"Spike: The Complete Series" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by IDW Publishing
Originally published as Spike #1-8
Written by Brian Lynch
Illustrated by Franco Urru, Nicola Zanni, and Stephen Mooney
2011, 206 Pages
Graphic Novel published on July 18th, 2012
Gather round, children and I'll explain to you the story of licensing rights in the Buffyverse and comic books. Dark Horse Comics has the rights to publish comics based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A few years back, IDW Publishing had the rights to do the same for Angel. Two different TV shows with two different sets of rights, although there are some shared characters. Dark Horse started releasing season 8 of Buffy and IDW followed suit with season 6 of Angel. Then things started to criss cross and Dark Horse got the rights for Angel back. To bridge the gap a bit for Spike, an eight issue mini-series was developed to explain how the bleach-blonde vampire made his way from LA to wherever Buffy was. IDW has collected the full series in a handy graphic novel.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the actual story, shall we? After working with Angel for what felt like entirely too long, Spike wanted to break free from the broody vampire's shadow and set out on his own. He's a champion too and he wants to prove it. He decides to take on a mission on his own, investigating the cause of some supernatural violence that's been going on in Las Vegas. Spike handpicks his crew and he doesn't want anyone that's too closely associated with Angel, so he ends up with a handful of rejects. He's got the big psychic fish named Beta George, the firestarter Beck, and the Groosalugg, complete with dragon sidekick.
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Upon arriving in the bright lights in the desert, Spike finds that Wolfram & Hart has taken up residence at one of the casinos. Obviously this is no good and he has to put a stop to them. It's not that easy though. First he has to get through a massive collection of Elvis impersonators that have been stuck together to form a giant beast like some ugly version of Voltron. Then he has to deal with Drusilla. Yup. She's here and she's still totally bonkers.
The overall story presented in Spike is pretty good. Our hero sets out to make himself standout from Angel and prove that he can be his own man...or vampire. Author Brian Lynch also ties this in to the TV show with a new character that has a grudge with Spike. It seems that when the vampire got his soul back, it wasn't his own. There are checks and balances when it comes to these things. When Spike got a soul, someone else lost theirs.
While I liked the story, the characterization didn't jive for me. Spike is a badass throughout Buffy. Yes, he's got a soft spot for the slayer and he went through hell to get a soul to show her how strong he could be, but he's tough as nails. Throughout the entire book, Spike is constantly doubting himself and struggling to find motivation to be the hero. There's this running inner dialogue where he's trying to psych himself up. It's like he's Stuart Smalley sitting in front of a mirror. "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!" That's not Spike!
This wouldn't have been that bad if the other characters could support Spike at all. Beck and Beta George were created in the Angel comics and I really don't care about them. The former is a poor copy of Liz Sherman from B.P.R.D. and the latter just doesn't make any sense. Drusilla is second only to Harmony as the vampire I hate the most in the Buffyverse, so tossing her into the mix doesn't make things any better. She seems off in this comic too, like she's channeling River Tam from Firefly instead of her old self.
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The artwork within the eight issues is spread across three artists, which is never a good sign. This can work if there are flashback scenes or other aspects that would support different styles, but that's not the case here. Franco Urru, Nicola Zanni, and Stephen Mooney split up the art duties, but I can't tell you who did what as it's not clear. All three are pretty mediocre. The likenesses of the characters are alright, but not great. What's more troubling is that the basic human forms aren't up to par. They got the bare essentials down, but the details are lacking.
This Spike series felt like it was thrown together as a last minute attempt to link IDW's comic to the Buffy series. Dark Horse wanted to bring Spike in, but he wasn't where they wanted him to be, so this book was put together. Lynch brings a certain amount of humor to the story, but it doesn't mesh with the wit that I've come to expect from the Whedonverse. There are some genuinely funny moments, but it's not the smart comedy that it should be. At the very least, Spike explains how he got involved with the spaceship full of giant cockroaches that shows up in the Buffy comic. Of all the things they could have pulled in from the IDW books, that's what they chose? Lame.
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