Script/Plot: Todd McFarlane
Art: Szymon Kudranski
Lettering: Tom Orzechowski
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Cover Artist: Francesco Mattina
A review by Christoph Staffl
One thing I am always looking forward to with each issue of Spawn is the new cover. The series always had magnificent covers, including homages to other comics and capturing the sense and core of what the issue is about. But lately, the covers of Spawn are at a new high. Just look at the current one.
The details are extraordinary and the longer you look at it, the more things you find: Be it the different layers of skin which seems to rot away and heal itself at the same time. The shark-like teeth with a bit of blood on them (picking up one of the themes of this 292nd issue). The green breath which could easily look cheesy and over the top, but here it feels more like the heavy breath of a bull before it attacks its next victim. And last but not least the rips in Spawn’s skin, as he is getting too powerful to contain all the power he has summoned inside his body.
Nothing on this cover feels out of place or too much. It breathes power and strength, and is the embodiment of “try me!” Kudos for this accomplishment to Francesco Mattina.
On the cover, you can find different motifs that can also be found within the story. Spawn has always been about power and control (besides love, of course). Power not just to mold and form your own destiny, but also authority over other creatures. Since Al’s resurrection, he has taken his future into his own hands. No longer playing by the rules but making his own. This new direction also gave him something he might not have expected: the power to control his costume like never before, reaching levels that go way back, to the first host and the origin of the costume — the raw power of two indestructible forces colliding (heaven and hell) to move forward as something different.
Once again it is thanks to Cyan, Al’s quasi-daughter, that not just Al, but also the costume can use these ancient forces. I believe it was in the recent storyline “horror xxx” which focused on Cyan’s journey over the last months and years – once again connecting their stories. The characters always work well together and had a distinct connection early on – think back to the shoelace.
One of the new or old powers Al got, is to control the damned which explains how he can keep the team of his former villains together. I always had the feeling something was off since the whole operation started. Now that we know, that they were dead all along and Spawn can resurrect them as he wishes and therefore control them, everything makes a bit more sense. This circumstance does not mean they change their personalities entirely while carrying out Al’s missions – as we saw a few issues back.
While Al explains his new power to Marc, we get one of the most impressive double-page spreads of the year. The style is similar to the flashbacks of the last issue, mostly containing pencil drawing, while some things have been inked and colored. But it is not just that; they also include rough drawings and incomplete sketches of bodies and hordes of the damned, which gives the whole scenery something utterly ancient and powerful. Similar to the cover, you can find different themes in those drawings as well. Those images alone are worth buying the issue.
However, it is not just Al who gets a new set of powers, which enables him to finally face Bludd to find Jim Downing, Marc also empowers himself against the (former) pawn of hell. Marc might not know the entirety of Al’s plan, but he knows that Al needs him. His connections to the media and the influence he has are a vital part. Without it, there is no distraction, and without distraction, Al could not make his moves. It is good to see Marc standing up for himself. I like the character a lot, and he is an excellent addition to the story.
I hope Marc survives the coming retribution. But if the final page is any indication, Al is ready to pay every price to defeat heaven and hell finally and banish them from earth for good.
One final thing I want to mention concerns the design of the comic. I am not sure if was always like this, but I just now realized that the panel-borders change, depending on how much of Spawn is present in the current scene. For example: as Marc is talking to the bosses of a media outlet, the borders are clear, straight and typical comic borders. When Spawn enters the scene and is in full costume, using his powers and does things, the lines are rough, edges crossing over and they seem to contain the things going on within them barely. There are various degrees to which this technique is used and definitely something to keep an eye on.
The Verdict: Read it!
After 292 issues of Spawn, the comic is (once again) moving forward strong with a clear sense of its mythology. Retcons and additions to the lore make sense, so they do not just fit the story, but also build on the things that happened before. The confrontation with Bludd was long overdue and shows how much more experienced and controlled Al is (compared to Jim). His plan seems to go well, which gives McFarlane room for some appreciated, well done social commentary.