Credits: Alan Moore (writer), Todd McFarlane (art), Tom Orzechowski (letters and editor), Steve Oliff, Reuben Rude, & Olyoptics (colors),
Summary: Billy Kincaid awakens in the lowest sphere of Hell. He’s joined by a group of the recently deceased, who are all eventually grabbed by demons from various levels of Hell. Kincaid is left alone with the last survivor, a young girl. When he gives in to his urges and reaches for her throat, she rips off her skin and reveals herself as the Vindicator. Vindicator takes Kincaid to the eighth level, the Malebolge. Kincaid is fitted with a Spawn uniform, and forced to live under Malebolgia.
Spawntinuity: Billy Kincaid claims his serial killer name is “Mister Chill-ee.” Vindicator, of the “Five Fabulous Phlebiac Brothers,” makes his first appearance. The devil Spawn made a deal with is named for the first time. “Malebolgia” is a “Dante’s Inferno” reference, like much of the issue. According to Vindicator, there are ten levels of Hell, with unique demons on each sphere (although the tenth level is supposed to be Heaven). Vindicator refers to Spawn uniforms as neural parasites.
Todd Talk: McFarlane has begun bashing Peter David and John Byrne for being “obsessed” with Spawn and Image in the letters page.
The Big Names: Frank Miller provides a Sin City style Spawn poster. Dark Horse’s Diana Schultz writes a fan letter, saying the book isn’t “high art,” but she enjoys it. (She also says it was impossible to find the early issues of the series, even though this book had print runs of around a million copies in the early days. Crazy times.)
Miscellaneous Note: The title of the issue is a reference to a song on the Eraserhead soundtrack.
Review: This comic has been forgotten over the years, but it is significant for being Alan Moore’s return to mainstream comics. It’s obviously a Moore story, if only because the generic “Hell” of the early issues is now an elaborate literary reference populated with bizarre demons that collect souls for psychotropic highs or fashion statements. Moore doesn’t seem to expect people to take the horror elements that seriously, since he’s largely playing this for laughs. Kincaid’s traveling companions in the afterlife are a collection of various American stereotypes (the ditzy Californian, the black gospel singer, the Elvis-loving redneck) who all meet terrible fates. I don’t think Moore wants us to actively root for their deaths, but he clearly wasn’t trying to create three-dimensional figures.
Billy Kincaid gets a personality makeover, as Moore drops the childlike speech pattern given to him by McFarlane and instead writes him as a blue-collar slob who just happens to kill kids. Since Kincaid narrates the story, I can see why Moore gives him a more natural voice. It also enables Moore to work in more jokes, such as Kincaid’s questioning if Spawn violated his constitutional rights by killing him. Moore also makes the Vindicator genuinely funny, vastly improving on the brash, loudmouthed personality McFarlane was going for on his brother, Violator. McFarlane’s art excels in this issue, as he’s given plenty of freakish demons and alien landscapes to draw.
McFarlane’s decision to turn his continuity over to a series of guest writers while the book was still young was an unusual choice, since he still had every intention of staying with the title. In some cases, Moore’s ideas survive throughout the book’s run (among other things, this issue establishes that good and evil don’t matter in the Spawn universe’s afterlife), but not everything stuck. Moore creates an army of souls wearing the Spawn uniform, which will contradict McFarlane’s future attempts at making the Spawn identity unique to soldiers sent to train on Earth. When Kincaid does show up years later as a ghost, he’s certainly not wearing a Spawn costume (although his speech pattern is closer to Moore’s). The real problem for McFarlane in the future won’t be minor continuity issues, though. Alan Moore didn’t seem to mind creating brothers for the Violator or naming the series’ main villain as a part of his freelancer fee, but the next guest writer was more willing to take up McFarlane on his beloved “creator’s rights” cause.