Monday, September 13, 2010

SPAWN BLOOD FEUD #1-#4, June-September 1995

Blood Feud Part One

Credits: Alan Moore (story), Tony Daniel & Kevin Conrad (art), Tom Orzechowski (letters), Todd Broeker (colors)

Todd McFarlane used to say he was reluctant to do spinoffs, even though retailers vocally demanded more Spawn product during the ‘90s. At this point, McFarlane still seems to be operating under the principle that miniseries should be special, so we have the return of Alan Moore, paired with the latest artist poached from X-Force, Tony Daniel. The story opens with a mystery figure preying on New York’s citizens, as Spawn is hearing the voice of his demonic costume (K-7 Leetha) in his dreams. Meanwhile, monster-hunter John Sankster arrives in town to stop the murders. Sankster declares that vampires are the likely culprit, and this Spawn character clearly must be a vampire. After a particularly trippy dream, a blood-covered Spawn awakens on top of a dead body, surrounded by police.

I guess Spawn is better suited for this story than, say, Wolverine since it’s possible that his costume could be revealed as a murderer, which would enable the lead character to get off the hook. But, really, anyone who’s remotely familiar with the genre tropes should be able to figure out where all of this is headed. I do like the crazy design Daniel gives Spawn’s costume (if you’re wondering why Spawn’s so skinny on the cover, that’s supposed to be his empty suit). Whenever Daniel has to draw civilian characters, they looked rushed and carelessly constructed, but he does make the supernatural elements look cool.

Blood Feud Part Two

Credits: Alan Moore (story), Tony Daniel & Kevin Conrad (art), Tom Orzechowski (letters), Todd Broeker (colors)

After escaping from the police, Spawn suddenly remembers the stolen weapons he “misplaced” in the alleys. He reasons that his old friend, and CIA arms dealer, Jason “Sonny” Groenfield must’ve retrieved them by now. This is where the shared continuity between two writers gets weird. Obviously, Moore knows about the weapons Spawn stole early in the series’ run, and that they went missing during “The Hunt” storyline. However, he seems to think that Spawn freely shares his secret identity with all of his old friends, since he casually visits Groenfield, talks about the old days, and asks him if he’s seen the weapons. The only character McFarlane has allowed Spawn to reveal his identity to is Chapel, and he did that out of pure anger. Terry Fitzgerald is supposed to be Spawn’s best friend, yet McFarlane has gone out of his way to keep Terry from learning Spawn’s identity.

Sankster also seems to know Spawn’s secret identity, as he’s already been in contact with Groenfield and intimidated him into giving up Spawn if Groenfield sees him. Either Moore is doing this to portray Sankster as a shrewd foe who’s studied Spawn and learned his secrets, or he’s under the impression that Spawn’s identity is somewhat public knowledge. As a villain, Sankster isn’t properly fleshed out yet. Moore emphasizes his preppy qualities, while dropping a few obvious hints about his true identity. He wears fake tanner, and refuses to continue his hunt for Spawn during daylight hours. He’s essentially a joke character with a very obvious secret, and he doesn’t seem to have enough weight to be the main villain of the series.

The rest of the issue is dedicated to Spawn ripping off his costume, which is causing blackouts and giving him bad dreams. He tries to drown it in the bottom of the river, but still can’t escape their mental connection. The next time Spawn awakes, his homeless friends have driven a stake through his chest. Moore’s handling of Spawn’s relationship with his costume and his friends is the highlight so far. While McFarlane tends to portray the homeless as childlike followers, I like Moore’s willingness to show that at least some of them could buy into the vampire hysteria.

Blood Feud Part Three

Credits: Alan Moore (story), Tony Daniel & Kevin Conrad (art), Tom Orzechowski (letters), Todd Broeker (colors)

Oh, John Sankster is actually a vampire! What a crazy twist. Twitch discovers Sankster’s secret, and is brutally attacked as soon as he puts the evidence together. Meanwhile, Spawn stumbles across the Violator, who helps him recover from the staking. Violator reveals some helpful information about his costume, which clears it of the murders (it only feeds on souls, not blood) and establishes that it is a female. For some reason, this reminds me of the television censors that only allowed Hill Street Blues to do a bestiality story if the pervert was involved with female sheep.

Spawn’s physically ill without the costume, so he must travel across town to retrieve it. Moore actually tries to answer a question McFarlane always skirted over -- how does Spawn travel across New York? Moore has him magically hotwiring an abandoned car, which marks the first time Spawn’s ridden in a vehicle (discounting the comic that was packaged with the Spawnmobile toy, of course). Sankster catches up with Spawn again, traps him inside the car, and drives it off the docks. That’s what I think is supposed to be happening, but Daniel’s storytelling is almost incoherent during the sequence. His work looks increasingly rushed as the series goes along, and I can’t tell if it’s an intentional choice or his response to deadline pressures. This is probably the weakest chapter so far, but it has one of my favorite moments. Moore has at least one bum cuss Spawn out for sitting on a throne and declaring himself the king of the alleys. Was McFarlane not aware of how bizarrely egotistical that setup was?

Blood Feud Part Four

Credits: Alan Moore (story), Tony Daniel & Kevin Conrad (art), Tom Orzechowski (letters), Todd Broeker (colors)

Spawn’s reunited with his costume, just in time to rescue Sam from Sankster. Sankster tries to explain why he’s framing Spawn, but the only real explanation we get is that he wants to take out the other supernatural competition. In fact, his entire operation in New York has just been a test run for his planned conquest of Hong Kong in 2070. Spawn refers to him as “an undead Donald Trump,” which is apparently all of the development we’re going to get out of Sankster. The sun comes up, he turns into a snake creature, then disappears in the sewers. Spawn decides that only darkness accepts him now and jumps back into the river, even though Sam’s willing to clear his name now.

So, it turns out the villain never had much of a motivation, and the question of how he knows Spawn’s identity is never answered. Spawn embraces the darkness, just like he usually does at the end of McFarlane’s stories. For this, we needed a four-issue miniseries? I could buy it as a two-part fill-in, but releasing it separately as a miniseries just emphasizes that it’s not up to the levels of the Violator and Angela limited series.

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