Wednesday, March 31, 2010

SPAWN #16 - December 1993

Reflections- Part One

Credits: Grant Morrison (story), Greg Capullo (pencils), Dan Panosian & Art Thibert (inks), Tom Orzechowski (letters and editor), Steve Oliff & Olyoptics (colors)

Summary: Jason Wynn shows off a town made out of Al Simmons’ memories, “Simmonsville,” to a colleague, Major Vale. The town rests above a portal to Hell and has demon residents. Meanwhile, Spawn travels to his grave to see what’s buried inside. He’s anguished to see his human body is inside the coffin. The agents of Heaven receive word to create an “Anti-Spawn” to destroy the current Spawn, who has been deemed special. They select Jason Wynn as the human receptacle.

Spawntinuity: Jason Wynn reveals that an A-bomb test in Nevada inadvertently opened a portal to Hell years ago. The site is now Simmonsville. Simmonsville is made out of psychoplasm, the substance of Hell. It was created by the memories stolen from Al Simmons after he died. The previous issues had Wynn arranging Simmons’ death because he was asking too many questions, but it’s now revealed that Wynn traded Simmons (who was “growing soft”) to Hell in exchange for psychoplasm. Later, McFarlane will rename psychoplasm “necroplasm.”

Review: Grant Morrison wasn’t quite GRANT MORRISON yet, but he had earned a reputation for his work on Animal Man and Doom Patrol. McFarlane obviously had a taste for the British style that would soon become Vertigo, so it’s not surprising that Morrison was hired as a fill-in writer. Morrison immediately introduces a string of ideas and only wastes a few pages on Spawn hanging around the alley, which was already getting old (in this issue, Spawn stops two punks from burning a bum alive, which is virtually identical to a scene in the upcoming Spawn/Batman crossover). Spawn moves on to investigate his grave, which he’s shocked to discover isn’t empty. I wonder if McFarlane suggested this scene to Morrison, since issue #10 already hinted at what Spawn would find inside his grave. This scene is later recreated in the Spawn HBO series and live-action movie (the cartoon had a particularly creepy spin on it, as the corpse talks back to Spawn and taunts him).

Spawn’s discovery at the grave has little to do with the main story, which is mostly carried by Jason Wynn. Wynn explains the concepts of Simmonsville and psychoplasm, which probably wouldn’t have been dreamed up by McFarlane, but do fit in with the established universe. Simmonsville, a town made up entirely of Al Simmons’ memories from his previous life, is a particularly great idea. McFarlane has put some effort into humanizing Simmons, but this leads the door open for numerous stories that could shed light on his character. Later, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, Wynn is transformed into the Anti-Spawn. An “Anti-Spawn” is one of those ideas that’s obvious and clever at the same time. How exactly he’s created, by a laser sent by angels who’ve stolen the bodies of astronauts at a space station, shows more imagination than Spawn normally delivered in this era.

McFarlane wasn’t the only Image founder who needed fill-ins early on, but he seemed to have stricter quality control. Many of the early Image comics were written by friends or relatives of the creators who wanted to work in comics. McFarlane hired people like Alan Moore. He had the money, so why not? Aside from entertaining the readers who actually did care about the story, the guest writers opened up numerous story possibilities that McFarlane could’ve followed in the future. It’s possible that bringing in “name” writers could’ve trivialized McFarlane’s own efforts (which is definitely the case here, as the previous two issues were some of McFarlane’s weakest), but McFarlane seemed unfazed. The same attitude extended to the art, as this issue sees the debut of Greg Capullo. McFarlane recognized Capullo as one of the strongest artists at Marvel and snatched him away, while most of the Image founders were still building studios of no-name clones. Capullo is a superior artist to McFarlane who, at this point, is still drawing in his own style. Capullo moved away from the ‘80s Marvel look as the Image style became popular, but still maintained a grounding in plausible anatomy and solid construction. As Capullo moves on from guest artist to co-artist to artist, his art mutates into an odd combination of his old look and McFarlane’s cartooniness, but here he’s more restrained. This doesn’t read or look exactly like a standard issue of Spawn, but it’s not a wild departure, and I think the kids who only wanted McFarlane/McFarlane/McFarlane could still find an enjoyable comic.


Erik said...

I've got to track this one down. I have the Miller, Moore, Sim and Gaiman issues- but I like them more for the curiosity factor than for Spawn

Anonymous said...

Just wondering how you're going to cover issues #19 and 20? IIRC, they were so late that they were scheduled to come out after #24, so will you read them in sequential order or the order they were published? I remember Wizard making a big deal about this controversy at the time.

G. Kendall said...

I'll review them in order since it would be too confusing to go in the order they were released.

MRPRSN said...

I was a big fan of Capullo's Marvel work. I wasn't reading Spawn at this point, but I saw some of his work after his mutation in style that you had mentioned, and I thought it was a change for the worse. I like that his recent work on Batman is free of the McFarlane-isms he delveloped while working on Spawn.

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