Spike, A Dark Place
Part 4 of 5
Script: Victor Gischler, Pencils: Paul Lee, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Cris Peters
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt, Cover: Jenny Frison
Blurb: After parting ways with the love of his life, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike has taken himself far away from San Francisco. He can't just be Buffy's only-in-desperate-circumstances fallback guy. His way of coping with the endless heartbreak? Head to the dark side of the moon in a spaceship filled with human-sized bugs, drown his sorrows in a bottle of booze, and avoid any trouble... Although that can only work for so long...
Page 01: We open with the BugShip in high orbit over Earth.
Within the ship, Frisky and Sebastian are discussing being ready for whatever the demon woman is up to with Spike.
Page 02: Frisky is worried about Seb's resolve to protect their Master from the Consort Demon. While Sebastian is hoping that Spike is simply making a new... friend... Frisk is afraid that she's exerting influence on the vampire that will lead to disaster.
Page 03: In the Solarium, Spike and Morgan are standing in the sunlight through the magic glass. Morgan has apparently just wandered in, because she is puzzled why Spike is hanging around in the room, if he isn't enjoying the sun.
Spike's attitude seems a bit bitter, re: the sun is a sham and he doesn't want what he can't have anyway (i.e. Buffy).
Morgan quickly twigs onto the fact that this room was meant for "her"... as the box of her clothing against a wall gives a big clue.
Commentary: I do like the way that Morgan has been very subtly getting around all of Spike's defenses. We haven't gotten any clear indications whether she's manipulating him, or just lending a friendly ear to a fellow demon.
At the same time, clearly she's going to be an enemy at some point. You don't try to open a Hellmouth to go home without getting into a fight, but I like the way her character is being handled.
I, alas, also don't find this arc all that compelling though.
Page 04: Morgan tries to draw Spike out on his pain over Buffy, but he's not interested in her shoulder to cry on.
She intimates that she feels a real connection to him.
But before she can press her case that they could be more than two acquaintances, the Bugs radio through to let them know that they're re-entering the atmosphere on course for another Hellmouth location.
Page 05: On the bridge, Frisk is still trying to press Seb not to allow the demon woman access to the Hellmouth, but Sebastian is equally adamant that until there is an imminent threat, they must obey Spike's orders.
They're interrupted by both Morgan and Spike's arrival to the bridge.
Page 06: It turns out the BugShip's destination is Easter Island.
Morgan tells Spike that the ancient people who lived on the island were trying to warn people away with the big, stone heads... though it is unlikely they knew exactly what they were so afraid of.
Spike is just surprised that he's got bars on his cellphone.
Page 07: She tells Spike that the island isn't so abandoned anymore, what with the tourist trade and anthropologists constantly trampling about. There is a hotel on the island that is providing his cell service.
But she tells him not to worry, because they're on an especially remote corner of the island, so they shouldn't have any inconvenient visitors. She turns attention to the view, offering hints that of romance that she's been trying to suggest to Spike since they met, practically. She explains that she's missed the companionship that comes with existing for someone else.
Spike isn't surprised. He offers that everyone is looking for a missing puzzle piece.
Commentary: Does anyone else feel like it would've been a nice touch for Spike to stop wearing the Leather Coat of Badass throughout this? He seems more in the way of his early S7-self before Buffy got his head back in the game by complaining that he'd become a wimp, while trying to battle The First. Remember how the signal that he had begun to reverse his badass decay was to reclaim Nikki's coat?
It would've been a clever visual reference -- especially without any dialog about it to hammer it in -- that he'd once again lost his core and was drifting, thanks to his Buffy-whipped-ness. Then, in Issue 5 (because I'm refusing to believe we're getting to the end of this without our sarcastic asskicker being back) he could once again don the leather coat, just before going off to stop our must-be-bad Morgan.
Alas. This seems more like "Days Of Our Lives", than BTVS.
Page 08: Back in the Solarium, Seb is staring out at the landscape and deep in thought. Frisky comes in and complains that Spike is clearly losing control of his faculties [despite no hard evidence] and threatens that if Sebastian doesn't order action against Morgan, than he will assume command and do so in his place.
But, Seb has been brooding exactly on that question. He's been worrying more about Frisk taking the initiative against Spike, breaking their vow of obedience. Frisk finds himself not only not getting his way, but actually being hauled away by armed escort.
He tries to yell to Seb, but Seb accuses Frisk of being a "loose cannon".
Commentary: The weird thing about this series, and I've mentioned it before, is how there are hints of a much more interesting drama occurring among the BugCrew. The title, covers, and supposedly the book are about Spike -- but the bits of the BugCrew's interactions are actually where the story lies.
Spike himself is stuck in a Buffy-moping amber where things are going on around him, and he's just there to react occasionally.
Now, this could have been interesting if the BugCrew were played up more to let us know where our focus was actually supposed to be, but that isn't what the writer is doing. It is clear that this is Spike's title because he has the most panels and dialog... so we're supposedly concentrating on Spike's emotional tale; Except, we aren't.
Exactly like Dawn's "arc" in BTVS: S8, this isn't about Spike at all. Buffy is constantly being talked about, visually referenced, referred to, and voice-over-ed about. Buffy is sucking all of the air out of Spike's plot and again relegating him [with help from the BugCrew being more interesting] to a guest star in his own story... worse, in his own TITLE.
This entire exercise seems to have been ill-conceived without any sort of narrative focus on Spike's character in mind. But at the same time, we're not getting enough Bug-escapades for the story to truly belong to them, so clearly they aren't our central characters, despite Sebastian's prominence. It's keeping the whole thing muddled and... wandering....
Page 09: Back with Morgan and Spike, she's still trying to seduce him. He's still insisting that he's fine, she's sure that he's in pain and she can help.
Page 10: Morgan drags Spike to look at the moonlight over the island. She expresses her desire to make his great. He suspicious about what she may be getting out of it, especially since she's willing to put her goal of going home on hold, but she tells him that if she has him then she won't want to go home.
Spike can't give her what she wants though. Not only because he's too hung up on Buffy, but also because he seemingly recognizes that she wants to pour all of her expectations and purpose (as a consort demon) onto him. He tells her that he isn't interested in being somebody else's project.
Page 11: Spike gets a look of recognition, and Morgan explicates that perhaps that is what Buffy was feeling about his constant attention.
She offers that maybe Buffy couldn't handle the responsibilities of his loving her on top of everything else she's responsible for as Slayer, friend, work, and family member. She tells him that it was her mistake to turn him away.
But Spike seems to be drawing a different conclusion, based on his facial expression.
Commentary: This, I really do like. Those first two simple panels focusing on Spike's expression says a lot about the realization that maybe Buffy couldn't love him the way he wants because he's putting too much pressure on her to be everything that he needs her to be on top of everything else she already has on her shoulders, rather than simply being there with her.
Now, there are arguments that he's letting Buffy a bit off the hook where he shouldn't. She's not exactly clear on her own feelings and intentions when they're "together" and she seems to be ambivalent about a relationship with him but I like that at least he's suddenly (perhaps) seeing 'them' from her side of it.
Page 12: Morgan continues to softly speak to Spike about how they could do anything together with her ability to create Kings, and his immortality. She offers they could be amazing.
Commentary: And I like that you really are getting the sense here of Morgan's demonic presence as the seductress who you have to think was less of a consort, than a puppetmaster for all of those Kings. I like the way that nothing is overtly sinister, and yet, you can't help but read between the lines that she's not as interested in "helping" as she claims she is.
Page 13: Spike seems to fold into her, as they share a kiss in the moonlight. But then his eyes happen to fall upon that magazine with the phoniness of the advert for how life is just a beach with beers in the sunlight. And as we know, Spike doesn't want to live in an illusion, no matter how desirable it may appear.
Page 14: Spike withdraws and tells her he simply can't be with her. He admits that he loves the up and downs and frankly, the misery, that comes with his relationship to Buffy because it's all so real. Perfection with Morgan would only remind him how artificial it all is.
He tries to apologize for not being the kind of man who can appreciate her, but she's too pissed to listen to that.
She slaps him hard across the face.
Page 15: Morgan is clearly egotistical about her powers of seduction, and the fact that one lowly vampire could resist her offer of greatness is taken as an insult.
Spike tries to assauge her hurt by admitting it was her effect on him that caused him to really think about what he wants and so she did help him. This doesn't really help her much, and she brings the conversation back to why they're there to begin with... her desire to get home since she's no longer needed.
He points out the obvious: No magic = no door opening. Plus he isn't wild about opening a portal anyway, when Earth's collective magical defenses are kaput.
She seems to think she can find a way, regardless of the lack of magical power.
Page 16: Spike tries to convince her there is nothing to manage; She can't open a portal without the magic and she knows how in short supply it is. He points out that she herself was looking for Shards that don't exist... and was there ahead of he, the pirates and the twins....
A lightbulb goes off in Spike's head, now that he's free of her charm, and he realizes that she did find a Seed Shard before he ran across her. It was the only reason that she's so adamant to find a Hellmouth, when ordinarily it wouldn't be of any use whatsoever.
Page 17: Spike demands to know where she has the Shard hidden, which she denies having at all. But he informs her that her "cheap, succubus tricks" aren't blowing smoke in his eyes anymore.
That doesn't seem a problem, since she has other tricks up her sleeve. Like a powerful demon form of her own. Which she uses to bat him to the floor.
He responds with vamp!face.
Page 18: From the bridge, Seb orders Frisky released from the brig. He also orders an immediate lift-off to get Morgan away from the Hellmouth and institutes the contigency plan they've cooked up in case they needed to fight off Morgan and her effect on Master Spike.
Meanwhile, he and Morgan are trading melee blows.
Page 19: The Bugs arrive in the Solarium, and fire a metal net over Morgan -- the better to electricute her into submission.
Page 20: Although, this certainly jolts her - it doesn't stop her and she's able to rip through the net.
Page 21: Rather than continue the battle, Morgan takes a running leap for the Solarium window and busts through it. Since she is winged, being in the air doesn't cause a problem.
Page 22: As the Bugs set a course to return to the Hellmouth, Morgan lands on Easter Island.
She, in fact, does have a Shard of the Seed. She'd had it in her stomach the whole time and now vomits it up to "crack open a Hellmouth"....
The Good: I continue to find the character of Sebastian engaging. I also like his debates with Frisky and that when they're discussing continency plans in the first and second pages, the implements of the plan is actually shown to us in the background -- stun sticks, netting, and net blaster guns.
I like the characterization of Morgan.
I liked that Morgan's insistence on going to a portal she can't open slips past Spike completely while he's been under her sway, without realizing it. And, I liked that she did have a Shard and had it inside her as the hiding spot. That was clever.
The Bad: Spike is boring. HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN?
Other Thoughts: My real problem with the whole of "A Dark Place" is the lack of focus on Spike for way too much of it and his being relegated to Buffy's sidekick, even though she isn't directly in the title and he's got his name on the cover. These characters need to have their own lives, instead of everything being about Buffy -- it was Dawn's problem last season, and here it is Spike's. The writers need to expand these characters and it doesn't seem like it should be so hard to do with Spike, since he has a fleshed out backstory from long before he hooked up with the Slayer and shares a Rogue's Gallery with Angel that could be drawn on. Why is he so dull?!?
The Score: I liked this issue for some of the moments with Sebastian, and for some of the cleverness in Morgan's character.
3.50 out of 5 stars.
Next Review: Spike, A Dark Place #5