Well, this is it: the final issue of the spinoff miniseries of Buffy Season 9 focusing on everyone’s favorite bleached-hair vampire, Spike. Spike – A Dark Place #5 completes the story of Spike with his alien bug friends as they approach Easter Island where a demonic sorceress named Morgan is attempting to open a Hellmouth.
Long-time Buffy fans know exactly what the Hellmouth is – trouble. In the show it was opened a few times and let’s just say it was not full of rainbows and bunny rabbits… unless the rabbits were evil and had big sharp pointy teeth and big ears and… You get the picture. It’s not the kind of thing you want opening up when you’re trying to make things happy again.
Morgan, the aforementioned demoness, has discovered the location of another Hellmouth on what appears to be Easter Island. How can you tell? The big head statues. But here they aren’t all pointing out towards the sea; no, they’re in a very Stonehenge-ish formation and as soon as Morgan begins to chant the pass phrases to allow her access to the Hellmouth they come to life, with arms, legs and torsos emerging from beneath the ground. As Spike points out to Morgan:[quote]Passwords let you PASS, not command.[/quote]
Needless to say, being attacked by the statues was not on her to-do list. Spike’s bug friends come to save the day, though, opening up the weapons their ship in order to take out the statues and protect their beloved master Spike. They succeed in taking out some, but then the pieces left begin to reform into one majorly tall statue that begins to take out Spike and Morgan. The only thing missing to truly make this one of the episodes of the series would be to hear spike go “Bollocks”.
Writer Victor Gischler has done a good job in this issue – and, indeed, in the whole miniseries – of finding the right voice for Spike. He’s usually the broody one (sometimes more so than Angel), with a love-on for a certain Slayer (again, sometimes more so than Angel). He usually tries to accept that some things are ridiculous and shrugs them off. Gischler has instead made Spike face the ridiculousness with the subservient bugs in a spaceship, hanging out on the moon, and then Easter Island attacking. Spike seems to accept it at face value (at times), more surrounding the Easter Island guardians because, hey, it’s over a Hellmouth, right? The story was about Spike being in A Dark Place (huh? huh? yeah…) and coming to terms that even though things are bad, they could be worse. And they almost were except for him. He retrieved part of his soul in the TV series, and even though he and Buffy had a bit of a tiff he is still working to protect the world. And it’s not just for selfish reasons – it’s because it’s the right thing to do. (Or he has better things to do than clean up after a Hellmouth opens… Which would then just be selfish…) Regardless, he does it and comes out a better person… vampire… whatever.
I had been trying to place the inspiration for the pencils on this series. I think with a few scenes in this final issue, I found what I think is an artist to whom Paul Lee attempted to draw inspiration from, and that’s Mark Bagley. Now, I’ve been a Bagley fan since the first run of New Warriors so to find someone who can draw inspiration from him and do it well while still maintaining his own style is impressive. I’ve seen some artists attempt to mimic their inspirations and instead make their own work look horrible because they try to be too much like someone else. I fully admit, I have no artistic talent short of looking at something and perhaps being able to copy it, but I have read a ton of comics and I say it from this perspective: every artist needs their own “voice” but also should attempt to learn from those who have had success and failure. I couldn’t put a Bagley inspiration to this book anywhere – until I saw the final panel of the issue. That is such a Bagley look in terms of face structure, feature positioning, and even a cigarette dangling from Spike’s mouth in that exact angle… I could have sworn I saw this layout in a Bagley story somewhere in my Marvel collection. But it’s not a knock – there are still Lee’s own touches here and that’s good: draw the inspiration but make it your own. And that’s what he did.
This was a good miniseries as a deviation from the main story arc. Here we had a tale of self-discovery for one of the worst vampires in history who is now coming to terms with his place in the grander scheme. He took a beating (mostly from himself) when he left Buffy, and now he’s on his way back. If you missed this series, collect it in a trade, if you’re reading Buffy Season 9. Although (at least right now) it’s not a major chapter, it should be setting the stage for Spike in the latter chapters of the season.