I'm not going to bother with a full summary for this one because there isn't a lot of detail that I expect will turn out to be important. If you've read any preview pages or blurbs, you've got the jist of what happens: Spike mopes around the ship, dreams about Buffy, gets drunk. (Smokes a lot, but at this point most of us probably don't even picture comic-Spike without a cigarette between his lips, do we?)
You also know that the bugs find him unfit for leadership and attempt to cheer him up, but the payoff of their efforts did actually amount to a pleasant surprise: they don't just make him a paper sun, they show him the real one. They've replaced the windows in the solarium with necrotempered glass, and isn't it about time that we saw that again outside of a fanfic?
While he's in there, we meet some apparent villains. They're big ugly monsters in warrior garb who live on the moon. Also they have a giant frog thing. There's a few panels of them without dialogue, which feels a little odd because they appear to be talking to each other about the arrival of Spike's ship. One of them points to the frog.
Spike swiftly talks himself out of enjoying the sunny beach set-up, because it's not real, and he doesn't want to be someone who wants to be fooled. Then the frog attacks. Spike sends the bugs after it; they fail to stop it, so he takes it on himself, and then is forced to contend with the monsters who sent it. He gives them a good fight, but they knock him out and bring his unconscious body to the control room. One informs the pilot bug that they're taking the ship and want to lift off immediately. They're going to jettison Spike once they're in space. Cliffhanger!
You know, it's true what they say about the bugs. (They? I don't know, someone.) They're funny, and they're charming. My favorite was the one in a hula skirt. I like the way they really seem to adore Spike on every level, and the way they're not meant to be considered as either individual characters or a reasonable part of the wider setting. They're just pure comic absurdism, a reminder that you can't always take the Buffyverse seriously.
Unfortunately, that gives me issues. I habitually latch onto the real-world consequences of fictional fallout from action and drama, that is, the irrelevant parts of the consequences. I notice when a sandwich is wasted because a character's lunch was interrupted. When the world is saved from the aliens, I still regret the loss of all of the national monuments destroyed in the battle. I want someone to run after the innocent bystander and explain everything that led up to the confusing incident that she just witnessed.
Spike doesn't treat his bugs well. He insults them, dismisses their concerns, bounces cigarette butts off their heads, and sends them to their deaths. It's pretty clear that they don't think they deserve any better, but I do. I keep feeling the need to fanwank some kind of Ender's Game style hive mind to their biology, so I can feel assured that it's no big deal if one of them suffers or dies. I do intend to read the IDW miniseries that supplies the background for this, but I don't know if it will help. Mostly I'm just having a hard time loving Spike so far - and it's for entirely different reasons than I usually would.
He did the right thing leaving, and he's got a fairly accurate view of how things really went down, replacing his old fantasies. Just the fact that he's lamenting his own foolishness at thinking he and Buffy could be normal, rather than blaming her for wanting normal or for not believing in his ability to deliver it, is a huge step forward. I loved the panel of his retro-style vision of the two of them prancing around a real beach, because it highlights the "don't accept a fake version" theme of the issue. Whatever love that he and Buffy had for each other was always trying to be a different kind of love, and it would always continue that way - devoted and dissatisfied.
On the other side of the dilemma, though, is Spike rejecting reality right along with fantasy. As one of the bugs asks, "Is not the light warm and comforting?" And it is, of course. It's not even a fake sun; it's the real one, finally available in a vampire-safe version. Spike is irritated because it came with paper palm trees, and was itself inspired by an advertisement, but he forgets too quickly that his happiness while he basked in his beach chair was genuine. His conclusion is that he's not made for the light, so he needs to seek the dark. That's not true at all, and I expect the miniseries to head toward some revelation in that order, but in the meantime, it's a good progression for Spike's mental journey. When he starts thinking, it's all about Buffy, but by the time he figures out a goal for himself, it's going to be about who he is.
When you look at an ad for beer, you might start wanting a beer because the ad reminded you of a tropical paradise and promised that beer will get you there. The ad is a lie, but it doesn't mean that you can't want a beer of your own accord. Just remember that the beer is a beer. You're not drinking a tropical paradise. Loving Buffy isn't being human.
It might take me a couple more issues to fully warm to the art. I love the bugs, monsters, and ship, but something about Spike's poses or expressions aren't quite hitting my Spike spot. Nifty use of color, though. In the panel in which Spike realizes that we fall for the chicanery because we want to, his (blue, yes) eyes take on the gold of the sun, giving him a cool but temporary dual-nature appearance.
So far I don't love, but I definitely appreciate and will be sticking with it. Hoping for more plot in the next one.