Friday, January 7, 2011

SPAWN #54 - October 1996


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

Summary: Spawn begins collecting bodies in Rat City, as Terry investigates the alleys. Cogliostro brings him to Spawn, who vents his anger at Terry. When Terry explains his desire to take down Jason Wynn, Spawn agrees to meet him at his office. There, Spawn sees the evidence of Wynn’s arms dealing and volunteers to ID the weapons in person. Meanwhile, Sam and Twitch prepare to meet their mystery informant.

Spawntinuity: Last issue, an offhand line from Malebolgia had him promising to keep Wanda safe as Spawn returned to Earth. This issue, this is apparently supposed to be Spawn’s new motivation -- he “embraces evil” in order to keep Wanda “untainted.” Ironically, this issue ends with one of Spawn’s rare heroic acts, as he agrees to help Terry stop Jason Wynn. Spawn’s throne is now made out of corpses he’s amassed in the alleys. This could be the “Spawn builds a chair” issue I’ve always mocked, but my memory is that Spawn spent the entire issue on that stupid chair, while this issue does give him something else do. It's possible I mixed it up with issue #48, which was largely devoted to Spawn building a refuge even deeper in the alleys.

Production Note: One of the Spawn/Terry reconciliation pages is missing a few word balloons. The corrected version is run in the next issue. This also happens in a later issue, and the computer lettering process is blamed. Yet, Tom Orzechowski’s words and balloons still appear hand-drawn to me, making me wonder if he was lettering on a separate sheet of paper that was then scanned digitally on top of the original art.

The Big Names: Mike Grell writes and pencils (with airbrush painting by Rob Prior) “Image’s first fully painted comic,” Spawn the Impaler.

I Love the ‘90s: A full-page ad seeks a “Gen X designer” for an art designer job at TMP. They’re looking for a fan of Green Day/Marilyn Manson/Nirvana, who watches MTV for the videos (and can’t wait for MTV2), and hates the Power Rangers.

Review: Check out that cover…it’s hard to believe it’s by the same guy who initially drew Spawn like this. The interiors aren’t this twisted and exaggerated, but there is a sense that everything in the book now has to have some sort of distorted look to it. I could still see Capullo’s talent, but was growing tired of this look at around this time. That might be why I had no real interest in the Curse of the Spawn spinoff, which seemed to imitate the surface details of the Capullo/McFarlane collaboration, with mediocre drawings underneath all of the scratchy lines.

As for the story, this is one of the rare issues that actually advances a few ideas in a noticeable way. Terry confronts Spawn! They make peace! Spawn makes a move against Jason Wynn! The book’s been building up to this for years, which might be why it feels so anticlimactic. I’m under the impression McFarlane wanted to do this story sometime around issue #24 and got cold feet, leaving us with thirty issues of mostly filler. In that meantime, Spawn’s grown colder and more unlikable, which means his meeting with Terry largely consists of him screaming and swearing at him while Terry tries to avoid wetting himself. Reading this, I’m glad Terry’s with Wanda, because who in their right mind would want to be married to such a petulant, irrational ghoul? Just a few pages before he finally reconnects with his best friend, Spawn was collecting dead bodies and arranging them dramatically around his alley. At what point am I supposed to root for this guy?

And even if one of the major threads actually gains momentum, McFarlane wastes more time on recapping Sam and Twitch’s storyline again. This issue, they’re preparing to meet with their mystery informant, which is what they’ve planned on doing since issue #49, a comic released around five months earlier. And is any progress made in the next issue? Flipping through it…nope. No Sam and Twitch. Also, wasn’t Spawn’s costume supposed to be going through some dramatic metamorphosis? It freaks out, retreats back to Hell, and then…it’s back to normal? McFarlane dedicated four issues to the Hell storyline, yet couldn’t be bothered to actually resolve the conflict that brought Spawn to Hell in the first place. At what point did McFarlane realize this book needed an actual editor, and not just a copy editor?

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