*Spike: Shadow Puppets — Recommended

Spike: Shadow Puppets may be the most enjoyable thing a fan of the characters Joss Whedon created for Buffy the Vampire Slayer will read all year.

In the season five “Smile Time” episode of Angel, the title character found himself turned into, in Spike’s words, “a wee little puppet man.” That show was a fan-favorite episode with plenty of humor as well as thrills. In this collection, the “Smile Time” puppets and their evil plans for children’s television have relocated to Japan, and Lorne talks Spike into investigating them.

Spike: Shadow Puppets cover
Spike: Shadow Puppets
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Writer Brian Lynch clearly knows the characters and the canon. He captures the blend of bravado and near self-parody that is so attractive about Spike. He also wrote the previous Spike collection, Asylum, and two characters from that story return here. He uses plenty of in-jokes and pop culture allusions, which are helpfully explained in notes at the back of the book (just in case you didn’t recognize the Kermit reference when Lorne gets puppetized). Lynch is willing to make his own additions to the mythos, and he has a good sense of what’s needed to balance the existing cast. His newest creation is Tok, a super-cool girl ninja with a crush on Spike who fits in easily and well with the others.

The writer also concentrates on snappy dialogue with plenty of wisecracks. These folks are supposed to be old friends and comrades in death-defying battles, so it makes sense they’ll know each others’ weaknesses. Plus, on the page, too many fights are boring to read about; it’s different when watching an hour-long show, which allows for more action. The ratio here is just right, with the fights being ways to reach a goal instead of filling space. Artist Franco Urru draws recognizable characters without too much photo reference or the resulting stiffness, and he keeps them on-model regardless of what they’re doing or what state they’re in. He’s capable of illustrating both action and investigation, too.

There’s something adorable about scary vampires acting as heroes to atone for their wicked pasts becoming cute puppets. Even when they vamp out, they’re still puppet-people, which I find hilarious. I don’t want to spoil the many surprises and funny snipes at other characters, but let’s say that, like many of the IDW books in this series, plenty of well-known guest stars appear, and a lot of felt would be involved if this was put on-screen.

There’s an internet-using dragon, the “world’s unsexiest cat fight” (true!), an oddly appropriate twist on a very overused Godfather reference… There’s even a theme, exploring the question of whether Spike really wants what he says he does, to be his own man, a loner hero. If you know and love the characters, this is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. It left me chortling with glee.

Brian Lynch was interviewed about the story.


3 Responses to “*Spike: Shadow Puppets — Recommended”

  1. Keishon Says:

    I bought this. It sounds good. I’m new to comics, so, thanks for the heads up. I bookmarked your site.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Glad you liked it, and thanks for reading the site!

  3. Vampire Month for First Second » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] favorite vampire comic is Spike: Shadow Puppets. It’s completely an in-joke for fans of the Buffyverse, but it gave me such pleasure to read. [...]

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