It’s basically a tale about how Spike spends his time lost in space trying to return home to Earth. It’s perfection both in terms of Spike’s characterization and in setting up a delicious Spuffy foundation for Season 9.
Back in Season 8, we got to see inside Buffy’s head and realize she still had MASSIVE feelings for Spike, that she still fantasized about him and that she was hurt by his never contacting her. On the other hand, it wasn’t as clear if Spike had genuinely moved on when it came to Buffy, like he was resigned to the fact they’d never be together and that he was actually over her. Then comes these eight pages of Spike POV by Jane Espenson, who’s a Spike/Buffy fan…
Because Spike’s so bored by the inactivity and lack of social interaction (to the point that he’s hearing ~voices which reminds him of Dru – and how much do I love that he fondly remembers her “beautiful head”? Aw), he decides to acclimate the bugs to his lifestyle by giving them Earth names. He starts to get attached.
As always, Spike needs connection. He’s not a loner type. Spike might’ve initially reached out to his bug friends for his own benefit, as a way to make his time on the ship seem less foreign by giving the bugs Earth names to make it feel more like home, but in return he makes a real connection with the bugs and he begins to learn about Bug culture.
I laughed out loud at the reveal that he enjoyed reading bug romance novels, “Love Comes on Leathery Wings,” because of course he does after enjoying “Passions” and “Dawson’s Creek”! He also teaches the bugs “beautiful verse” according to the bugs (“my heart expands, tis grown a bulge in it”), and he even marries three bugs (d’awwwww nontraditional marriage — at least, from our perspective!), and finally he sings lullabies to the baby bugs (“and when the wind blows, the cradle will rock…”).
This Spike is romantic, poetic, accepting of other cultures, and a nurturer. Yes, I remember this Spike well. It’s not like he’s lost his violent side though — he impulsively hits a button to explode the Vagina Monster in the first few pages, so he’s still a dive-in-head-first brawler, but that’s not the sole (or soul!) definition of him.
One of my favorite panels of him is when he’s chaperoning the bugs dancing with the visiting lady bugs. He’s cast in shadow, shown smoking in the doorway. He’s lonely and to show him watching the bugs dancing signifies a yearning for connection again, but more specifically, a romantic connection. He’s watching his bug friends find romantic companionship and envying them. It reminds me of him smoking underneath Buffy’s window back in Season 5. Now, I don’t think this means that he’s desperate for her to the point of losing his self-composure and self-possession, he’s “got [his] pride, ya know,” but he does miss her, and that’s why he’s going “home” to Buffy.
I love how she asks him, “Are you home for good now?” She wants him there, what’s more, she thinks this is his home, too. And instead of going all googly-eyed at finally returning to her, he looks up into the sky, to dreams of his own adventures without Buffy. Yes, he’s journeyed “home” to her, but he’s still got his own life to live. Equality between them. She’s the one who’s gazing at him a bit wistfully, asking if he’s going to stay now. He’s the one dreaming about flying again. They’ve both got their own lives, but they’re choosing to meet in the middle as the sun sets over San Francisco. And is there a more romantic image than a sunset at the Golden Gate Bridge? *paging all romcom movies*
Also, note the contrast between Spike and Angel: when Spike starts hearing voices, he reaches out to connect with others and creates strong social ties centered around nurturing and romanticism. When Angel starts hearing voices in Season 8, he retreats from genuine connection, instead cloaking himself in shadow and deceit for the purpose of nurturing through violence (all mortals gotta die, right? He’ll kill you to save you, e.g. Connor). Note how the end result to Spike’s reaching for connection is returning home to Buffy/Earth from a trip through space, where as Angel’s retreat from connection leads to dragging Buffy from Earth, from her home, and out into space in the Season 8 “Twilight” arc. Once again, they’re contrasted; it’s another showcasing of how Angel is ill-suited because he disconnects Buffy from her home (her friends and even her planet) where as Spike brings her back to her friends (“Touched”).
But Spike isn’t just good for Buffy: in Season 8 #37, Spike brings Buffy back down to Earth, and now in this short Spike comic, Spike returns home to Earth and more specifically, to Buffy. Buffy’s the one who guides him home. Considering the engraved B+S within the heart and the panel with his silhouette watching the bugs dancing, I think it’s meant to show he wanted to return to Earth because of his yearning connection for her. He wants to return “home” because of Buffy.
D’aaaaaaaaaaaaaaw! This was perfect. So much Spike/Spuffy happiness from reading this!
Also, THIS is how you write Spike, IDW. Poet who loves pulp romance and desires affection, who’s still manly and snarky and a fighter, but not a drunken lout bruiser, who’s determined enough to journey for “one and a half thousand hours” to return home. So glad that style of writing and poor characterization is in our rear window, and we shall speak of it no more! *spits*