DAVID, Peter. Spike: Old Times. 48p. IDW, 2005. ISBN: 1933239972
The whirlwind weekend of Buffy inspired trade paperbacks has me writing up a storm. Today though, we are not focusing on Buffy or Angel, but the thorn in both their sides: Spike. Our friendly neighborhood English vampire didn't start getting his own titles until a few years back, when Dark Horse gave up the rights to publish Angel comics. A small independent publisher called IDW picked it up and they've been making Angel comics every since. I think Dark Horse is getting back the license sometime in the next year, but if the current Buffy comics are any indication, the new Angel Dark Horse comics might not be any better than the IDW ones. Spike: Old Times is an example of the early IDW stories. It was a short (maybe the length of two full comics) one-shot I think largely intended to see if people would buy solo Spike comics. Since they still publish them, I guess it worked.
I'm getting ahead of myself. I mean, background information about the comics publishing industry is obviously why you're here, right? Wrong. You want to hear about comics. The time frame of this comic is a little suspect. It mentions it taking place in L.A. and Spike being there to "bug" someone (presumably Angel). Spike wasn't in L.A. until after his Buffy year ended- with the exception of the "In the Dark" Angel episode, which took place long before this story. So let's say it took place sometime after the season 6 episode "Older and Far Away" by before season 7's "Selfless." It also erroneously refers to the party in "Older and Far Away" as Dawn's birthday when it was, in fact, Buffy's. So it wasn't perfect, but with that stuff out of the way, this is a damn fine example of how good a Buffy comic can be.
The story flashes back to London 1880. This is while Spike was still human, and it shows him leaving the party where he is made fun of during "Fool for Love." The partygoers continue to mock him, and Spike wishes aloud that they were the "bloody ones." When the guy who was talking about a "railroad spike" being driven into his head starts telling everyone at the party this, Cecily suddenly transforms into Halfrek and says "wish granted." They start bleeding out of the ears and eyes, then someone starts a fire and they all die. It's a great beginning. It also explains something in the show that never was explained; Kali Rocha played both Cecily and Halfrek, and in "Older and Far Away" called Spike by his given name William. So obviously they were the same person. I like that this story explains she was a vengeance demon the whole time "Fool for Love" took place, similar to how Anya had disguised herself as a high school student during her demon days.
Cut to now. Halfrek is at a bar hosting a poetry night. Spike comes out of nowhere and starts a fight. They brawl for a awhile, with Halfrek clearly having the upperhand. She eventually does her teleport spin, but Spike keeps an eye on the place to try and figure out why she was there. He eventually sees a guy leave and notices Sepavro demons are after them (a nice reference to "Something Blue" - demons that can only be killed by drowning them). Spike makes it his mission to save the guy, really only to piss Halfrek off. He also keeps mispronouncing her name as things like "Halifax" and "Halfback." It's fun when you read the story. Spike eventually figures out from talking to the guy that Halfrek has been punishing every man in his family from viking times, killing the poor descendants on their 30th birthday. Spike figures out that if he can keep the guy alive until midnight, he'll probably break the curse.
Peter David wrote this. I've talked a lot about him during my X-Factor rants (re: Shatterstar) and from my previous vintage post about The Hulk. He's clever, and while this story is much too short for my taste (I wanted it to go on forever) it's a really satisfying read. He developed Halfrek nicely, and keeps Spike completely in-character. The art is a little too "rich" for me; I wasn't a fan of these painting-esque pictures as panels, but you barely notice because the story here is so good.