Brandon Borzelli’s Geek Goggle Reviews
McFarlane & Golden
The late running, over-sized, highly anticipated anniversary issue of Spawn drops this past week with a very mixed bag for this one time reader and fan of Spawn. Being the case that for some unknown reason many readers will look to pick up (or jump back on) to a series when it hits an anniversary issue it’s generally a good idea to give the reader a reason to come back for the anniversary issue plus one. However, upon reading this issue I am painfully reminded why I stopped reading Spawn around issue thirty some fifteen years ago.
Eighteen years ago Image Comics began rolling out titles by their superstar artists turned independent creators and none was more popular than Spawn. This simply can’t be overemphasized. While it didn’t ship monthly it did ship with enough regularity to be considered almost monthly. The book featured the amazing art of Todd McFarlane and it even brought in some high power writing legends like Frank Miller and Alan Moore for issues here and there. McFarlane also regularly fought with hate mail in the mailbag section and never shied away from answering any and all of the controversies that seemed to follow him around. Everything about the book seemed amazing.
However, the story became very stale. Al Simmons was in hell and sent back to Earth as a Spawn. He had a power/life clock that counted down as he used his powers. He had a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time. Well, it sounded great and the first twenty issues were great. But over time the clock got abandoned and Spawn’s purpose became more and more unclear. It simply seemed like McFarlane had no real story behind his creation beyond the inception phase. Once McFarlane got pulled in other directions his creation fell into other people’s hands and it soon became just like every other book.
Reading issue 200 was exactly how I felt when I read (and re-read) those last ten issues or so of the run I have in my collection. I was bored and couldn’t make heads of tails of what the issue was about. It felt directionless.
There’s a new Spawn, someone who appears to be alive in the costume, unlike Al. The Violator is still around and a couple of other hell characters called Omega Spawn and Freak. They fight, it’s gory and glorious. There’s a lot of talk about hell and the future and the levels of hell and power in the costume. It goes on and on and I have no idea what any of it means. But it looks cool as ever.
McFarlane uses Golden to help him complete the art for the issue. It still looks like a McFarlane book but his style has changed over time. He’s got a much dirtier and grittier look to his style and it works for the battles nicely. It will be interesting to see how the new art direction handles the characters because it’s more of a photo style. All in all the comic book looks great and it doesn’t appear to have cut any corners despite the lateness.
McFarlane writes a letter in the back thanking a bunch of people but he also takes a moment to explain how the ride started and morphed over time. He’s a good talker and this was a welcome addition to a book that’s already 50+ pages all for just $4. Ultimately this is a book that doesn’t really get me jazzed up to read another issue. It also verifies that I had a valid reason for dropping the book all those years ago. The story just isn’t there. Well, not for my tastes anyway. I’m sure a lot of folks are into it but this issue went over my head. It looked pretty doing it but for someone coming in cold I was lost. McFarlane changed the industry but somewhere in the mix his great creation became a run-of-the-mill book that just isn’t very interesting.
2 out of 5 Geek Goggles