Script: Todd McFarlane
Art: Jason Shawn Alexander
Plot: Todd McFarlane and Jon Goff
Lettering: Tom Orzechowski
Colors: FCO Plascencia
Cover Art: Francesco Mattina
In the last issue of Spawn, Redeemer retold the first half (or third to be more exact) of Spawn‘s history. We went from the beginning with Al’s death to the very satisfying end of Malebolgia’s rule. The eighth circle of hell had a ruler no more. But Al did not want the throne and left a power vacuum behind (more on that later). At the end of Redeemer’s monologue, an old friend entered the room: Cogliostro. He wants to help heaven in defeating hell’s champion and warns them not to underestimate their foe. And so it is up to him to teach them about their enemy, and he tells the second part of Al’s story.
Before we talk about the speech of Cogliostro and the story that unfolds on the pages, let me take a few moments to talk about the artwork. As it was the case with the last issue, the creative team fills Spawn‘s 297th installment with a lot of double-page spreads. But not just any double-page spreads. Most of them come in the form of pin-ups (is that the right word for it?), which means you have to turn your comic 90 degrees. I don’t encounter that kind of spread that often anymore, and it surely is a welcome change of pace.
Jason Shawn Alexander uses the space very well and lets the characters pose on the page. But not all of the pages are jam-packed with Al’s former villains and antagonists or different incarnations of hell’s pawn. Alexander also shows us reimagined, iconic moments. As I mentioned in a previous article, I reread all of Spawn throughout the last couple of years. So for me, the most iconic drawings are still somewhat fresh in my mind. To see them again on those pages, surrounded by the interpretation of Cogliostro, brings a certain feeling of anticipation with them.
The colors on the pages also try to capture the retro-feeling of previous Spawn stories, but with a new touch to it. Plascencia uses a dark color palette to bring characters from the past to life one last time before we move on to something new. And that’s precisely how the road to 300 feels: the end of a journey so that a new era can begin.
As Cogliostro moves through the years of Al’s story, we get an idea of what he wants. His endgame, if you will, becomes more evident with every page. His vast knowledge of the Spawn mythos in general and the symbiote explicitly could give heaven the upper hand, if they would not be so damn arrogant. However, one has to wonder how Cog knows what he knows. Because it is not only ancient knowledge he shares, but also an intimate understanding of the current status of Al’s powers and what they could become. Who is Cog? Is he the one who brings a new age to the Spawn mythos?
McFarlane accomplishes an amazing task in this two-part history lesson. On the one hand, he takes new readers through a best-of of what has happened before, which does not mean that this current storyline is by any means new reader friendly. But it gives a new reader an idea of who our protagonist is and what it is about.
On the other hand, McFarlane connects all the dots from the very beginning. In doing so, he not only recognizes the main Spawn comic, but also every spin-off and even some special toys they made. To recognize and use such a vast kaleidoscope of a single character is something special. And he also uses it to build momentum with it for the upcoming anniversary. Others did it before, of course, such as Grant Morrison with Batman, but in this case, the creator of the character himself gets to decide how to use all of that backstory.
That being said, I am glad that the history lesson is done, and we can continue on with the actual story. Only three more issues to go and we arrive at 300. I can’t wait to see what McFarlane has in store for us. But it sure as hell will be good. He even reunites with Greg Capullo to bring us an oversized anniversary issue.