Here’s the thing – I love Spike. If I deny the existence of Seeing Red, he stays in a constant struggle for top placing on my “Favorite Vampires With Souls” list. And, depending on the week, he even occasionally shoves Captain Forehead away from #1. I know he’s not everyone’s favorite, but I find him an endlessly entertaining and often ridiculous ray of leather-clad sunshine.
Generally, I even liked what IDW did with their Spike-centeric stories. I always feel that, if there’s a character in the Buffyverse that can carry the slightly (more) ridiculous storylines, the (even) flashier characters – an army of ninja puppets; a giant, floating fish; a supernatural rehab center; a steampunk spaceship manned by giant bugs; a world torn completely free from continuity – it has to be Spike. So, when Dark Horse reclaimed all of the Buffyverse characters, I was geeked. When Spike played a part in Buffy Season 9, I was thrilled. And when Spike left for his own series? Giddy.
Spike issue #1 channels that elation into a somewhat mopey start. Spike, having had his heart tromped on by Buffy yet again, has gone off to pout and brood. Since he has a spaceship and an army of bugs at his disposal, he can take the art of pouting to new heights – namely, the dark side of the moon. Here, Spike does what any heartbroken vampire with a soul would do: wallow. Wallow and listen to moody music and sit in the dark and question his place in life. He’s a pint of Chubby Hubby away from a bad chick flick as he lingers over Buffy’s hairbrush, drinking himself silly while clutching one of her shirts.
In addition to being downright hilarious, Spike’s wallowing is also a handy way to catch up on what you might have missed in Buffy Season 9 – namely, Buffy treating Spike as her dark place and Spike having enough of it (a struggle that’s been going on since Buffy Season 5). He’s turned away from her world, giving up on his project of making the onboard solarium a bright spot for Buffy to enjoy, turning instead to various Spike-soothers like drinking and smoking and brooding like Angel. Spike has finally, actually, absolutely – no, for real this time – walked away from being Buffy’s on-demand entertainment. Stumbled away, actually, given the amount of drinking he does in the first pages.
The bugs are worried, though, that their badass leader isn’t very badass and probably not up to leading in this state, so they band together and ominously decide that “steps will be taken.” Mutiny on the HMS RaidBait seems likely as the bugs grab Spike, throw him into the solarium and raise the blinds.
Of course, they neglect to mention that one of those “steps [that] will be taken” is to filter out the vampire-harming rays, leaving Spike to enjoy the view from a beach chair, tanning goggles on and umbrella drink in hand.
There is something so awkward yet so captivating about the sight of Spike wearing swim trunks and tightly-laced combat boots. Don’t pause too long to consider why he owns floral swim trunks (Did he just like Xander’s clothes in “Doomed?” Is he a bit whimsical under all of the black leather? Neither would be shocking.) Thankfully, he takes time out from striking dashing if ridiculous poses to discuss what he wants in life and why he’s so willing to lie to himself about it. Spike gets introspective… starts to sort things out… is on the edge of breakthrough… thinks the bugs might be mocking him… and then – fump! – giant moon frog against the glass.
Spike gets annoyed and puts his clothes back on while spacesuit-clad bugs get eaten and a moon frog thwips his way through the corridors.
Is there any other character that could pull off that sentence with even a shred of gravity? Probably not. But somehow, Captain Peroxide makes it work. He takes on the moon frog in the solarium, gets the upper hand via appropriately Spike-ish weaponry (a broken bottle and a lit cigarette) but then gets knocked out by a group led by a slightly edgier Captain Gantu from Lilo & Stitch. The aliens have taken over and plan on chucking the unconscious Spike out once they’re in space. What’s a bug to do?!
Spike turned loose on his own always ends up fun. Spike turned loose on his own in a Dark Horse book? Ends up fun, with the kind of introspection that you’d expect from the publisher. Sure, some parts are a little heavy handed (could they spend any more time in the Solarium of Obvious Imagery?) but the story is engaging if rightly ridiculous. Victor Gischler’s Spike sounds like Spike – even if it’s the whining, lovesick version of Spike. Paul Lee’s artwork is captivating though occasionally a touch stiff – but he does get endless appreciation for managing to individualize giant bugs. There’s almost even a shred of emotion on bug Sebastian’s face at one point. No small feat there, given that whole “beady, bug-eyes” thing he has to work with.
I was stupidly excited for Spike, it’s true. I expected something a bit out there – the guy did leave San Francisco in a spaceship full of bugs, so it’s not like this could start any less weird than that. And so far, Spike has proven to be just weird enough. Give me giant bugs, moping vampires and a whole lot of angst and I’m sold.