What Is It?: Spike: Shadow Puppets Issue #3. This is the third 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 from the previous issue.
REVIEW: This is the only Buffyverse comic that I've ever seen sell out on day one. I arrived at my comic book store at around four (it opens at twelve) and every single issue was gone. I'm a variant collector as well, so I was really blue about it. Then, I looked at the rest of the SPIKE section. The week before, there had still been about seven copies of Issue #2 left and at least five of #1. This day? Only one lonely copy of number one. These are selling like hotcakes and, as a manager at McDonalds, I can say that hotcakes sell pretty freakin' well.
Thank God for http://www.tfaw.com/, because they sent me not only a regular, but also a variant. Kick ass.
Actually, that's pretty much what sums up this issue. Kick ass. There are references galore, as we've come to expect from Brian Lynch. My favorite throwback to old times was the way Spike decides it's research time, just like the old gang. That's one thing I love about Lynch's writing; he always keeps the history of the character right at the tips of his fingers, never over-using it but thrown in exactly at the right time to have the proper effect on us audience types.
What I found a lot in this issue was a slew of totally stunning, definitive moments. The first, as first glimpsed on Brian Lynch's myspace, Spike and Lorne reacting to seeing Beta George puppetized. Then, (I'm being careful not to give any major spoilers, though--if you haven't read the issue yet, why the hell are you reading my review? Get the issue!--it's kinda hard, as everything here is--as the fangirls say--worthy of major squeeage) we get a glimpse at the reaction of a fish walking into a sushi joint, the best Spike/Lorne moment on either paper or film, and a reveal in the end that is both funny, exciting, and scary at the same time.
The best part of these comics (particularly this issue) for me is Lynch's seamless transitions. Often, I find myself having to re-read pages of comics that have multiple story lines happening at once to make sure I'm on the right track ("The Long Way Home" for instance, though great it was). However, that simply doesn't happen in Lynch's comics. He can go from a past scene, to a "only in a character's head" scene, to a present scene, to a scene with only the villains in it without even a second of confusion on the reader's part. I can only begin to imagine the classic story he's going to tell in "After the Fall" this November.
Art: These pages are gushing with puppety cuteness. I love the way it's not played up to the point of cheesiness, and still manages to keep that good ol' integrity. The opening page of this issue is Urru's best rendition of Lorne so far, and Beta George is simultaneously the cutest and funniest puppet I've seen. Beta George's facial expressions as he finds himself in a sushi bar is priceless; it's not every artist that convey that degree of emotion in an illustration of a puppetized psychic fish. Franco Urru is truly a gift, and I am more than thrilled that he'll be doing "Angel: After the Fall."
Characters We Know: Spike, Lorne, Ratio Hornblower. And we also, in a way, see a "version" of (SPOILER:) Angelus.