Credits: Todd McFarlane (story), Greg Capullo (pencils), Todd McFarlane & Danny Miki (inks), Tom Orzechowski (copy editor & letters), Brian Haberlin & Dan Kemp (colors)
Summary: Spawn finally arrives in Hell’s ninth level, the home of Malebolgia. He kills Billy Kincaid for a second time, and is attacked by demons masquerading as Wanda. Malebolgia makes his presence known, yet Spawn refuses to submit to him. Satisfied by Spawn’s new face, missing heart, and chest engraving, Malebolgia sends him back to Earth. Soon, Terry has a nightmare, confirming Al is alive.
Spawntinuity: Billy Kincaid is still wearing his Spawn uniform from issue #8. According to that issue, Malebolgia should be in the eighth level of Hell. Malebolgia claims that Hell needs an agent of death (Spawn) on Earth, so that souls can be harvested. I have no idea if this is supposed to mean every death, or just the ones Spawn kills. Again, this element of Spawn’s origin doesn’t make sense if we’re supposed to believe Heaven and Hell compete for souls in the afterlife anyway. Also, what does Hell do during those centuries without a Spawn?
Review: Spawn’s journey into Hell is over, freeing him up to wander aimlessly through Earth instead. The story hints around that Spawn’s time in Hell has left him even darker than before, leaving him as some sort of evil influence on humanity. I don’t recall this going anywhere, but I do remember even more directionless moping and anti-social behavior from Spawn as the months go on. Really, if the previous issues hadn’t made this clear, it’s obvious McFarlane doesn’t know where he’s going with any of this. This is an entire issue of Spawn interacting with his demonic creator, and all that comes of it is a recap of his mission on Earth (which is even murkier given later revelations about this world’s afterlife), and some vague talk of him spreading Hell’s influence on Earth. There’s no coherent mythology being built, there’s no clear direction for the main character to follow, and if this extended arc even had a point, it’s apparently to make him even less likable than before. Like always, the art and production values help the story coast a bit, but this is all forgettable. Well, the image of Spawn standing on top of Malebolgia’s left nipple is pretty memorable. I have no idea why Capullo/McFarlane felt the need for this shot, but it’s virtually the only scene from this storyline that stuck in my memory.