Thursday, September 18, 2008

Spike: After the Fall #3 Review

Writer: Brian Lynch
Penciller: Franco Urru

Something is missing in Spike: After the Fall #3. It has a lot of great elements to it. Spike seduces a captor. Gunn has an altercation with Non. Spike and Illyria kiss. There is fighting and chaos. Somehow, however, Spike seems to be missing from this comic. It is true that he is on most of the pages, but his usual wit and humour are missing. In the last issue of this series, Spike sizes up a dragon in the hopes of potentially killing it. Every possible strategem is attended by some sort of witty observation or sardonic remark. Lynch has shown in the first two issues that he is capable of capturing the speech patterns and personality of Spike, something which he hasn't had the space to do much of in the Angel: After the Fall series.

However, in this issue, all of that falls away. Take this piece of narration: "Also, she doesn't react well if someone, let's say a vampire, repeatedly yells to her to conure admittedly suggestive mirages to make the day go faster". That doesn't really sound like Spike. There's a little bit of humour in it, but it lacks any of the punch of Spike's usual observational humour. Spike's sense of humour is largely based on two things: he is very intelligent and he is very old. There is very little that he hasn't seen in his six or seven lifetimes, and he doesn't really know when to shut up (or at least doesn't bother). So, he makes comments constantly on what is going on around him, and has a tendency to see right through any of the pretenses around him. Part of what stops him from being simply mean and sarcastic is that he is wise enough not to actually hold people's pretences against them. These characteristics are what led him to fill in some of the role of Giles when Giles left Buffy in season six.

Most of that combination of pretense-popping humour and wisdom are absent in this issue, and it is weaker as a result. True, one might not expect Spike to be in quite such a good mood after being tortured for a month, but I can't think of any torture that would reduce Spike to pure exposition. There are a couple nice moments where we see some of Lynch's great ability to capture Spike's character: the fantasy at the beginning in which he is with Fred and Angel appears with a nametag saying, "Hello, my name is the reason we're stuck here" is great as is his making fun of Non as she goes off to her meeting with Gunn as though it will be some sort of date. However, that's really all we see. The last scene especially lacks Spike's usual sense of keen observation; it really could have been anyone.

Gunn, however, is written very well in this issue. He doesn't come across as quite as crazed as he did in the exceptional Angel: After the Fall #11, but we see what a monster he's become and more of the fate of the slayers from Angel is revealed here. It seems that he has turned them into vampires and is using them for fighting practice, or at least, that's the sense that I can make of why Non seems to kill them but they are alive again a few pages later. Moreover, we see his confused feelings for Fred come to the surface. Is he really just concerned about his prophecy? Or is he concerned about Fred? Remember, this is the same Gunn who murdered a man for Fred, and that was before he became a vampire. We see some of the same confusion in his character we've seen in other issues, and the fate of his slayers is truly creepy.

Overall, this isn't the strongest issue of Spike: After the Fall, and is on about par with the first issue. It has a few good moments, but somehow, Spike himself seemed to be missing. I assume this is just something of a misstep, and we'll see more of Lynch's style next month.

B-

1 comment:

BDG said...

Hey Daniel, I like your blog. I'm one of those people you were talking about that isn't a comic book reader, but watched Buffy & Angel back in the day.

Okay, into your content--I thought your criticism was a little odd, not necessarily wrong, but odd, about Lynch not capturing Spike's voice. I'm not sure if you know this, but Lynch was actually hired by Joss because Joss felt that Lynch had captured Spike's voice in the previously non-canon, but now canon "Spike: Shadow Puppets" & "Spike: Asylum." I'm pretty sure Spike is Lynch's favorite character.

I get what you're saying, but keep in mind, like you rightfully said, in the shows Spike always said whatever was on his mind, so in terms of him thinking to himself here, a lot less surprises & less interesting since anything of even dubious value he says out loud.

Angel's a different story, since a big part of Angel's character is that he's often deep in thought and no one, including the audience, knows what he's thinking about. "Redefinition" comes to mind, the ep where 90% of the dialog is Angel's inner thoughts. The ep was a little cheesy, but I loved it. Joss says that it's the show's defining episode.

Also, I don't read "Jerry" as being evil, but I could be wrong. It's hard to get one past Spike since he's the truth-seer of the Buffyverse. I liked this issue, but I really hope they don't have Spike having romantic interests in Illyria or Fred, just because.

With the Slayers, I can live with Gunn outmatching a few rookies, I'd imagine Spike or Angel could do the same, probably even Connor could. But it would be a bad call to put him above Buffy/Faith/Angelus in terms of fighting prowess. Sure, he was the only one who was a warrior even before getting superpowers, but still, those three have thrown down with Demon Gods and such.

Btw, this is the only fan blog of any sort that I've ever read, great job! I also liked your comment about how it seems like Angel AtF & BtVS S8 (+Fray) are finally seeming like they're forming into meaningful arcs rather than random occurrences. Very astute, I noticed that too, and am happy. You're right either Joss has been planning this for a LONG time, or has masterfully made it seemed like he has been.

I hope he'll eventually, much later down the road, right a big conclusion with all of the major players uniting in the big 21st Century Apocalypse. I think the vision Angel saw was legit, but it was just that he had to compromise his no killing preference to save his friends, fellow champions and the world in the final apocalypse that ends magic, talked about in Fray.