Script, Plot, Editor: Todd McFarlane
Artist: Szymon Kudranski
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Cover Artist: Francesco Mattina
Review by Christoph Staffl
In the last issue, Al set his plan in motion by sending out his Allies all over the world. They made the first moves against their common enemies by destroying various, strategically important facilities. Those covert missions are but one part of Al’s plan. The other part involves exposing his enemies, and for this part, he needs to include his connections to the media: Marc Rosen.
Before we talk about the content of this months issue, let me talk quickly about those “enemies” of Al. The term is very vague and also used by our protagonist, at least in the last issue. The people he is referring to are members of heaven and hell and maybe a few factions that belong to neither side. Perhaps the best example of late is Bludd: the vampire that made Jim Downing’s life very difficult.
Bludd was a businessman. By investing in different resorts, he gained power and influence. This technique is also used by players of heaven and hell. By infiltrating human kind’s society at various levels, they earn money and power. Al wants to uncover these machinations. In this issue we get a look behind the scenes and a backstory I have been waiting for, so let us dive into the current issue.
First, we get to see to what lengths Marc has to go to to do proper research regarding the players Al is moving against. He cannot leave any digital trails. This means going analog, working with pen and paper, researching at the library, and so on. Fortunately, after he did his primary research, Al invites him to his house, which lies somewhere remote. Plus, Marc gets a lot of information from Al directly, regarding certain parts of his costume (but more on that later).
It is good to see both of them working so closely together. Al even watched over Marc as he did all his previous research. This shows how important it is to him to keep everything safe and quiet. He has one chance to move against his foes, and it has to be a surprise attack. I wonder what part Clown plays in all of that, but I think we will find out soon enough.
So far everything seems to evolve naturally within the story. Even the part where Marc serves as the reader’s counterpart, it does not feel forced. Al tells him a part of the costume’s origin. No worries, I will not get into details. However, do you remember if Al (or was it Jim?) discovered that the costume was a creation of both, heaven and hell? In this issue, we get a more detailed explanation of how that part actually happened.
Al tells the story straightforward without multiple references to dozens of other issues, just how it came to be. I love this simplicity in the story structure. No matter what was before, McFarlane keeps the best parts of the past and modifies them just a bit. I was wondering when he was going to get back to the mythological part of the story, which has been absent for quite some time now. No complaints though; I welcomed the more grounded stories. But it is time to get back to the bigger picture.
Speaking of the mythological part of the story, the artwork is phenomenal. It is very different from the last issue. Still, they both blend together perfectly because of the contrasting themes of the issues. Last month it was all about horror and fear. Jason Shawn Alexander captured those emotions perfectly. Now that we have the mythological part blending in with planning (their next steps) and retrieving information from certain creatures, Szymon Kudranski’s cleaner style is much appreciated.
Some panels even contain what seem like un-inked pencil drawings. They are just colored with different shades of the same color, which makes those particular elements of the story look even more ancient — as they should be. As the story moves forward, other color choices develop. Even though it gets very dark, the few colors used pop. Shades of black, brown, gray and some such come together cleverly and make it easy to differentiate between various creatures and their surroundings. This distinctness is very important especially when you think back to the Jim Downing issues. Everything was so dark and gritty. The new style is very welcomed.
The Verdict: Buy it!
This issue is another excellent chapter of Spawn. I love the different artistic choices for the various issues, as they all represent a unique theme. The story itself moves slowly forward this time, but, as compensation, we get a great backstory and some brutal interrogation pages at the end. Spawn #291 is definitely worth your time and money.