Mar 16, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 750: Curse of the Spawn #1, September 1996

I'm not a huge fan of the McFarlane-verse, a fact that probably has as much to do with the Todd's business practices (about as deplorable as Liefeld's) as it does with the storytelling in his comics. McFarlane's Spawn, very early on, became emblematic of the major problem with early Image comics: it was talented artists who left Marvel, not talented writers. McFarlane solved this problem by getting big name writers to come and script his comic, but that wasn't nearly enough to assuage the problems with the series.

That said, there must be something going on with this Spawn character, as the series is still ongoing, a longevity paralleled by only the most popular of the Marvel or DC characters. I'm sure I'll have more thoughts about the main series as time goes on.

But today's comic, and the series it kicks off, might have something to do with the popularity of the series. Unlike its cohorts in the Image-verse, Spawn and its corollary series go out of their way to produce a mythic feeling to this particular corner of the shared universe. We understand very early on that the costume and powers of Al Simmons Spawn have been worn by others in the past and, as we see in today's comic, will be worn by others in the future. Set 500 years after the Rapture, 500 AD (Anno Demonicus), a new Spawn emerges in a world overrun by the forces of the Antipope. We're never told exactly how long after the events of the main series this takes place, but the red and black costume, and the new Spawn's desire to help those in need, provides a nice link to the original series, and creates a timeline, vague though it may be, within which we can situate stories. What this really provides is a typological narrative of the sort that more often than not appears in religious or mythic stories, a narrative that is designed to be rife with prophecy and fulfillment, and upward (or, in this case, downward) movement toward an ultimate ending. What that is, in terms of Spawn or in terms of other religious narratives, or perhaps when that is, is usually unclear, and even if an ending does seem final, such narratives always leave open the possibility of continuance.

The art in today's comic is good, though given the very, very dark colour palate, some of the panels are quite difficult to make out. In part this works nicely for the setting - it's a demonic world, so not everything should be recognizable. On the other hand, when something important happens, it would be nice to be able to see it clearly, and not have to infer what happened from action in the following panels. Storywise, the setting is nicely built up, and seethes with brutality and monstrosity. The new Spawn doesn't even appear until halfway through the comic, after much death and destruction. It's the first of a four part series, which I do not own the balance of, though I do have part 3. Perhaps I'll give that a look tomorrow, just to see what direction things are going in.

To be continued.

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