'What Happens in Vegas, Slays in Vegas'
Writer: Brian Lynch, Artists: Franco Urru & Nicola Zanni, Colorist: Andrea Priorini, Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Cover: Franco Urru & Fabio Montovani
Blurb: With things a little weird in L.A., Spike decides to head to Las Vegas where rumors of strange happenings (well, stranger than usual) have peaked his interest. He assembles a crack team of Betta George and the firestarter, Beck, and they're confronted right away by a giant monster made of little Elvises... Elvii... you get the idea. But it's the fact that the evil in Vegas was expecting Angel that really surprises Spike, along with who might be beind it all...
Page 01: Welcome to Las Vegas.
Spike and crew get settled in a hotel suite, where Spike postures for his team that a new sheriff has to come the town of Vegas, and whatever evil is afoot is about to be... hell.
We don't know yet what Spike has recognized about the skyline that clues him in on the fact that things won't be all fun and parody of Angel.
Page 02: Sometime later, we see a vampire come out of the darkness to attack a young lady in a weird stylized manner with a catchy tune in the background about the vampire.
Page 03: As the song switches to being about the Slayer, we see that the 'attack' was actually part of a stage musical. It's full of a Cirque de Soleil-type of acrobatic display, with dancers dangling from ropes, and Slayer attacking the vampires and a repeated chorus of "SLAYER! SLAYER!".
In the audience, Spike and Betta George catch the show alongside a woman who feels the need to comment on how 'horrible, horrible' that Slayers are. This endears her not one whit to Spike or George. George gives her a telepathic communique that she shouldn't believe everything she sees on stage, like the way that gangmembers and cats probably don't actually burst into song and dance, no matter how stressed they are (Westside Story & Cats).
Commentary: I've always been very lukewarm to mildly hostile about Betta George, because the idea of a floating, telepathic fish remains one of the strangest idea regarding a character to come out of After the Fall. But, I really like the personality that Brian has given to George and this series will obviously be infused with a playful sense of humor in which this character can excel. I find myself, unexpectedly, liking the inclusion of Betta for the low-key snark.
Page 04: The woman responds to George's observations, but to Spike and goes on about how the Slayers are out there destroying 'eternal love'... *vomit*.
Her beginning tirade is cut short by her playbill bursting into flame, as Beck ignites it with a bit of snark of her own.
Spike is wondering about the wisdom of having a an unstable firestarter as his teammate, which y'know... duh.
Page 05: After the show, as they make their way through the lobby, Beck complains that she thought the public was done with the anti-Slayer junk after Harmony's reality show was cancelled. But Spike shares that she doesn't know the half of it. Apparently, he can recognize that the entire hotel/theatre that they're in is a haven for the supernatural. Worse?
He recognizes that it is also tied to the disappeared law firm of W & H! Betta George wonders if he's sure of this....
Commentary: Obvs, I gotta give a shout out of appreciation for IDW's continuity-porn. We have the fact Slayers are public. We have a reference to Harmony. We have W & H's big 'send L.A. to Hell and then vanish when their plans came apart'. And we have the possibility that Vegas is on a Sunnydale Hellmouth... although Spike shoots down that possibility.
And who can't appreciate the 'laid not slayed' T-shirts that vie for attention next to the 'what happens in Vegas...' T's?
Page 06 & 07: And we find out why Spike was shocked at the view from the hotel suite. The theatre/hotel complex itself is a spitting image of the architectural styling of W & H's L.A. branch building. The complex is even called, 'Hart'. And the theatre within the complex? 'The White Room', of course.
Commentary: I don't think that W & H's inclusion was necessary, but I do like that Spike's story is tied to Angel's current dilemma with the same revived firm in the future!L.A.
Poor Spike. Even when he tries to break out on his own and do something different, his destiny is still being dominated by his involvement with Angel, and when he crosses over to Dark Horse, Buffy. He can't escape getting involved in other people's bigger-than-life dramas.
In fact, Spike's entire existence really comes back to Angel(us) via Drusilla. I guess he should of went to Barrow, Alaska or Salem's Lot, Maine instead.
Page 08: Spike mentions that W & H have had a quicker 'back from the dead' tale than anyone he's known since anyone that he's currently associated with.
Beck offers to burn down the building, but Spike points out it is currently full of tourists, so no.
Page 09: Spike decides to reconnoiter the hotel some more... well 'decides' is a bit of an overstatement. He acts on a whim, as is his way.
But, he finds that some vampire guards have been stationed at the entrance, and he's being given the cold shoulder by W & H's new endeavor as clearly his presence is already known and being monitored. But this is Spike, so a few goons aren't going to get in the way.
Page 10: As the brawl continues, Spike spots a tyke with a stake and snatches it from him. But when he goes to use it, he's greeted by "You've been slayed! You've been slayed!"
It, you see, isn't so much a stake as a plastic, novelty trinket tied to the stage show. Heh.
For his poor judgement in kicking this off unprepared, he is surprisingly not immediately staked, but tazed instead. A 'low rent' tactic for W & H.
Page 11: But, isn't that why we have teammates to begin with? Of course, having an emotionally unstable pyrotechnic isn't exactly low key. Beck manages to start a public panic with her flash-fry show, which Spike isn't appreciative of.
Thankfully George is a mighty telepath and is able to at least moderate the worst of the stampede with calming vibes.
Page 12: The fun is interrupted by the arrival of Jeremy Johns, one of the few strictly-humans that Spike considers a friend after their adventures as part of Spike: After the Fall and seen a few times since. But, this recurring characters is here in body only... somebody else is driving.
He explains that they're choosing Jeremy because they figured that Spike wouldn't use his usual means of communication on his mortal friend. Beck states she wouldn't have a problem with that, though, but Spike sends her to cool off. He thought projects to George, but the fish reveals that Jeremy's hitchhiker is in too deep to unseat.
Commentary: One of the things I'm already liking about this Spike series is the bringing back into the fold the support characters that are his own. Jeremy's being in Vegas is a bit too convenient, but I'm willing and able to overlook it since he's serving a specific purpose for W & H.
The constant references to After the Fall are still a liability, just because it's done so-very-often-constantly and as I've complained before, it just wasn't that good a series. Drawn out, confusing, unfocused... and none of it was worse than in Spike's own title during the After the Fall mess. But, on the plus side... at least Non is safely tucked away still. She was hideously irritating as a character.
Page 13: Spike demands from Jeremy-hitcher to know what W & H is doing back on Earth and in Vegas. Jeremy offers to take a meeting with him via interdimensional portal.
Page 14: Spike says goodbye to Beck and Betta who aren't invited, but Beck isn't happy about it. Spike makes reference to somebody male finding him later, which is meant to make us think that Angel will be showing up, even though right now he's in the future or possibly Connor who is running AI in Los Angeles currently (hint: he isn't referring to either of these... or Gunn...).
Beck is to rendevous with whoever Spike is referring to.
Page 15: Jeremy-hitcher reveals to Spike that W & H is there to initiate a classical 'humans in a fiery pit with devils and pitchforks' plan... before revealing he was only kidding.
He's actually just brought Spike to a regular ol' suite (though decorated in all white, as in The White Room) elsewhere in Vegas.
Page 16: Jeremy-hitcher introduces Spike to Dru's current paramour, John. Spike can't shake the fact that he's familiar - especially when he gets weird flashes into John's former doings.
Page 17: As Jeremy-hitcher babbles on that W & H isn't all that bad as they try to rebuild after the rather dire defeat over that Hell-Angeles misstep, Spike's focus remains on the mysterious John, and the even more mysterious glimpses that Spike is getting into his past.
Commentary: We don't really get any explanation for this, either. It could be because of the nature of the suite they're in... it is at least similar in being the actual White Room, as the guardian panther is walking around. But, this could also be because Spike and John are the same bloodline through Drusilla -- although, this is the first we'd explicitly see of such a connection this deep.
I suppose it could be a combination of both. Or even a side effect of being in constant contact with Betta George's telepathic powers. We just don't know why Spike is getting glimpses of John's past and though John is sharing glares at Spike that makes him realize John is a far greater and immediate threat than "Jeremy", we don't know if the past sharing is working in reverse as well.
Page 18: While Spike and John continue to share a focus between one another, "Jeremy" offers his deal to Spike. W & H is promising to only focus on evil deeds against their evil rivals as they rebuild. It'll be strictly hands off the 'innocents'.
Page 19: Spike, un-shockingly, declines.
As he roughs up Jeremy-hitcher, though, John is summoning a weapon from W & H's arsenal. We know that John is just a contractor to W & H, so he doesn't really care about all of this negotiating. But also, we already know that John is chomping at the bit to kill Spike for whatever pain he's caused beloved Drusilla so since Jeremy isn't getting through....
Commentary: Interestingly, I used a vampire-out-to-avenge Dru as one of the confrontations Buffy gets into in spanderverse. In that case though, it was a very minor character, quickly eliminated.
Page 20: Without W & H's express permission, John fires a mystic bazooka-laser into Spike!
Commentary: Awesome page of flying blood. A man in a business suit firing an energy bazooka makes a really nice image -- especially one as imposing as John.
Page 21: Jeremy intrudes on John's unprovoked vengeance on Spike on behalf of Drusilla as Spike hangs on - dangling from the hole in the wall he was blown through by the blast. John warns Jeremy that he has a second charge on the bazooka and can use it on him, rather than Spike. This doesn't impress Jeremy-hitcher a bit. He retaliates that he could just as easily inhabit Dru instead... without using her name, to keep Spike in the dark that she's going to be in this mini series.
Fortunately for Spike, while they're arguing over his fate, Spike's mysterious back-up has located him. He throws himself away from the building.
Page 22: Spike's mysterious benefactor?
Groo! And, he's riding the dragon Cordelia!
The Good: I like the low-key snarking and humor throughout the issue, and by extension the characters handling. Beck seemed a generic expy of Gwen in issue one but I like her more here. I'm also even happy with Betta George... no one writes him better than Lynch.
I have a caveat in Other Thoughts about W & H's inclusion, but I like the consistency of their portrayal. Again, they're trying to wheel and deal with the heroes rather than get involved in a direct confrontation which continues to end badly when they try it. And they're even offering Spike a deal similar to Angel's in offering to set up a suite for him from which he can keep an eye on their operation.
John is an interesting foe.
The Bad: Nothing bothered me that much.
Other Thoughts: I am hesitating on the whole W & H involvement in Spike's story, though. It has always felt like IDW's handling of Angel keeps wanting to revisit their apparent success with the After the Fall series. They're revisiting it constantly, and a lot of times it has felt like it is because they don't have any fresh ideas to replace that undertaking going forward. It isn't that blatant here, and I'm not objecting to their reintroduction as a foe dealing with Spike - divorced from their involvements with Angel and Connor. I'm just not sure I'm ready to embrace it, either. I need to see what is going to be done with them. The focus though, should definitely be on John and Dru.
I also do like all of these side characters being reused as well. I have high hopes for Groo, who has always been mostly ignored or given little personality outside of a bruiser who talks funny and then gets shoved into the background.
The Score: The character dialog gives this one some luster as Spike gets more involved in plots going on around him. I like Spike trying to set up his own crew in the Angel-mode without wanting to be his clone. The W & H and Jeremy Johns involvement remains suspect, but we'll see how they're handled going forward. It's a fun issue that also advances the two plots we've got going, W & H and John/Drusilla.
3.50 out of five stars
Next up: Spike #3 and then a return to Angel with #41.