Writer/Inker: Todd McFarlane
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Greg Capullo, J. Scott Campbell, Jerome Opeña, Jason Shawn Alexander, Todd McFarlane
Colorists: FCO Plascencia, Brian Haberlin, Peter Steigerwald, Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Since Al closed the gates between Heaven, Hell, and Earth, everything in this comic began to point towards change. Though, some might say that the nature of change in comics can be debated. Of course, this statement is primarily true for superhero stories published by the big two (Marvel and DC). Their characters exist for 80+ years, and if their characters aged and evolved, Batman would have died a long time ago.
Within an arc or at the hands of different creators, those characters can, of course, be subject to certain evolutions and changes to their worlds. But not too much. Hence, the introduction of a multiverse, where characters can be reinvented and reconfigured, without the requirement to have to explain to the audience why Spider-Man is a gay man all of the sudden (just an example I would really appreciate to see sometime in the future).
Independent comics have it easier in that regard (and harder). In those stories, characters can be killed off for good, have their protagonists change with new experiences, and explore the meaning of ramifications. Limited series, one-shots, maxi-series, or comics which work toward a finale can explore every inch of their characters. The Walking Dead, Saga, Giant Days, Paper Girls, Black Hammer, Little Bird, Sara, Hardcore, Die, The Wicked + The Divine, The Beauty, Invincible, I am not ok, Skyward, and Breaks are just a few examples. Some of them have to implement aspects of the illusion-of-change principle. Otherwise, they would not reach issue #194, #144, or #300.
All of this brings me to the current issue of Spawn. An anniversary filled with a culmination of things that happened so far, but also implementing seeds which hopefully will grow over the next few years and change the world of Al Simmons — a world we have now known for 27 years — for the better. But what things did Al set up in his last story arcs?
Al revealed himself to the public, exposing his enemies’ machinations of the last millennia, and pushed his plans forward. He recruited old enemies by bringing them back from the dead (though, there could be a debate if beings like Freak can even die, and if so, where do they go?). Marc joined forces with Al hoping to do some damage to the people who drug his friend Jim Downing into an ancient war.
Then there were Nyx and Jessica Priest who returned to the series with an ominous goal. Cogliostry basically behaved like himself: being weird, mysterious, and disappearing after making significant threats. Clown had some time to think while his head was placed on a stick in the desert. And there was this awesome story arc with Al and his daughter Cyan, as well as Sam and Twitch (all three of them seem to have disappeared, unfortunately). So everyone had things to do and places to be. The pieces moved. And one has to ask: what is the endgame here?
I don’t think that we will see a big final battle between Heaven, Hell, and the forces Al was able to recruit. I think it might be a slow process of character- and world-building, with some magnificent battles here and there. Of course, I could be wrong, but so far that was the strong suit of the Spawn series: Al doing what he does best, fighting his enemies on his own terms (he loses his brooding mood over the years, thankfully). Though in the last few issues, the story felt thin and dragged out for the sake of the anniversaries. Now that it all comes together, I look positively into Spawn‘s future.
The artistic talent involved in this issue is some of the best I have seen in this series. We get different stories, each surrounding the current events and building upon each other. This allows for a smooth transition of artistic styles while being coherent within the story. What does that mean?
The first story covers the ramifications of Spawn’s actions and how the general public deals with it (spoiler: not good; it gets very bloody, very quickly). Also, the story continues from where we left it last time (Al stripping for Marc, and not in a good way), and Al confronts his enemies. After months waiting to see some action, I am glad that McFarlane does not pull any punches and just rolls with the story beats now. Beat by beat, panel by panel, everything seems to move forward, and the pace picks up with every new bit of information we get. Violator is back! The Spawn-Power-Metre is back! The news anchors continue their work. Al gets a new costume — sort of — and looks good putting it together. And this issue definitely gets a shirtless protagonist win!
The second story involves Redeemer and Spawn and their disappearance in the last issue. McFarlane continues to deepen the lore and expand it. The mythological stuff always intrigued me the most about the world Spawn inhabits (besides the characters), and it is good to see that the author continues on that path. Those pages look very clean and shiny with a bright color palette. Spawn and Redeemer never looked better in the void. Beautiful stuff.
Then we have the story involving Nyx and Jessica Priest. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, so just pick this issue up already and read it. There are some beautifully rendered, double-page spreads. As before, the creative team takes us into new directions. I was skeptical at first, because why bring those classic characters back in the first place? The human mind, though we believe we want change to happen, fights it. But now I get it, and it is good to see more women in a testosterone-drooling book like Spawn. I just hope they get treated well!
Marc gets his own adventure with his best buddies Freak and co. They fight a demon and an angel for their new master. Because someone else is also back. Someone who has a weird habit of falling into a coma for a long time and then coming back with Spawn-inspired powers. Jason Shawn Alexander draws these pages, and he has brought Spawn to new heights over the last couple of months (artistically speaking). He continues to impress, and I hope we see more of his signature style.
The last two pages are dedicated to a new character, who wanders towards a mysterious, dangerous-looking cave. But we have to wait for the next oversized issue to see where his story goes.
Spawn #300 is a giant-sized issue, and the creative force inside of it is something to be reckoned with. I read it twice already and might read it a few times more, until next month’s issue. There is so much to discover, and old fans and new fans alike will find something to enjoy here. It might not be the best jumping on point, but it’s an excellent place to start anyway.
I have been an eager reader of Spawn over the last months, years, and decades. McFarlane built up Al’s mythos, reconfigured it slightly with his “History of Spawn” two-parter, and is now ready to move on and make some overdue changes to the book, its characters, and the world they inhabit. I can’t wait to pick up the next issue, and the next, and the next. Over the years there were ups and downs, of course, but 300 issues in, and this comic still manages to surprise me. It is fun, good looking, and reminds you that many stories are waiting to be told.
If I had one wish, though, I would ask for Sam and Twitch to return. Maybe next month this wish already comes true. Who knows. Here is to 300 issues of Spawn and 300 more!