Slayer Lit

Slayer Lit Review

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SPIKE: OLD TIMES

Written by Peter David
Art by Fernando Goni

Spike

Reviewed by Shiai

Call Spike the anti-spin off character. For all of his phenomenal success with so many fans, he has never before been sent off to stand on his own (unlike the other vampire with a soul, Angel, who left Sunnydale for his own TV series). Of course, it's possible that what makes Spike work so well as a supporting character might not carry over to a tale of his own where he doesn't have someone of equal or greater stature (such as Buffy or Angel) to play off of. Anyone remember just how ghastly Lou Costello was after he split with Bud Abbott? Of course you don't, because neither you nor anyone else…possibly even Lou's family…went to see his one and only solo bomb, "The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock." And the last thing in the world which Mutant Enemy wants is for Spike to become the new Abbottless Costello.

Nevertheless, after playing a supporting role in two television series and numerous comic book and novel tales, Spike has at last been given his very own adventure. And IDW Publishing isn't being timid about it; they're launching Blondie Bear with a glossy 48 page graphic novel.

As Spike is the `snarkiest' of Buffyverse characters, IDW brought on board one of the snarkiest of comic book writers, Peter A. David. Although David is an extremely prolific genre novelist, he has, curiously, never written a Buffy or Angel book. Still, PAD is a long-avowed BtVS fan, so he came into the project well-versed in what makes Spike tick. The art is handled by Fernando Goni, who brings a certain European lushness to the work.

As with so much of PAD's works, the writing here is clever, with a black humor finish that meshes nicely with what Joss Whedon has established with Spike. The emphasis is heavily on characterization, and as such the plot is fairly thin. But what the story may lack in depth, David helps make up for with some dead-on dialogue and a few nice nods to fandom.

The premise is that there is indeed, as hinted at in an episode of BtVS, a connection between Spike the vampire and Halfrek the vengeance demon, and that connection went back to that 19th Century London night when William ran into the night after being rejected by Cecily, the object of his affections…and he ran straight into Drusilla the vampire, who then sired Spike. Even though he went without a soul for more than a century afterward, Spike still carried the hurt and humiliation of Cecily's dismissal (not merely turning him down, but mortifying him by declaring that he is beneath her).

However, as PAD establishes here, Cecily was more than just a haughty lady of high society…she was in reality Halfrek, and she had specific business that night that was more horrifying than anything which Drusilla did to William. And that business is still calling for her attention now.

Part of the success of PAD's writing here is that he chooses to simply ignore certain facts of continuity (most glaringly, wasn't Halfrek destroyed by D'Hoffryn during the final season of BtVS? This story is set a full year later, concurrent with AtS season 5. And he doesn`t even try to explain how or why Halfrek apparently set up an entirely false identity as Cecily, complete with family and past history, just to carry out this simple act of vengeance. But I digress.). He's also hampered somewhat in that he isn't able to invoke many elements of Spike's known past (for instance, there isn't a single mention of Buffy's name, because IDW doesn't have the publishing rights to the Slayer, and the omission is conspicuous in its absence).

But he makes up for many a continuity lapse and absence is some sharp dialogue:
Halfrek: "I could scarcely believe it was you. My little William, all grown up and a vampire. And copying Billy Idol`s look for some reason." Spike: "He swiped it from me years ago, and I don't need fashion tips from a vengeance demon." Halfrek: "I thought I made this clear: I prefer `Justice Demon'." Spike: "And I prefer `melanin challenged,' but que sodding sera sera."

The verbal sparring soon erupts into an actual battle of wits between the two, as Spike decides to play the hero and save the target of Halfrek's vengeance-filled attention from her deadly designs...even though he knows it's historically a losing proposition to try and thwart a vengeance demon. Still, Spike's always been one for tilting at windmills.

One thing in particular which I enjoyed immensely was not only that David gets (or perhaps chose to seize) the opportunity to finally give William a proper last name. I won't spoil it by revealing what it is, suffice to say that it's wholly appropriate both as a nod to the horror genre, and also a wry tip of the hat to a man who was famous as a monster, but who was underneath a cultured gentleman with a poet's soul…much like William, perhaps.

As an artist, Goni does an terrific job of capturing the look of James Marsters. Some panels are clearly based on photos of Spike, but in the rest, yet he still manages to keep the flavor of the actor's looks (high cheekbones, weak chin) throughout, which is something that many of the artists who worked on the Dark Horse Buffy comic series never quite came to grips with.

And for diehard fans of the Buffyverse, there are a couple of nice little in-jokes, such as the background theater marquee advertising the much-hoped for "Buffy and Angel Movie."

Overall, I enjoyed SPIKE: OLD TIMES quite a bit, and I think it bodes well for future Spike projects. I certainly hope that he and Angel (which IDW also now has rights to) get to cross paths again in the near future. But as this tale proves, Spike no longer needs Angel (or Buffy) at his side to make for a ripping good yarn.

*** 3 out of 5 stars