Thursday, March 10, 2011

SPAWN #69 - January 1998


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

Summary: Sam and Twitch arrive in the alleys and discover Spawn’s headless body. They’re soon caught in-between two gangs of street people -- Spawn’s followers, and the criminals he pushed out of the alleys. The Freak sneaks behind the detectives and threatens Twitch with a knife. Suddenly, a reanimated Spawn emerges to face the Freak. Meanwhile, Cogliostro reveals to Boots that he knows he’s an agent of Heaven.

Spawntinuity: According to Boots, agents of Heaven must preserve free will and therefore can’t explicitly make their presence known on Earth. His dialogue also implies that Cogliostro is still associated with Hell, which doesn’t seem to match Cog’s hints that he can show Spawn an option outside of Heaven or Hell. As for Spawn’s defective costume, it’s explained that he wandered into an area of the alleys that is the “domain of heaven,” which can apparently neutralize hell-creatures.

Todd Talk: Three letters in a row criticize the series’ aimless direction and repetitive plots. McFarlane defends using Jason Wynn repeatedly by saying that Batman’s faced the Joker several times over the past few decades, too. He has, but Batman’s conflicts with the Joker actually end; then a new storyline begins which forces Batman to face the Joker in a different circumstance. Based on the era of the comic, the Joker could be extorting innocents, playing massive pranks, or spreading sheer panic throughout the city…each story with a different execution based on the prerogative of the creators. McFarlane doesn’t seem to realize that Jason Wynn’s been doing the same thing since the series started, and he hasn’t been brought to justice or moved on to any bigger goals. To keep the Joker analogy going, it’s as if Batman just let the Joker announce people’s deaths over the radio for several years and did nothing about it. McFarlane does concede a dip in quality in recent issues, though, and says that he’s looking for a co-writer to inject a fresh take on things.

Not Approved By The Comics Code Authority: Sam refers to the homeless gangs as “pieces of shit.” McFarlane has occasionally let other writers use more extreme language, but this is the first time he’s really gone beyond standard “prime time” profanity. Perhaps he felt the HBO series, which often sounded like a leaked Christian Bale audio tape, had opened the door for more adult language.

Production Note: Like the previous issue, this issue is only twenty pages long.

Review: To McFarlane’s credit, he seems to be grasping the idea that something needs to happen in each issue. The pacing is still borderline-glacial (it takes Sam and Twitch around ten pages to find Spawn and drag his body out of the alley), but there is an increased sense of momentum in the title. Some of the vague hints about the nature of the alleys are starting to pay off, and we even have a “shocking” revelation about one of the minor supporting cast members. I’m sure Frank Miller didn’t intend for Boots to be an undercover angel when he created him in that fill-in issue, but the good thing about having a cast of virtually blank supporting characters is that you can take them in any direction you want to. The Freak was a disappointment in his debut, but McFarlane gets some mileage just by portraying him as an agitator within the alleys. Matching him against Sam and Twitch also brings some semblance of cohesive continuity to the series. McFarlane still can’t let go of the worms, though. They return this issue and magically restore Spawn’s head, it seems. If they were always around to perform the kind of last-second miracle this plot requires, that’s almost defensible, but there is no justification for dwelling on this inane idea for almost thirty issues.

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