Monday, January 3, 2011

SPAWN #50- June 1996


Credits: Todd McFarlane (story), Todd McFarlane & Greg Capullo (pencils), Todd McFarlane & Danny Miki (inks), Tom Orzechowski (copy editor & letters), Brian Haberlin w/Dan Kemp & Todd Broeker (colors)

Summary: Terry survives the wreck, only to learn he has brain cancer. Meanwhile, Cogliostro warns Spawn to let go of his anger, which is feeding his erratic symbiote. Spawn visits Granny Blake and learns of Terry’s cancer. When Terry’s condition becomes critical, Spawn reluctantly uses his powers to heal him. The act triggers Spawn’s symbiote, which returns to Hell in its confused state. Spawn finds himself under attack by the lower levels of Hell. When his face is ripped off, he fights back. On Earth, Granny tells Terry that he was cured by Al, while Violator, as a birthday party clown, spies on Cyan.

Spawntinuity: Terry calls out “Al?” when he sees Spawn standing over his hospital bed. Spawn replies, “I used to be.” When Spawn asks Cogliostro to reveal who he actually is, he gives a few cryptic comments before finally saying, “In short…I’m a Spawn” as he walks away. Later, when Spawn enters Hell, an extended narrative sequence expands on Alan Moore’s earlier hint that good and evil don’t matter in this continuity’s afterlife. If that is true, why was Spawn sent to Earth to “harvest souls” for Hell? The people he’s killed could just as easily be recruited into Heaven. Finally, Wanda’s age is given as twenty-nine. Even in 1996, this means she was pretty young to be married to a Vietnam vet.

Todd Talk: McFarlane reveals that if he were to return to the book as the regular artist, he would emulate the style Capullo’s developed. He also says that he would instruct any future artists to follow that style, which is funny, given McFarlane’s refusal to draw Spider-Man according to the John Romita model.

The Big Names: The Image Info page recounts the time director John Singelton gave Todd McFarlane an award, recognizing the million-plus sales of Spawn #1.

Review: To commemorate the fiftieth issue of Spawn, Todd McFarlane returns to pencil the first half of the double-sized issue, while Greg Capullo tackles the second half. As McFarlane points out in the letters page, the fans can now compare their art side by side to see how Capullo’s influence has shaped the title. What you really see, though, is how much Capullo has adapted to McFarlane’s style, because this isn’t the same Capullo who drew X-Force. In fact, Capullo actually seems to have exceeded McFarlane’s normal level of exaggeration by this point, as McFarlane’s half looks pretty tame when compared to Capullo’s. Then again, McFarlane’s chapter mainly consists of conversation scenes in a hospital setting, while Capullo illustrates Spawn’s battle with the demons of Hell. It’s a little odd that McFarlane chose to give himself the more boring chapter, but by this point I guess I just have to concede that McFarlane’s definition of “boring” is probably different than mine.

Putting Spawn in a position of having to save Terry’s life is a decent idea, which is probably why McFarlane already used it in “The Hunt” storyline, and why it showed up in the Spawn HBO cartoon. The twist this time is that Spawn still mistakenly believes Terry is working for his killer, so it’s not a decision he’s inclined to make. Through a lengthy series of narrative captions, which actually does work more effectively than McFarlane’s standard purple prose, Spawn’s thought process is made clear. He’ll save Terry’s life because he promised Wanda he’d always make her happy (let’s forget that one-panel flashback of him beating her), and he’s not going to stand by while she loses a second husband. Ideally, this is supposed to end Spawn’s yearning for Wanda and begin the next phase of his life. In the immediate future, it somehow triggers the costume and prematurely sends him back to Hell.

I can almost understand the reasoning for why the costume wants to return to Hell (it’s confused by its premature mutation and wants to go home), but why does this prompt the escape? Just a few pages earlier, Cogliostro told Spawn that the costume was feeding off of his anger, so he needed to develop a new attitude before he triggered the costume again. Now, it’s set off when he actually does something nice. So much for the “stop being an a-hole” advice. The second half of the story follows Spawn into Hell, as he’s forced into battle with lower-level demons that want his necroplasm. Capullo seems to enjoy drawing the various creatures, but it’s a thin plot that drags on for too long, and unfortunately, Spawn’s going to be wandering aimlessly through Hell for the next few issues. I remember this as an especially pointless arc, with its only true significance being the debut of Spawn’s new face. After the demons rip his “hamburger head” face off this issue, he’s now left with a more skeletal, rotten look. This marks the first time McFarlane totally redesigns the character’s face, but it’s not the last. Viewing this as an outsider who hasn’t read the book in ages, Spawn seems to get a new face every couple of years. Originally, McFarlane seemed to be making Spawn’s look creepier and more corpse-like, but the last Spawn cover I saw had the character resembling a Venom-style monster. I doubt any of the alterations have really caught the interest of the lost readers, but McFarlane seems unperturbed.

1 comment:

PeterCSM said...

I had never read this issue and assumed Spawn had gone back to Hell because he had used up all his power. I thought he was close to running over his power-hellfire-meter thing and that's why he didn't heal his face from the Batman crossover. So the costume can just send him to Hell whenever it feels uncomfortable?

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