What Is It?: Spike: Shadow Puppets Issue #2. This is the second issue in a new mini-series written by Brian Lynch and penciled/inked by Franco Urru.
Timing: Four months after "Spike: Asylum", and hinted that it takes place sometime late in Season Five due to a scene with Angel/Wesley/Illyria.
REVIEW: A LOT happens. A lot, a lot. Spike and Lorne are joined by Beck, a ninja named Tok Shinobu, and a newly resurrected Beta George. By the end of this issue, more than half of this team become wee-little puppet men. But let's back up a bit.
Lorne opens the comic with the "Previously in Spike: Shadow Puppets" with a hilarious, fourth-wall breaking monologue. Usually, I'm the first in line to throw rotten tomatoes at a fourth-wall breaker, but in this case, it's a welcome joke; the "Previously In..." section is kind of a fourth-wall breaker by nature, so I have no problem with that. Plus, Lorne actually brings up the fact that he didn't get an ANGEL: SPOTLIGHT, but Connor (who is, let's be kind, not a fan favorite) did. I thought that was a perfect moment.
In the actual pages of the comic, we pretty much get the same thing we got last time, except more characters and more action. We get Spike being snarky/funny, though we also are given the chance to see past the tough exterior into the heart of the character, and it's striking how well Lynch knows our William. Spike is as textured and deep here as he was on the show, though perhaps more subtly. One new thing I noticed about Spike here is that he really is, as he so profusely states, nothing like Angel. Spike, unlike our favorite ex.villian/ex.CEO/current Champion, is totally aware of his sex appeal and completely willing to use that to his advantage. Angel is more of a "Who... me?" kinda guy when it comes to the ladies liking him, whereas Spike--in this comic especially--is the "Yeah, ME, baby!" type.
I got nothing short of what I'm come to expect from a Brian Lynch comic: Funny, quotable dialogue. A fast-paced and twisty story. Call-backs to "ANGEL" as well as "SPIKE: ASYLUM." And, finally, that trademark humor. What I have to say was the best part of the entire issue, was learning that Beck has developed a crush on Spike--or maybe it's just, as Spike stated, "anti-hero worship"--so powerful, that she's begun to imitate him. I tend to think it's more in the "crush" area.
Before I go, I have to congratulate Brian Lynch on thinking of a better term than "vamping out" for when vampire's put on their scary face. The term can be found in the best quote of the issue: Tok- "Resume human face (...) You're making vampire lemon face! Vampire lemon face leads to biting! Human face now!" I hate to resort to Internet acronyms, but this made me "LMAO".
Art: In short, very good. Urru is stunning at close-ups, but a little bit less impressive at shots that are further away. For example, there is a panel on page 13 where Spike looks misshapen. It's okay to put less detail in these kind of panels, but the character should still retain their features to a point; Jeanty (artist for Buffy: Season Eight does an awesome job at this). Urru, as usual, excels in fight scenes, particularly the panel where Spike gets socked by Hornblower. That was a hoot. The only real problem I had with the art (the previous quibble is just a little... erm, quibble) is Urru's depiction of Wesley and Angel. Up until now, I'd been hoping that Urru would be a part of Angel: After the Fall, but now I'm iffy. Wesley looks more like Giles with a five o'clock shadow than he does Wesley, and Angel doesn't look quite like himself either. Illyria looks great, but--from the beautiful art Urru did with Beck, Betta George, and Tok--I'm beginning to think that Urru is better at drawing original character than he is interpreting pre-existing ones.
Characters We Know: Spike, Lorne, and Ratio Hornblower. We also see Angel, Wesley, and Illyria in Spike's thoughts.