Writer: Todd McFarlane
Artist: Jason Shawn Alexander
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: FCO Plascencia
At the end of the last issue, heaven and hell cornered Spawn and Mark at their supposed safe house. Spawn #299 picks the story right back up where we left them: Al attacking the (un)holy soldiers. Meanwhile, Cogliostro spins his web of lies and intrigue, which somehow involves Jessica and Nyx. Also, the mysterious puppetmaster from hell is back, making a horrifying entrance. A lot of pieces move and prepare themselves for something big. Even Spawn’s own pawns — which include Cy-Gor, Overt-Kill, and the others — could play a more active role than anticipated as Mark makes a risky move.
This all leads to an interesting question: where exactly is Spawn’s layer located? It seems to be only accessible through shadows of this particular house where they now fight. Only Spawn can open the shadow-portals. So his opponents must be quick and catch him alive to get access to all of his fancy stuff and the evidence he has gathered throughout the last months.
#299 marks the penultimate entry in the Spawn mythos before the record-breaking, long-anticipated issues #300 and #301 come out. To be honest, it is damn time. Don’t get me wrong, the ones leading up to them still look stunning. Jason Shawn Alexander, as I keep telling you every month, is a genius when it comes to Spawn and the horror elements of the story. His visual storytelling is magnificent and elevates the story to a whole new level.
The action sequences have an otherworldly feeling to them. Some of the creatures look similar to humans, but they are nevertheless descendants of heaven and hell. As they move through the panels, their motions are blurry and exaggerated. It fits the myth of this universe perfectly.
Visually, we experience this world through Mark. He is our eyes and ears, our connection to this bizarre world of monsters. When Freak interacts with him, or Al indeed shows his visage, it has to look terrifying. Not only do the details have to impress but also the creatures must fit their surroundings as well as stand out. The creative team does this month after month, and they are the glue that holds this mess together.
That said, it does feel like kind of a mess at the moment. McFarlane previously interrupted the story for a two-part special, which very loosely retold the history of Spawn. As I said in my reviews, those were good issues and put everything in a particular light. The author had to do this, because now it feels like a cohesive story, with a 300-issue spanning canon. However, after the history lesson, we should have gotten to the anniversary. Instead, McFarlane had to come up with two filler issues, which, by now, feel that way.
Here is an example: at one point in the current issue, Spawn and Redeemer leave this world and enter the shadow-realm. We have been waiting for this showdown for months. However, instead of an intriguing fight or conversation or literally anything else, Redeemer comes back a panel later. What happened, you ask? I don’t know. The only thing we get is an editor’s note which says to wait for the 300th issue to find out more. Are you kidding me?
Instead of giving us some meat to the wonderfully rendered art, we have to chew on the bones. And not even big, juicy bones. They are more like little chicken feet, and someone else already chewed on them. The upcoming record-breaking issues have a total page count of 150 (more or less). Why not spread it out across four of five comics and celebrate Spawn for a bit longer? Add some bonus content with BTS stuff, essays, interviews, etc. Spawn is a great comic and deserves its spot in the hall of fame of comics. But creating a story which purposely skips beats leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
It sounds a bit of a rant, but this current Spawn issue is by far not a bad one. The action sequences make sense; the art is gorgeous; and the appearance of long-forgotten characters is a treat for long-time fans like me. However, the anniversary next month had me hoping to get a bit more out of the issues this year.
Apropos anniversary: what do I expect for issue #300?
I am not sure if I want something big to happen. I expect a celebration of the character and journey so far. At the same time, I am hoping for something we have never seen before that changes the status quo for some time. I want answers regarding Jessica, Nyx, and Cogliostro. In addition to that, I need Sam and Twitch back; I suffer from severe signs of withdrawal. They are such intricate parts of Spawn, and I miss them. Finally, Cyan needs to make an appearance. We have not seen her since the “Dark Horror” story arc. The rest of my expectations, I will discuss in more detail when we talk about Spawn #300.