Credits: Todd McFarlane (story), Todd McFarlane & Greg Capullo (art), Tom Orzechowski (copy editor & letters), Steve Oliff & Olyoptics (colors)
Summary: Spawn finds himself in Florence, Alabama where he’s taken in by young Andy Frank. Hiding in the Franks’ shed, Spawn learns that Andy and his older brother Eddie are being abused by their alcoholic father, Joe. After Joe pulls a gun on Andy, Spawn decides to take action. He magically tattoos “I Beat My Kids” all over Joe’s body, hoping to teach him a lesson. After Spawn leaves town, an even angrier Joe lashes out at his kids. Eddie shoots Joe to save Andy’s life. Meanwhile, Sam discovers that Chief Banks hired Billy Kincaid to murder Senator Jennings’ child.
Spawntinuity: In a quick flashback, we learn that Al Simmons hit Wanda once. Spawn’s cloak, which was left behind in Elysium during the Angela miniseries, is shown in tatters here. I’m not sure if McFarlane didn’t know all of Angela’s plot details when writing this issue, or if this is an intentional point to show Spawn’s costume can regenerate.
Spawn Stuff: McFarlane has begun shooting commercials for Todd Toys (I can't find them on Youtube, though).
Review: I remember a TV Guide review of the HBO Spawn series remarking that when Spawn didn’t spew blood, it spewed clichés. That’s certainly true of this issue, as Spawn finds himself in the middle of a Lifetime original movie, complete with the sleepy small town setting, neighbors who don’t ask questions, cherubic blonde child abuse victims, and the horrifically evil father who’s actually a pillar of the community. (He’s a respected police officer and church leader! Get it?! He’s, like, a total hypocrite!) The dad’s not even a mean drunk; he’s just unrepentantly evil, and even has an exaggerated “Ha-ha-ha-ha!” lettering font worthy of the Red Skull he lets out after beating his kids. I guess McFarlane gets some credit for the small twist at the end, as Spawn’s punishment does nothing to deter the abuser and only makes things worse. The ending, however, won’t be hard for anyone even remotely familiar with “abuse” stories to figure out.
The worst aspect of the issue, though, is the one-panel revelation that Spawn used to beat his wife. It’s portrayed as a one-time incident he always regretted, but it’s a hideous revelation to make about your title character. Downplaying it as a one-panel flashback is another boneheaded idea, because this is something that surely needs to be fleshed out. Spawn’s entire motivation as a character is supposed to be his love for his wife, but now we’re told in a quickie flashback that he smacked her around once? Aside from the fact that it undermines the entire premise of the series, it’s just tasteless. If McFarlane had to reveal this (the brief justification is that Al Simmons’ life of violence eventually bled into his home life), he should’ve established the circumstances around the incident and given Spawn more room to be repentant of his actions. Spawn could’ve seen himself in the boys’ father and wonder if that was the direction he was headed, or begin to question if Terry really is a better husband for Wanda. Actually, this revelation, as dumb as it is, could’ve been the impetus for Spawn to stop obsessing over Wanda and to go in a new direction. Instead, it stands out as a one-panel “whaaaat?” moment that was quickly forgotten.