Friday, September 5, 2008

Collection Spotlight: Spawn Collection Volume 1

Welcome to part 1 to our 5 (Possibly 6) part epic, the Spawn Collection Spotlight. Bi-weekly, every other week another volume of the Spawn collection books. We’re starting with volume 1, where it all began, Spawn’s humble beginnings as the little book that could. Back when Todd McFarlane was on writing and art duties, way back in the early 90’s.

Written and Art: Todd McFarlane with Frank Miller on writing for issue #11.

Story comments: Spawn immediately opens up as a mystery of sorts, with our main character just starting to figure out who and what he is. The first chapter has some fairly memorable moments, most notably being the revelation of Malebolgia at the end. It’s hard to deny that it’s a good start, but here is where you decide if you like Spawn or not. If you don’t like the first chapter, you probably won’t like Spawn. No matter what the changes, that set the tone for the entire series, more so than most first issues did at the time, or compared to nowadays’ standard.

One thing Spawn has always been known for is its massive building sub-plots, even through issue 150; Spawn’s backbone was in the supporting cast that was more in the background of the stories. That was always pinnacle to Spawn, what was going on behind the scenes with these characters.

Here, the entire cast that makes up these stories is introduced. Sam, Twitch, Terry, Wanda, Cyan, Granny, most of them at least. But that brings me to an immediate problem I have with the first volume of Spawn…its missing 1 important issue, and one fun issue. 9 and 10 have been omitted from the Spawn Collection.

9 for legal rights, if I am correct, with the Neil Gaiman dispute that I’m sure you’ve all either heard of or know about. If not, google it some time, it was quite a mess. The outcome is Spawn losing 2 key characters, Angela and Cogliostro. Both whom should have been introduced in this opening volume, which will leave fans confused as to who they are in later volumes.

Yes, they appear later on in the story, get mentioned and are all there. My guess is Gaiman allowed their appearances after their opening issue, which was nice of him. So thanks to him for that. Either way, the first volume suffers greatly with the lack of their much needed presence.

Those are two major complaints I have, in the end; volume 1 is not without its great moments. Probably the most memorable being Spawn’s first (and best) confrontation with his long time Nemesis, Violator. It’s rare to see in a battle the two characters actually ripping each other apart, but that’s exactly what we get here, and it’s all in suck and crazy fun.

That’s about as violent as this volume gets. There is of course Spawn vaporizing Overtkill, but honestly, it’s one of the more forgettable moments in Spawn history, despite being one of the more epic. This was when Spawn was still being established as tough anti-hero, he needed to do big things to get noticed, and it took away from some of the story quality.

The best thing about the first volume of Spawn is spawn himself. These where his glory days, the golden age of Spawn, if you will. Back when he was more sympathetic and likable, a fairly nice guy that you wanted to see get a win at times. Underneath his cold exterior, you saw a man, not a creature. Though later stories would deteriorate this image, it was still enjoyable while it lasted.

The struggle of Spawn dealing with his death, not being able to be with Wanda, and her marrying his best friend and siring him a child, all great aspects to Spawn at the time. While as stories went on, this got boring and frustrating, when it was first starting it was a great aspect to the comic and this is the family aspect at it’s best.

Another strong part of the story was Spawn’s interaction with the homeless of New York. Back then, his interactions with them where far more friendly and accepting, another more human quality to Spawn that was nice to see. Even if we only saw it a few times, it was still nice.

We of course have another great Spawn moment, the life and death of Billy Kincaid. I thin this story is the one that finally set Spawn away from the pack, made the series stand out amongst all the other 90’s Super Edgy Comics. Here, Spawn hunts down a murderous pedophile and the outcome is sick and twisted, and I loved it, even though I was just a child at the time.

Unfortunately, later on we get a tale about Billy in Hell; this makes for one of the more boring Spawn stories, though it was nice to learn about Hell and its 8 levels. It was obvious from there that McFarlane was looking to create a major mythos for this world, and this was the first real epic piece to the mythos.

Our final stories are of when Spawn confronts 2 gangs warring in his alleys. This was when Spawn was still establishing himself as King of the Alleys, so we get some sick fun here. It’s writing by Frank Miller, could you expect any less? It’s a fun, but fairly stupid, storyline.

Finale, we have a brief recap of which Spawn is, where he’s come in his short time of his resurrection, and the revelation of his killer. While this would later be retconned, the killer was originally Spawn’s long time friend Chapel, which was nice to see that Image was starting to tie in together at the time.

Despite my praise, and complaints, the first volume’s stories are simple and easy to read, but if you didn’t like Spawn the first time I doubt you’ll enjoy it after all these years since you picked up the comics in your shop.

Art comments: Todd McFarlane was a hot artist at the time, and artists always do best when they are working with their own characters. Just look at John Romita Sr. with Spider-man, these are characters they connect with, and in doing so; they do a great job when it comes to drawing them.

Unfortunately, if you’ve seen any of his other work, then you know what to expect here. He retains that sharp edge in detail and craftsmanship in his work, and it’s all good, but it’s nothing new if you’ve seen his work before. He does a great job, especially on Spawn and Violator, we get some sick and cool images, really wicked stuff, but it’s not much to talk about. It’s amazing art, and that’s really the only thing I can point out about it.

Final Comments: Spawn is a tough comic to review, I’m a big fan, but I’m not sure if I should suggest it to a wide audience or not. It’s a strong and enjoyable comic, but that’s the big picture. To be honest, the opening volume is “Okay” at best, McFarlane had to get “Meh” out of the way before Spawn could sore, and unfortunately, volume 1 is filled with Meh and no flying. That’s volume 2 and up really, so I can only say “Consider it” if you want to get into Spawn, if you’re a big fan who is tired of looking through your back issues, or if you’re just interested in it. But truthfully, it isn’t something you have to check out.

Consider It

Next week I cover Thunderbolts: Faith in Monsters, and after that, part 2 to the Spawn Collection Spotlight epic.


Greg said...

Good review, although I myself love the first collection (heh, and the only one of the recent trade collection I have). Oh, and the issue with Billy in Hell was written by Alan Moore.

Andrenn said...

Though I gave it a Consider It, I did definitely enjoy it myself. The rating was more for a wide audience.

Really? I have that issue actually. I don't read him getting credited in the Volume, though i may have missed it. Thanks for pointing that out though.

Greg said...

Yeah, I just checked my collection also, I wonder why Moore isn't credited. But yes, he did write that issue. I even have the original floppy.

Andrenn said...

Moore could have asked not to be credit simply, or maybe even it's just a printing error. Something they had forgotten to add.