Monday, February 28, 2011

SPAWN #61 - May 1997


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

Summary: Cogliostro visits Spawn, confirming that Chapel was not his killer, and warning him not to abandon his friends. After visiting Granny Blake, Spawn returns to Rat City and discovers his homeless followers have built him a new throne. He chastises them for following him, but accepts their gift. Spawn goes into a trance, where he receives a vision from Violator. He sees the image of the woman who actually murdered him, and learns that Wanda has been Hell’s prize all along.

Spawntinuity: According to Violator, the majority of Spawn’s memories are false ones implanted by Hell.

The Big Names: Michael Jai White, John Leguizamo, and Martin Sheen, the stars of the Spawn movie, are profiled.

Review: Now the title’s turned into a dismal amalgam of Alan Moore’s “everything you know is wrong” approach to superheroes and the “implanted memories” arc from Wolverine. You almost expect a corporate-owned superhero’s origins to be periodically revised, but Image was supposed to be bringing us the creator's pure, unadulterated vision. It’s very obvious that Chapel was supposed to be Spawn’s killer, and Spawn’s flashbacks have never been circumspect in the past. Wolverine’s fake memories were only introduced in order to explain away any inconsistencies that arose from various creators making vague references to his past. Spawn has only had one regular writer at this point, his own creator.

Telling the reader that everything they’ve learned about the character is potentially a lie just comes across as a cheat, unless a skilled writer like Alan Moore is involved (and even his track record isn’t perfect when it comes to these things). Revealing that Wanda has been Hell’s prize all along also feels like a botched attempt to mimic Moore. If you wrote a list of bad plot twists for the series, this would have to be towards the top. (Reading the early issues of this book as a teen, I wondered if we would someday learn that Wanda and/or Cyan are actually Hell’s targets, or if Spawn would be eventually revealed as Heaven’s agent all along). Are we supposed to ignore all of the talk about Al Simmons’ proficiency for killing that drew Hell’s attention in the first place? Is it just a coincidence that this skilled killing machine happened to be married to a woman (who’s never been shown with any connection to the supernatural) that’s been targeted by Hell?

The lame retcons only make up the final few pages of the book. The rest of the issue is more of a regurgitation of scenes McFarlane’s already covered. Wanda worries about Spawn. Jason Wynn declares that Spawn must be killed. Cogliostro gives Spawn advice that he mostly ignores. Spawn visits Granny Blake, who reminds him that he still has good inside of him. The bums try to connect with Spawn, and he rejects them. Spawn spies on Wanda from that tree outside of her bedroom. All that’s missing is Spawn crouching on top of a church or beating up more of the thugs who bully the homeless.

It's even more frustrating is to see McFarlane going for a specific character arc, only to veer back in the opposite direction just a few pages later. Spawn’s almost sympathetic during his conversation with Granny, who senses that he’s grown more distant and advises him not to give into the darkness. It looks like he’s taken her words to heart and is reflecting on his current state of mind, until he runs into his homeless “friends” a few pages later. He cusses them out for following him to his new lair, reminds them that he doesn’t need companionship, and only reluctantly accepts their gift of a new throne. (And yet none of the homeless are offended; in fact, they rejoice when their “king” gives his unenthusiastic approval of the chair. By the way, this new chair is still made out of bones and dead humans, which makes the standard homeless supporting cast members pretty ghoulish.) Also, it’s sixty-one issues into this series and Spawn is still spying on his former wife from outside of her bedroom. This exceeded “creepy” a long time ago. Plus, McFarlane said that this “phase” of Spawn’s life would be over after issue #50, when he finally accepted Terry as her new husband.

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