Friday, September 19, 2008

Collection Spotlight: Spawn Collection volume 2

Part 2 to the epic Spawn Collection Spotlight is here, and though my overall review was less than loving of volume 1, come volume 2 the ball finally starts to get rolling for Spawn and it makes for a great read, though undeniably flawed in some important aspects.

Written: Grant Morrison, Todd McFarlane, Tom Orzechowski, and Andrew Grossberg.

Art: Todd McFarlane, Greg Capullo, Marc Silvestri.

Story comments: Volume 2 opens strong with Spawn taking his vengeance at the man who killed him (at least at the time he did) Chapel. This alone should tell you just how the tone is for Spawn by now, gritty, violent, badass. In a sense, everything that used to be cool and loved during the 90’s. Before Marvel and DC ruined it all.

Following this is a more than odd story by Violator to some punk kids. It’s kind of funny to see the contrast here and it’s great to see Medieval Spawn in all his shiny glory, but this story definitely takes away from the momentum building up from the opening story and frustrated me a little.

Following this, with the help of Grant Morrison, we delve into some of the key science to spawn. Things like Necroplasm and all that jazz, it all gets weird, but what writer better to write such a weird story than Morrison?

Here, we get lots of odd things, but I think the part that stands out the most is the first appearance of the Redeemer, who at the time was called Anti-Spawn. Jason Wynn was the original Redeemer that kicked off the trend for 2 others. Here Anti-Spawn makes for a good fight with Spawn, and it’s one of the more memorable battles that Spawn has had, with a strong ending and some cool moments.

Following this is one of the most groan worth “Ugh” ified comic stories I have ever read. It’s some twisted plot of Houdini coming to the future and some…Russian Aliens, Demons? I don’t think they where ever clear just what these things are or where they come from, the only hint we have is that they are, as Spawn puts it “Commies! Commies with Guns!”

Yes, Spawn actually says that in the story. While the story does sort of tie into what was going on with Spawn, with Terry in danger and Spawn learning more control over his powers, this easily ranks up as one of the worst Spawn stories ever. The whole time your eyes will either be rolling or shut tight over what stupid thing you just read.

With that awful storyline out of the way, McFarlane helps return us the one of the key aspects to Spawn, the growing problems through the subplots. Here, Terry’s situation goes from dire to grim in a matter of seconds and it all makes for one hell of a saving grace for the story. After recoiling from that awful Houdini story, this is just what Spawn needed. A more down to earth tale that involves Spawn putting himself on the line with no recognition or thanks really.

One thing I’d like to know by now is that come end of the volume, it’s very clear that Spawn is slipping away into his darker persona. While some may say the catalyst was the brilliant tale of Spawn refusing to help a man get back his daughter, whom later commits suicide over losing her, I feel that the entire Spawn plot build up is a full catalyst for the darker tone to the character.

After Terry gets his ass saved, we have the inception of Tremor, one of the few villains I don’t care for when it comes to spawn. Sure, he has a fairly strong back story, but if not for Marc Silvestri’s great art, this would be a very weak story. Though there are a few good moments at times, for the most part, I found him to be very throwaway to the core of Spawn and its stories.

After this we get another villain premier. By now you should be picking up on that Spawn volume 2 is full of firsts as far as villains are concerned, this was back when Spawn was far more Anti-hero oriented and at least somewhat similar to a super hero comic.

Curse was a freak villain with a twisted origin, but outside of “Zealot and nutcase” he doesn’t stand out well enough to talk much about him, or his storyline. We’re treated to some of our usual badass Spawn moments, like Spawn kicking ass with a big hole in his chest, which is always fun.

One thing that really helps the volume where it lacks in character moments is when Wanda seeks out and confronts Spawn. Her reactions to how terrified she is of him, but how thankful she is…it’s one of her better moments. While it’s a tad annoying at how afraid she is of him, in the end, if you put yourself in her shoes it makes perfect sense. Still, one of the softer, better moments in Spawn. You know, aside from him ripping apart some baddies.

Suddenly after this Spawn takes a turn for the “Huh?” when we’re introduced to 2 abused kids with a vicious father that Spawn tires to help. As much as I love this storyline and have it in my top ten best spawn stories of all time, it suffers from picking up after the Angela mini-series. With only a passing mention of it, people who aren’t at all familiar with this will have a serious case of hanging jaw over what the hell just happened.

Aside from the confusion there though, this still stands as one of the best, and saddest, Spawn stories ever told. It shows that no matter what, Spawn is, deep down, someone who cares and wants to help. It’s too bad that his attempt to help only sinks the children down deeper into hell.

After this we go into, one of my top 5 favorite Spawn stories. After some funny inner monologue (Spawn thinking about his night affair with Angela, and how he “cheated on his widow” makes for a hilarious little moment.) In this story, Spawn takes on the KKK. Now immediately this sounds like it could be the typical “Hero takes on a controversial topic” story like Marvel and DC have done in the past.

Lucky for us, McFarlane does a great job of rooting Spawn’s own issues with racism in his drive to help the family in trouble. It was interesting to find out that Al Simmons was a victim of racist, such a government badass, I couldn’t imagine something like that with him. This was one of the more human aspects McFarlane gave to Spawn for this time.

The end result of the story is both hilarious and heart warming, Spawn turns the KKK leader into an African American, which in turn leads to his fellow Klansmen killing him. But we also get to see a bit of a happy ending as Spawn gives the man who’s family he was helping files that will help him keep both his land and be free from the KKK’s harassment.

Also, I have to note…one of the most iconic images in all of Spawn, the image of Spawn hanging from a tree by his own chains. Very haunting.

Shortly after this, Spawn arrives home to his alleys, only to get his ass handed to him by the second incarnation of the Redeemer. I won’t go too far into the details after this because the volume wraps up around this story. But I will say that it’s one of the more enjoyable stories that involves Spawn’s clash with Heaven, and the twist at the end makes for a fun lead in to later stories.

Overall, the story has some major weak points early on and sprinkled throughout, but it still does a fairly good job of telling a good Spawn story, and that’s really what your looking for in these collection books.

Art comments: While Todd McFarlane and Marc Silvestri bring a strong quality to the art, most of the art is dominated to the once fledgling Greg Capullo. Though by today’s standards, Capullo has reached Legendary status among Spawn fans, his first days where fairly weak. Especially when you add in following after someone like McFarlane.

Though by the end of the volume his art is strong enough to make up for most of his weak opening art, I can’t deny that his first few arcs or so where definitely weak and really took away from the book. Besides the fact that his art doesn’t really come into it’s own until volume 3, most of his art in volume 2 is a definite negative.

Final comments: I’d probably have given this volume a Must Buy if Capullo’s pencils weren’t so weak at fist, and if not for that awful Houdini story that just makes me dizzy from reading it. While a step up from volume 1, volume 2 is not without it’s own crippling faults.

Buy It.

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