Wednesday, January 5, 2011

SPAWN #52 - August 1996


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

Summary: Terry finds himself haunted by nightmares featuring Al. In Hell, Spawn arrives in the Fifth Level of Hell. He’s praised as a messiah by the envious, green-skinned denizens of the Fifth Level. Another recent arrival, the Savage Dragon, is pitted against Spawn to determine which is the real prophet. Spawn wins, but he enrages the natives when he demands they spare Dragon’s life. They attempt to crucify Dragon and Spawn, but the heroes disappear in a flash of light.

Spawntinuity: Allegedly, this story is supposed to be resolved in Savage Dragon #30. Spawn does appear in that issue, but this story is entirely ignored, as Erik Larsen presents his own interpretation of Dragon’s first meeting with Spawn. The little green men carve a large Spawn insignia into Spawn’s chest after they turn on him. McFarlane might’ve intended this to be permanent addition, but I doubt the opportunity to show it came up that often.

Spawn Stuff: McFarlane Toys unveils its new line, Total Chaos. The characters are simply supposed to “look cool” and don’t have any ties to the Spawn comic, although there is an alternate reality version of Al Simmons.

Spawn vs. Lawyers: The Image Info page hints that a character who isn’t Chapel will be Spawn’s killer in the upcoming movie. This is before Liefeld broke ties with Image (in fact, McFarlane defends his “Heroes Reborn” deal in the letters column), so I wonder now if the recasting was a Hollywood decision and not a result of Liefeld owning Chapel. Terry Fitzgerald was made into a white character because the studio didn’t want Spawn to be viewed as a “black movie,” so perhaps that’s why Chapel was removed (and replaced by a white woman!).

Review: After an insanely wordy intro, which recaps Spawn’s history with Wanda and Terry and the events of the past few issues, the title returns to the tedious “Spawn in Hell” arc. This issue’s plot is as aimless as the previous chapters, but it’s actually fairly entertaining as a standalone story. The internal politics of the green men add some humor to the series, and I like the game of “Telephone” they play that ends with them convinced Spawn killed his wife…“and loved it.”

Although the continuity between Savage Dragon and this book never worked out, McFarlane does at least know that Dragon is supposed to believe he’s dreaming during his own Hell storyline. An avowed atheist, Dragon refuses to believe he could be taken to a place that doesn’t exist, so he just goes along with whatever this dream tells him is happening. If he has to fight Spawn to prove to a group of little green men that he’s the messiah, so be it.

The final page reveals (through several of the giant chunks of text McFarlane’s so fond of) that Malebolgia arranged these events to even a personal score with the ruler of the Fifth Level. The appearance of two messiahs creates doubts amongst the green men, which leads to differing philosophies and religions, eventually causing the Fifth Level to devolve into never-ending war. None of this really has anything to do with Spawn, but it is a nice use of the Levels of Hell setting. Meanwhile, absolutely no subplots are advanced, let alone resolved. We’re reminded of Cyan’s shoelace and Terry’s dreams, but the other characters that are allegedly a part of the ongoing storyline are dropped. Violator and Jason Wynn working together? Sam and Twitch’s conspiracy investigation? Terry’s probe of Jason Wynn’s activities? Violator spying on Cyan? They’re not even given a token cameo. Also, wasn’t there a cybernetic gorilla that was pursuing Spawn? No, that’s ridiculous. I must’ve imagined that one.

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