Spike: A Dark Place TPB collects issues #1-5 of the mini-series of the same name. Like all of Whedon's properties in comic book form, it is put out through Dark Horse Comics. As always, Joss Whedon is credited as Executive Producer, and this particular story is scripted by Victor Gischler, penciled primarily by Paul Lee, with chapter break art by up and coming cover artist Jenny Frison whose done covers for Hoax Hunters, Revival, and will be doing one of the Red Sonja covers as well.
This particular story in the Whedonverse takes place in the middle of Buffy Season 9. For those of you who familiar with Dark Horse, you know that Buffy has continued since it ended with its 8th season in comic book form with Joss' oversight and approval (so it counts!). In the case of this story, if you aren't well read in the post-TV seasons, you will feel out of place. There are wise cracking and endearing bug aliens, Spike is on a spaceship, and did I mention the bug aliens? Do not let this discourage you, Buffy fans! The same sort of witty exchanges can be found here. However, in the case of this story, it does fall a little short at times.
The main plot of Spike: A Dark Place threads that goes through the majority of the story is the ever so common introduction of a new character that seems suspicious, we as the audience are thrown mixed messages about how we should feel about this character, and then things turn out to be more complicated than we originally thought. I don't feel it really works too well here. A lot of the dialogue ends up being heavy handed. We don't need the characters in the story telling us in plain language who they can't trust and why. It didn't have much flair to it in the dialogue, it just felt pushed out there. To quote Beelzebot of Futurama fame, "Your lyrics lack subtlety! You can't just have your characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!"
I do really enjoy the bug aliens in this, however. They kept the story going for me. They ended up being not only the comic relief, but adding heart to the story that otherwise would not have been there. As someone who isn't the biggest fan of bugs, this was an accomplishment. We do see the bugs helping Spike at one point early on where they end up burning a fish alien alive until it is very dead. We see that drawn out fully. However, words like #$%& are completely edited. Apparently, #$%& is really bad but immolation is just dandy with the censors! This is part of a longer rant I could go on about the total insanity which is comic book censorship, but I'll save that for another time.
Before I wrap this up, I will say that I did read this all in one sitting and was entertained all the way through. It was a page turner for me. It helps that it was 5 issues which was a good number for this story. Just because it's a page turner though doesn't mean that it was necessarily a life changing read. Also, the art doesn't really stand out. It is neither good nor bad. In fact, the first draft of this review didn't even include a single mention of the art. Again, it's not bad art at all. It tells the story very well and directly. So well and directly, you might not pay as much attention to it as you normally would.
I'm a Buffy fan and I can see the good in many related stories. I would say this is a solid enough story for a diehard Buffy fan, but if Buffy isn't quite your thing, or if you liked the show a lot and haven't tapped into the comics yet, this is not a book for you right now. Spike: A Dark Place is for diehards only.
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