Monday, November 15, 2010

SPAWN #44-#45, March 1996


Avenger

Credits: Todd McFarlane (story), Tony Daniel (pencils), Kevin Conrad (inks), Tom Orzechowski (copy editor), Lois Buhalis (letters), Todd Broeker & Roy Young (colors)

Summary: The angel Tiffany goes on an unsanctioned mission to kill Spawn for his tryst with Angela. She finds him feeding on the dark energy of a bear in the woods. After killing the animal, Tiffany easily impales Spawn on a tree and prepares to decapitate him. Meanwhile, Sam and Twitch decide to investigate Spawn’s mysterious connection to Chief Banks and Billy Kincaid.

Spawntinuity: Tiffany claims that she’s shattered all of Angela’s old training records. She lives with other angels in “The Gate,” a dusty, rocky environment. According to Tiffany’s research, decapitation is the only way to kill a hell-creature.

Spawn vs. Lawyers: Although he didn’t work on this issue, Neil Gaiman has successfully sued over the character of Tiffany, citing her as a derivative version of Angela.

The Big Names: Two pin-ups of the Violator’s Clown form this issue, provided by, of all people, Ren & Stimpy animator Bill Wray and comics writer Chuck Dixon.

Production Note: This issue is printed on a much cheaper, flimsier paper stock than the previous issues. I’m not sure what happened behind the scenes, but the thicker stock is back next issue.

Review: If you really enjoyed seeing Spawn hang out with his forest buddies last issue, you’ll be thrilled to know he wastes numerous pages in this issue doing the same thing. McFarlane now brings worms into the act, which does seem to fit the horror ethic he’s going for. I seem to recall McFarlane later turning Spawn’s entire face into living worms, so he clearly liked the idea. Aside from wasting more pages with this inane “darkness feeding,” we have a few more pages of Spawn pining over Wanda again. Want even more recycled material? Violator wastes two pages laughing over his partnership with Jason Wynn that’s going to destroy Spawn and his extended family. I'm sure eventually they'll get around to formulating some kind of a plan. Meanwhile, Sam and Twitch are back to investigating Spawn again, putting them back on the path they were on all the way back in issue #5.

I think the introduction of Tiffany is supposed to be the major selling point, but McFarlane fails to do anything with the character. Gaiman was able to give Angela an arrogant, smug persona that’s actually fun to read, while Tiffany is self-righteous and boring. The internal politics of Heaven are also skipped over, which ignores the odd verisimilitude Gaiman gave his stories. If you’re really going to introduce the hosts of heaven into the storyline, you have to have an internal reason for why they’re not constantly after the demonic hero. Gaiman went about this by establishing Heaven as a pedestrian bureaucracy, filled with petty rivalries, egos, and backstabbings, and apparently little interest in actually executing the stated objectives. Tiffany is just too extreme for any office buildings or pantsuits, so all of the allegedly “boring” material is skipped over so that she can attack Spawn. The ensuing fight is pretty boring itself, as Tiffany only encounters Spawn a few pages before the story’s over and just beats on him for a couple of panels before the twenty-two pages are up.


Warriors

Credits: Todd McFarlane (story), Greg Capullo (pencils), Todd McFarlane (inks), Tom Orzechowski (copy editor & letters), Brian Haberlin (colors)

Summary: Tiffany slices what she believes to be Spawn’s head, only to learn it’s an assortment of worms. Spawn’s costume goes on the attack, summoning the forest creatures to target Tiffany. Soon, only her bones remain. When Spawn returns home, he’s warned by Cogliostro to take back control over his symbiote. After Spawn falls asleep, the symbiote stirs. It hides the worms it concealed in its cape inside a dumpster in the alleys. Elsewhere, Sam proposes Twitch join him as a private detective, while Terry worries he caught Wanda’s cold.

Review: First of all, what is Spawn doing on that cover? Capullo and McFarlane seem to be growing through a twisted tree phase during these issues (Curse’s laboratory was also located on top of a bizarrely contorted tree), so I guess it fits into a new motif they’re working on. But what about that pose? Half of Spawn’s right foot looks it’s missing, and there’s no way his left foot could fit on top of that tiny sliver of a limb. And why is he squatting like that?

Anyway, after attempting to sell Tiffany as a major threat last issue, here she’s quickly outsmarted by Spawn’s costume and his forest pals. Remember, any animal you see after sundown is evil and you’d best stay away. As previous issues have shown us, Spawn apparently isn’t clever enough to outsmart a carrot, so he’s lucky that Hell provided him with such a great support system. After Spawn returns home (how exactly he got from West Virginia to New York is skipped over, but at least we’re spared another tour of McFarlane’s warped interpretation of small town America), he’s lectured about the costume by Cogliostro. The idea of the costume actually working against Spawn has potential, and it creates a conflict the series hasn’t explored yet. Spawn needs the costume to survive, but what is he going to do if the symbiote pushes him further and further into evil? Unfortunately, I seem to recall this is another dropped idea, although I do remember McFarlane going out of his way to make Spawn more anti-social and unlikable during this era, so maybe that was his way of paying the subplot off.

3 comments:

PeterCSM said...

In regards to the cover, as a kid I had thought it was a gag and that Spawn was farting his powers out. I now realize that's just a foggy moon in the background and Spawn is crouching in the tree for a non-flatulent reason. Disappointing.

Christopher Giarusso said...

In regards to the production note for 44, you should know that around this point most Spawn books were printed with high quality paper like usual and also simultaneously printed in lower quality with a bar code box on them. I have no clue why this is, but I definitely know both printings exist for nearly ever issue after this, as I've bought one version of an issue and then saw the other printing at a different comic store.

G. Kendall said...

The version you're talking about with the UPC box is the newsstand version. Those always had lower quality paper and UPC boxes on the cover, going back to the first issue.

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