Overview

Spawn #159

Review

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Spawn #159

Credits

  • Words: David Hine
  • Art: Philip Tan
  • Inks: Danny Miki, Allen Martinez, and Ryan Winn
  • Colors: Brian Haberlin, Andy Troy, and Ian Hannin
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: Image Comics/McFarlane Productions
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Aug 23, 2006

Heaven’s army is gathered – made from the souls taken in the biblical Rapture – while Spawn is forced into a final adjudication between himself, Wanda, and Cyan.

With the Spawn universe’s supernatural origins (and all its relevant characters’ placements) firmly laid out, the story shifts gears from the pondering of its many mysteries and veers into an ominous, slow-burn march to the apocalyptic final showdown between the armies of Heaven and Hell. The tension is palpably raised with the myriad of Spawn’s second-hand supporting cast all vying for their favored positions before the sword is lowered and the clash begins in earnest, though the majority of this particular issue concerns itself not with the brewing battle but with the resolving of the jaw-dropping events as depicted on the final page of the previous issue.

A brief warning: spoilers lay ahead for all issues prior to #159.

That last issue (#158) ended, as have all the issues penned by David Hine, with a wallop of a cliffhanger. Yet none have deserved this appellation more than the act of Wanda – the core to Spawn’s universe, his only motivation for having even become the Hellspawn in the first place – blowing her brains out with a household handgun due to her resolute inability to accept the drastic changes Armageddon had wrought upon her family and her life (her twins were revealed to be Yahweh and Satan respectively, and not her own flesh and blood at all, amongst a slew of additional, outlandishly inconceivable complications). In the wake of her horrendous decision, Spawn is faced with a selection of hard decisions – choices he must make and affairs he must settle before the final battle cometh. His connection to his former best friend, Terry (now Wanda’s new husband); Cyan, his surrogate daughter though not of his own genealogy (but of Wanda’s and Terry’s); and even Wanda herself, are all rehashed, pureed, and then altered to place Al Simmons and those few characters who have been a part of this book since issue #1 into a new perspective and burdened with new roles.

The character beats and the overall scheme of the plot are both strong and enduring, with searing levels of emotional pathos liberally lathered across the script; Hine has crafted a true classical tragedy in the making, yet with demons and warrior angels and a Hellspawn, or two, making for an indelibly more enthralling read than the classics ever were.

Another old-school storytelling maneuver Hine pulls, though, is one that may be as disappointing for Spawn fans as the original fans of the source material were apt to be once upon a time. I’m speaking of the true, original cliffhangers of the black-and-white movie serials of the 1930’s, the cheap, pulpy entertainment that birthed the shock-ending’s more prestigious nom de plume. As with these corny adventures of yore, Hine treats the heart-stopping final page of issue #158 as if it were only a part of the story, whereas the first few pages of #159 apparently give the fuller, fleshed-out version. For example, in the old cliffhangers where the hero plunges off a cliff, trapped in a car, the next week’s showing would reveal that, in fact, the hero manages to leap out the side door seconds before the car carries out its otherwise familiar, ultimate swan dive. This is a plot butchering that requires an intense amount of audience suspension of disbelief in order for the viewer – poor dears who day-dreamed all week of what possibly ingenious, complex, mind-numbing method the hero might use to cheat the ever-ubiquitous reaper – to happily buy (in short, few did buy, and the cliffhanger to this day is notorious and even synonymous for incongruous, upsetting plot developments).

Similarly, Wanda’s apparent death at the end of issue #158 is handled like a weak-willed magician’s need to perform a trick twice, showing the actions of the other characters during the scant few seconds before Wanda carried out her shocking suicide, and allows Hine to utilize a terribly conceived get-out-of-jail-free card for his desired handling of the follow-up. The writer could have pre-advertised and made easier this hard-sell of a plot twist by simply having laid small pieces of the actions we see up front at the beginning of this current issue in the background of the previous issue, yet this wasn’t done and causes the turnabout to reek of sloppy, lazy writing.

Gleefully, though, this is the only hitch, and it is a relatively minor one – a single moment of controversial change sophomorically undone amongst a thousand-fold more, all of which are a part of the current Armageddon storyline. So maybe one didn’t go so well (and let that be a lesson to you Mr. Hine – for shame!); still the ongoing uber-epic is just as engrossing and inarguably entertaining as its previous parts.

Philip Tan yet again turns in the most carefully conceived work of his career. Even with a low-key, straight-forwardly dramatic issue as this one vs. the dark fantasy action and celestial grandeur of the past few, Tan manages to run a dash through every Z and a swash every capital Q – he delivers his usual visual fiesta and furthermore manages to display a perfectly played, histrionic sequence of pitch perfect drama. Seriously, the man gets better with every monthly, on-time issue, which is nothing short of miraculous compared to the other true greats of the field, in which precisely the reverse would be true. When his run on Spawn is complete, Tan should be perfectly situated for one of the top ten artist slots in the industry, eagerly sought by every major book that can get their hands on him, and while fan response to his work has been minimal due to the book’s long-term, locked-in audience, this will hopefully change given enough time for exposure and readership expansion.

So a cheap reversal on the otherwise brilliant cliffhanger of the last installment, but still a powerful, epic story in which both Hine and Tan are shining through as gifted creators, brighter than they’ve managed to do so on any previous title (and I loved District X, so that’s saying something!) There is not a single supernatural comic on the stands today that equals the quality of story and art currently exhibited in Spawn. It hasn’t had a spotless past, its true, but it’s currently as white a sheep in the Image family as any book has ever been. It’s presently on my top-ten list for the first time in history, and I suspect it will leap to a similar position of honor upon any discerning comic reader’s pile, should they be brave and take a gander. I warn you, though, one peek and that’ll be three bucks a month you’ll no longer have!

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