morgan catches Spike trying to look through her clothes while she's in the shower, but she isn't angry. After she finishes and dresses, they talk over drinks. Spike's first question is, "Succubus, huh?" Sebastian and Frisky observe the conversation from a control room monitor, arguing again about how far to trust Morgan (and Spike). Morgan describes the specific type of succubus that she is: higher-end, valued by ancient rulers for more than sex. (Basically, a demon Companion, but apparently a permanent one.) Spike thinks she's a charmer, but doesn't forget that he saw her fighting form, which she doesn't mention.
She inquires about his story, noting what Pearl said about him being a hero. He says he's different than he used to be, and compares it to seeing an old picture of oneself in a terrible outfit that you thought was stylish at the time. "And yet...also realizing you are the baddest badass of them all. And if anyone can make that outfit look good, it's you." They smile, she suggests that that's growth, and touches his arm while saying she's glad she met the current version of him.
They go back to the shard conversation. He finally reveals that on Buffy's request, he shot them into the sun. He asks if she still wants to go to the Hellmouth, knowing now that it might be a wasted trip. She still wants to try it. They gaze at each other over the table. The bugs see - Frisky looks at Sebastian, who walks off saying, "Steps will be taken."
Alright, I'm enjoying this series. But honestly? Not that much.
Even when I miss a review I still (almost definitely) read the comic on the day it came out, and in the last month, I've had no desire at all to take another look at Spike #2. The issue essentially consists of two parts: Spike leads the fish guys through the tunnels, and other characters show up and/or talk about shards. Since Spike himself isn't even one of the people who's interested in the shards (at this point), it's pretty hard to care.
I got frustrated fairly quickly at the pages and pages of our title character wrapped up in a frog tongue, and I've been trying to work out exactly why. It didn't prevent action from happening and it doesn't matter that it looked ridiculous - something about it was just annoying, possibly due to a failure on the artist's part to keep stirring up the visual elements and make them fresh, possibly just because the prolonged depiction of a restraint makes one feel subconsciously trapped. (Which would actually be a success on the artist's part. Which is it?!)
In a similar vein, it's becoming extremely dull to watch Spike lighting up cigarettes. After my recent overdose on Cowboy Bebop, I didn't think watching hand-drawn people smoke hand-drawn cigs ought to bother me, but there's some kind of difference there. An animated character smoking is extra effort, especially noticeable in the efficiency of the anime style. A comic character might as well be doing anything in his panel - using a cigarette as a prop is just a shortcut to making him appear dynamic. Throw in the dialogue actually mentioning the cigarettes, and it feels more and more like filler. (Exception made for the transition out of the flashback; that was well done.) We know Spike likes to smoke. Can we see him doing something else?
It's a small complaint, sure, but given the (extremely) limited cast and the initial premise of aimlessness, filler is the last thing this series needs. Pace is everything here. (Shoot, just realized Spike himself actually says "Timing is everything" in #3. What's going on here?!) Spike is thinking too much, when he needs to be acting. I want to feel like I'm getting whiplash from the chaos this comic is giving me. If readers like Spike, they like him for being spontaneous, fierce, funny, and unique, and we're only getting glimpses here and there of all of those traits.
(This is the wrong place for it, but once more I have to throw in a plug for Saga. Want to see nonstop action? Chaos with a purpose? Sorry, this is just my new thing, you probably haven't heard the last of it. I would like Brian K. Vaughan to get his witch friend to cast a spell using his Scythe and share his power with every potential comic writer.)
Enough of that, here's some stuff I do like. Morgan! Considering her appearance, it's a pleasant surprise that she's just...nice. Immediately willing to make a friendship rather than a rivalry, just on the basis of her own gratitude for getting help when she needed it. As unimpressed as I am with her back story ("I'm not a victim! My masters liked me for my personality!"), I expect it's the best we could get from a succubus in the Jossverse. She and Spike seem to genuinely like each other, and I could see that going in a few directions - obviously, they're not going to permanently pair up one of their hot names with a character they just introduced, but there could be a positive experience in this for Spike. Perhaps they hook up and part on good terms, perhaps she does the old "I think I love you oh no I'm dead!" Or they could just be friends (OMG Spike, it turns out guys can just be friends with women, you gotta try this). Or she could go evil and betray him, whatever, blank slate for now!
The bugs are also still tolerable, and somewhat humorous. Like Spike's inner monologue, their secret debates are getting repetitious, but like the monologue, they're promising to get us somewhere, and as I said in the first issue, a revelation on Spike's part that he can't just treat his crew as disposable doormats is a somewhere I really want to get. It's interesting that Morgan is the last straw for Sebastian, and if there's one thing I'm curious about for the next issue, it's what steps he's planning to take.
Nash and Pearl...well, they're a link to A&F. They haven't been hugely interesting there, and I'm not getting much more this time. It was worth a grin to see that Spike and Pearl had a history, but I can't say as I really needed to know what that history entailed, beyond a couple spoken sentences. Of course, maybe I'm just saying that because the flashback from the preview pages was probably the weakest part of the miniseries so far. Somehow it seemed like the art took a major dip when it started, and didn't recover for the rest of the issue - it's inevitable given their respective character designs that Spike and Nash would look alike, but something more could have been done to balance that. The dialogue was fairly trite, and okay, this is probably the kind of thing I should chalk up to humor and ignore, but how the hell does a demon race survive if the male eats the pregnant female?
An appearance from Drusilla always makes me squeal, but this time...fanfic readers and writers, tell me if this makes sense to you: her voice is very hard to reproduce, no? A few writers nail it, the rest of them mostly have her speaking in extended metaphors with a few dashes of generic crazy. This Drusilla struck me as a fanfic Drusilla, with a little Gollum thrown in for good measure. I don't know. Maybe it was just the art, again. But I swear, it even rubbed off on Spike, and up until this last issue I've thought that Gischler did a pretty good job on Spike's voice.
Man, sometimes I'm just not that good at listing the things I liked. Okay, here's another: Spike's explanation to Morgan on how he's changed. It seemed like it did him good to say it out loud to someone instead of just internally ruminating, on both a meta level and within the context of his character development. The metaphor of the terrible outfit really worked for me as something Spike would come up with - he never wants to be that person again, but he can't help acknowledging that he did it well, and that there's something in that old image that he wants to retain and use. This is notable for being an actual Spike moment and not a rehash of Angel: Angel makes use of Angelus, but does it grimly. Spike doesn't care that Spike has some Spike left inside.
Before I forget - I heard a few reviews saying that Spike had the best line at the end of Issue #2, though some readers wouldn't get it. I didn't get it! It must be a reference to something, which makes me terribly ashamed, I'm supposed to get references. And I haven't seen anyone explain the joke yet! Can I get some help here? I just showed my shame to the world, so I deserve it.
I think that's all I've got to say. The lettercol was brief and mild this time around, although I couldn't help noticing that in the solicits for the next S9 issue, Whistler was referred to as one of the main villains. Damn. Who do you have to drain around here to get the writers to pull a fast one on us?
I still don't care about the shards.