Writer: Todd McFarlane
Artists: Jason Shawn Alexander, Todd McFarlane
Creators: Todd McFarlane, Jon Goff
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorists: Peter Steigerwald, Greg Menzie
The anniversary may be over, but the journey into the newly imagined, broader Spawn Universe has just begun. This regular-sized Spawn issue starts a new arc and even contains some exciting back-matter. But what about the plot points that where introduced during the celebratory issues? Will they be adequately dealt with, or do we see a chaotic amalgam of everything McFarlane added?
But let’s start with the cover. Drawn by Greg Capullo and McFarlane, this cover seems like an updated ’90s version of Spawn. It is a bit cleaner, a bit more sophisticated, and the white background gives the whole page a brighter, more optimistic touch. Then we have the big muscles and big guns, which reminds us of the classic Spawn we know and love — hopefully with different adventures and fewer stereotypes. Let’s take a look at Hell Hunt (Part 1).
I want to talk about three things in particular: the main character, the core of the story, and the story in general in combination with the artwork.
In the previous storylines, Al exposed the machinations of heaven and hell. He introduced himself to the public and used Mark as his PR guy to get as much momentum out of the story as possible. In the end, financial markets crumbled, violent outbreaks occurred, and his antagonists used desperate measures. It seems that some time has passed since then–maybe a few weeks–and Al returns to his mysterious, ominous origins. He lurks in the shadows, operates as a ghost, saves people, and brutally punishes the bad guys.
Hopefully, in the coming issues, we get more details on how Al’s actions changed the world. It would be interesting to see the broader ramifications of his works. For now, though, we get to enjoy some beautifully rendered splash-pages of a vigilante with a lot of resources. Not just because of his power-set, which desperately needs to build up strength again, but also because of Al’s military training. Spawn always was a force to be reckoned with.
Speaking of punishing bad guys. The core of the story, which is also introduced to us by the narrator, concerns violence. Newscasters talk about outbreaks of violence, and McFarlane chooses to show us some of those actions and misbehavior directly. These scenes, of course, concern Al’s vigilantism against bad guys, but also the violence of these criminals against other people. It is the latter I have a particular problem with. There are numerous ways human beings mistreat each other, and we can see them every day by watching or reading stories on news websites or via social media.
In this 302nd Spawn comic, we get to witness three gut-wrenching crimes. All of those happen daily around the world. All of those are despicable. One reason I enjoy Spawn so much is because Al punishes those crimes. He is an anti-hero and does not need to hold back. He does not need to be the superhero of the story. He operates out of the dark, in the shadows, and acts fast and swift. The thing I have a problem with is the fact that all the crimes in this issue are done to women by men.
Don’t get me wrong; it is essential to talk about all these issues, but most women in this new story are victims. She-Spawn comes in at the end, but that was it. After reading the anniversary issues, I sincerely hoped that McFarlane would change things up. This, however, feels off — an outdated view on the world. My hopes lie in She-Spawn and that she brings the necessary change with her. I want a Spawn comic that changes and adapts to the current times, a more diverse Spawn-Universe, which was promised in the last two issues.
On a positive note: I quite liked the way McFarlane takes his time introducing all those new ideas from the anniversary. Al needs to discover the consequences of his actions one by one, and even if it may take some time, I like the slower, controlled approach to the storytelling. This idea of a calmer pace is also incorporated in the art. Jason Shawn Alexander does a great job as always, using some silent panels so that the emotions of the previous panels can sink in. And, something I did not mention before, he also can do a quirky, even funny Spawn, when it comes to specific gestures and facial expressions.
The black-and-white back-up story, concerning She-Spawn, gives the issue a fresh look and feel. Hopefully, she gets to do more in future issues. Finally, I want to mention letterer Tom Orzechowski as McFarlane honors him at the end. Since Issue #1, he has been the letterer of Spawn, and the comic would not be the same without him. He guides us so smoothly through Al’s adventures, and the best lettering is the one you don’t notice at all. It is just there, and it works. So here is to all the letterers: thank you for putting all those different voices in our heads!