Monday, May 2, 2011

SPAWN #71 - April 1998


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

Summary: Cogliostro warns Spawn that his presence in the alleys has consequences, but he refuses to listen. Meanwhile, Wanda is angry with Terry for not taking Cyan’s behavior seriously. Sam takes Twitch to a strip club to relax, only to discover a vampire killer inside. The vampire soon locates Spawn, attacking him in Heaven’s “dead zone.” Boots stops the vampire from killing Spawn, confirming the creature is an agent of Heaven.

Todd Talk: Todd McFarlane is dismayed by the current trend of variant covers, citing them as a poor way to keep new readers. He says his strategy is to produce a quality product for a reasonable price, and boasts that Spawn has maintained the same cover price since the beginning. He neglects to mention that the book has only run twenty pages of story for several months now. The shorter stories are making room for more Spawn-related hype pages, instead of outside ads, so perhaps he feels justified that he’s still giving people their money’s worth. And I actually did read all of the hype material, even long after I stopped buying the merchandise.

Creative Differences: In case you haven’t noticed, Spawn inexplicably has a bat’s head on the cover. He also doesn’t kill a priest in the story, nor does one even appear.

The Big Names: The real-life Terry Fitzgerald spent time with Korn while they recorded their new album, and has photos of himself with several skinny white males with dreadlocks to prove it.

Production Note: As I alluded to above, this is another issue with twenty pages of story.

Review: Todd McFarlane’s co-writer, Brian Holguin from KISS Psycho Circus, begins his run without any fanfare. A few pages don’t seem to have McFarlane’s scripting style, so I’m assuming Holguin scripted a few pages that had already been penciled. I certainly hope he wasn’t involved with the plotting of this issue, because it’s among the worst so far. The story opens with Cogliostro giving Spawn the same lecture he gives in almost every other issue, as Spawn offers his typical “Shuddup and leave me alone, old man” response. We then check in on Terry and Wanda, who are now abruptly having marital problems. If only the two of them hadn’t magically forgotten their war against Jason Wynn, maybe they would have something to do together. Finally, Sam and Twitch recap the past few issues before Sam drags Twitch to a strip club. At this point we’re ten pages into the story, which means a solid half of the issue is dedicated to exposition and recycled scenes.

Now, if the issue was another slow-burner that recapped what we already knew while setting the stage for the next arc, it would still be terrible, but it would be typical Spawn. This issue makes the leap into sheer ineptitude on page eleven, as Sam and Twitch enter a strip club that’s inexplicably gone mad. An unnamed vampire, who resembles a high school shop teacher, has somehow inspired lunacy in the club and escaped with a stripper. Sam and Twitch find her body in the garbage two pages later. Now, there’s something to be said for picking up the pace, but abruptly changing the entire direction of the story with the sudden appearance of a new villain is just shoddy. This is Spawn. New villains don’t just show up on page eleven of a previously unrelated story. They’re teased, sometimes for several pages, sometimes for months, before they go anywhere near Spawn. This nondescript vampire just shows up, with no build-up, no exposition, and no real motivation, finds Spawn and fights him for a few pages.

The delivery is so clumsy, it’s appalling even by the low standards this book has already set. And the “shocking” revelation that Heaven has mean ol’ vampires working for it…seriously? Is this supposed to be scandalous in a book that already has the nihilistic point of view that Heaven and Hell treat the selection of souls like the NBA Draft? This really is a new level of awful. You could certainly argue that McFarlane has been overly sluggish in moving in any direction, but the unexpected swerve into Liefeld-style ADD is just bad in a different way.

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