Dark Horse Comics continues to succeed this month in building a multifaceted comic book Buffy-verse, and Spike: A Dark Place #3 is no exception. Writer Victor Gischler and the art team of Paul Lee (pencils), Andy Owens (inks), and Cris Peter (colors) continue to build an engaging mini around the redemptive blonde vampire that successfully interweaves into the greater plots of Buffy: Season 8, Buffy: Season 9, and Angel & Faith!
Here’s a quick summary of Issue #3:
This issue opens with a flashback to Rome in 1935. Pearl, on a mission dictated by her mother to get knocked up with demon spawn, has just finished doing the nasty with a Black Widower demon. When the Widower makes it apparent that he intends to eat Pearl instead of having a cigarette, she cries out for her brother, Nash, to help her. He bursts into the room but is quickly knocked out by the demon. Luckily for Pearl, a soulless Spike comes crashing through the window, eager to take out a gambling debt he’s owed by the Widower out on the demon’s hide. After decapitating the demon, Spike lights a smoke as Drusilla appears and Pearl proclaims Spike her hero.
Back in present day, Spike is face-to-face, once again, with the nefarious Pearl and Nash in the Seed’s chamber under the ruins of Sunnydale. The succubi, Morgan, Spike, and his bug crew escape after a brief scuffle with Pearl and Nash and quickly blast off in Spike’s pseudo-Owl ship.
With a course charted to another Hellmouth, Morgan and Spike share a drink while his bug crew becomes more and more suspicious that their master is under the influence of the succubi. Morgan fills Spike in on some personal details, and her desire to find her way home after the destruction of the Seed trapped her on Earth. As Spike agrees to help, his bug crew spies on the couple, plotting the next move to help their master.
Gischler and Lee nail evil Spike. Not in the naughty sense (Get your mind out of the gutter!), but both writer and penciler demonstrate their expert skill in portraying William the Bloody in his glory days during this issue. They give us a beautiful flashback to Rome in 1935, and it features (oh joy) everyone’s favorite evil vampire couple, Spike and Drusilla. Gischler has been doing a wonderful job writing Spike in previous issues, but he really takes the cake here, making evil Spike slick, snarky, and everything we remember from his slayer-slaying days! Lee doesn’t let his writer down, completely capturing Spike’s onscreen body language and the dangerous looking vamp-face that seeks to challenge so many artists. The only criticism I can offer is the fact that Spike’s hair appears to be bleached. I could be wrong here, but it was always my understanding that our boy didn’t hit the peroxide until his punk rock stage during the 1970s. Even if I am completely wrong on that, my five minutes of research on the subject (via Google) revealed that blonde hair coloring didn’t even really come into fashion until after World War ll.
Pearl and Nash get their time in the spotlight. Gischler, along with Angel & Faith writer Christos Gage, has been doing a great job of building up Pearl and Nash into more than just one-dimensional villains, and this issue, with its flashback, continues that trend. Let’s hope the trend continues, so that we can find out what mysterious “hero’s boon” was offered to Spike after he saved Pearl’s life. (Also, if you like this part of Spike: A Dark Place #3, then do not miss Angel & Faith #15 or you will be kicking yourself!)
Jenny Frison’s cover (of course). If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I’m a big Frison fan and this month is not different. Reminiscent of the Buffy: Season 5 episode “Intervention,” Frison’s piece manages to be both bloody and bad-ass. I know he’s not wearing the coat, ladies, but he is shirtless and sporting actor James Marsters’ trademark killer abs.
Is Morgan just another “Spike floozy?” This is a minor complaint that could easily be corrected in the next two issues of this mini, but I really feel like we’ve seen Morgan before. With his time at IDW, Gischler isn’t the first writer trying to resolve Spike’s “Buffy issues” and let him move on in the romance department. Many writers have tried, some have even done it successfully, but, unfortunately for all, they always end up the same: some slinky, super-natural hottie with a little bit of snark and a skin-tight outfit. It’s beginning to feel a little James Bond-ish with the resident seductress being exchanged out during each series. I can’t really fault Dark Horse, as they have no control over IDW and are barely acknowledging the IDW run, but it’s still worth pointing out.
This issue should have been planned for release after Angel & Faith #15. There’s a Pearl & Nash story in the upcoming issue of Angel & Faith that really could have provided some background as to what the two baddies are doing in Rome looking to make some demon babies. Be sure and check it out when the issue is released on next Wednesday (October 31st, 2012).
The Ugly (Fan Buzz, that is . . . )
Lamenting Buffy: Season 9. The biggest complaint I saw on the inter-tubes is that many fans feel Buffy: Season 9 is not living up to the quality of Spike: A Dark Place and Angel & Faith. That being said, almost everyone seems to agree that has to do with that fact that the writing on both those books is just SO frakking good! Kudos to Gischler and Gage for setting the bar high!
Do not miss Spike: A Dark Place #3 . . . I guess, unless you’re not a Spike fan. But, honestly, who isn’t? (Angel, probably.) And, by all means, pray to your demon gods, sacrifice your kid brother to the Senior Partners – do whatever it takes to get your hands on next week’s Angel & Faith #15! You won’t be sorry!
‘Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer