Writers: David Hine, Brian Holguin, Todd McFarlane
Artists: Angel Medina and Philip Tan (p), various (i)
Publisher: Image Comics
Plot: Spawn goes back to his roots, back to the alleys which first saw his transformation from man to a warrior from Hell’s army. Spawn rejected the throne of hell because his only obsession was his love for his Earthly wife Wanda. Heaven’s best warrior prevents Spawn from walking through the dead zone and when the dust settles after a bloody battle, the enigmatic man of miracles offers to take Christopher, garbed in Spawn’s cloak, home. Unknown to the child is the fact he holds the fate of all humanity in his hands. Meanwhile, Thamuz, Hell’s ambassador tries to uncover the secrets behind the Hellspawn’s power.
Commentary: Todd McFarlane’s creation Spawn will always hold a special place in comics history as a creator owned character which helped to herald Image comics as an alternative to DC and Marvel’s mainstream offerings. However, the knock on Image had always been that its comics offered more style over substance, and although that claim is less valid today than it was when McFarlane’s upstart creation debuted in the early 90s, this anniversary edition of Spawn, it’s 150th large sized comic suffers from the same flaw. Style subverts substance.
The giant 47 page book boasts of no less than four alternate covers by the likes of McFarlane and super star artists like Jim Lee and Greg Capullo. Bookended by a prologue recapping the titular character’s origin and his return to the alleys and a full page full of sketches previewing the next issue, this comic reads like more of the same, which is one of the limitations with the material. Sure, Spawn is the biggest, badass this side of Heaven and Hell, and both Heaven and Hell court Al Simmons to their side, but apart from Christopher’s subplot, this is yet another issue of Spawn battling demons and Thamuz, another formidable denizen of hell. Medina and Tan have a lot of experience handling the characters, freeing McFarlane to run his company and oversee the production of toys and action figures. Their artwork is solid and beautifully rendered with large panels full of monsters, demons and gore, but their smaller panels in pages where all they draw is facial expressions or evil grins are equally pleasing to the eye. The coloring by Haberlin and Andy Troy bring the whole enterprise to life in vivid high quality glossy pages. Only the appearance of Sam and Twitch, two insipid supporting characters for four pages worth of story mar a fairly consistent narrative with a pretty dull interlude.
Final Words: For a guy who couldn’t write his way out of the proverbial bag when he was given the assignment to write and illustrate a monthly Spiderman title by Marvel early in his career, McFarlane managed to construct a very interesting back story for Image’s most successful character, but then he disappointed his fans when he stopped drawing the comic. After 150 issues, Spawn is still an interesting concept (though somewhat derivative, most notably when it came to being symbiotically linked to a living costume) but when you go to a restaurant to have some steak, you don’t expect to get seafood. A letter writer to this comic once compared it to a nice juicy steak. It’s anniversary edition still serves up steak, but dressed up nice and pretty with a significant amount of garnish.
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