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Spawn #192 [Review]

Endgame (Part Eight)

Writer: Todd McFarlane
Pencils: Whilce Portacio
Inks: Todd McFarlane
Color: Jay Fotos
Lettering: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Todd McFarlane
Cover Artists: Whilce Portacio, Todd McFarlane, Jay Fotos
Publisher: Image Comics

Part Eight?!? That means this is my EIGHTH issue of this title in a row, and if it hasn’t been quite monthly, I sure haven’t noticed a lateness. I’m not even sure–including duplicates–that I even OWN 8 issues of Spawn before this story.

That said…this is still one of those books that I’m a bit “iffy” on. For one thing, I’m not all that thrilled when I learn more about the characters and story from the letters pages and other sources outside the story in the book itself. I learned from the letters pages in this issue, for example, that the new major protagonist Jim apparently first appeared waaaaay back in issue 3 as a then-throwaway character. I’m also not all that familiar with the fairly large cast of characters, and so feel like there’s something of a shadow hanging over my reading experience; that I’d almost get more out of reading online summations of the story in text format with no visuals at all.

This issue sees the new Spawn meeting several apparently old players, or entitities tied to old players. He finds out a bit more about himself and the costume, which keeps things moving along, but it doesn’t feel like there’s REALLY a lot going on, even though there is. I’m increasing contemplating the fact that I’d probably get MORE out of this title reading a collected volume.

The art continues to be a high point, and it seems Portacio’s a perfect artist for this book. The only drawback is a certain factor in some of the panels that seem almost over-the-top “graphic” and violent–moreso than maybe necessary, and in one case almost more bloody than seems plausible given the rest of the image.

On the whole, as far as the title and characters go, it seems that offing Al Simmons and allowing essentially a fresh start (and withOUT numbering shenanigans, to boot!) was the best thing to happen to this book. At the least, it’s made me a regular reader for the better part of a year–something that never before happened in the 16-some years this book has been in existence.

Story: 6.5/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7/10

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Spawn #188 [Review]

Endgame (part four)

Writers: Todd McFarlane, Brian Holguin
Pencils: Whilce Portacio
Digital Inks: Todd McFarlane
Color: Jay Fotos
Lettering: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Todd McFarlane
Cover Artists: Whilce Portacio, Jin Han
Publisher: Image Comics

After the incidents in the previous issue, a hospital’s worth of patients are being evacuated and put up in other hospitals resulting in plenty of overcrowding. A bit more is uncovered about the “conspiracy” Jim is caught up in, and while he and Sara seek each other out, Jim ultimately finds a new role thrust upon him.

The art has a consistent look from previous issues, and fits the story. Given that this is the first time I’ve “regularly” picked up this title I have no real comparison–so really, the art now is defining for me what the art “should be” for Spawn. No complaints as such there.

There’s something about this series–it’s like somewhat following a tv series. It’s far from being my favorite, but it quickly gets so I recognize (visually) characters and while I watch it can follow along, but am not so immersed as to be able to REALLY tell someone else what’s going on. The story is not entirely engaging at this point–and it’s lost the immediate impact of “first! issue! of a new direction!” that #185 had. However, like one of those tv series, I’m just interested enough to follow along. And given this issue’s final page, I want to see what happens next issue.

Not a bad issue, though, all told. While it’s nice to see that the numbering was NOT reset to #1 (as surely would have been done at a certain other publisher if there was the change this run has already wrought), I still come at this as being “#4” of an all-new current series. Worth getting if you like Portacio’s art or McFarlane’s writing, or just simply feel like checking out this long-running series without having to have slogged through 184 issues’ prior content.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7.5/10
Whole: 7/10

Spawn #187 [Review]

Endgame part three

Writers: Todd McFarlane, Brian Holguin
Pencils: Whilce Portacio
Digital Inks: Todd McFarlane
Color: Jin Han
Lettering: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Todd McFarlane
Cover Artists: Whilce Portacio, Jin Han
Publisher: Image Comics

This sets a new record for me, as the first time I have ever bought three consecutive issues of this title. While the previous couple issues weren’t bad despite my lack of context and knowing who characters are (helped by recognizing the Clown/Violator character), it’s starting to wear a bit thin with this third issue of the arc.

The issue opens on a reporter pressing his boss’s buttons as he seeks a promotion; we then see that patient that woke upon Al Simmons’ death terrorized by a super-powered/supernatural bounty hunter…as outside people speculate what the green flash was that was seen as others wonder if explosions in the hospital are terrorist-related.

The story–as said–is starting to wear a bit thin…I’m not a huge fan of long periods reading a comic without knowing/recalling characters’ names. I do hope there’s more development soon that draws me in, as this issue feels the weakest of these three that I’ve read this time checking in on the title.

Visually, nothing all that new to say–the style works well with the narrative, having a linework that fits the supernatural nature of parts of the story without losing its “grittiness.”

All in all a decent issue–I’ll give a couple more before I drop this again, as I’m interested conceptually at where this title can go and how a new Spawn might emerge from all this.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t feel quite strong enough to justify recommending staying on-board/jumping in if you’re not otherwise interested. If the story’s not grabbing you, no need to bother here; if it’s got your interest, this issue does keep things moving forward somewhat, just not in leaps and bounds.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Spawn #186 [Review]

Endgame part 2

Writers: Todd McFarlane, Brian Holguin
Pencils: Whilce Portacio
Digital Inks: Todd McFarlane
Color: Jin Han
Lettering: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Todd McFarlane
Cover Artists: Todd McFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Greg Capullo
Publisher: Image Comics

The Violator, investigating the green beam last issue deals with what he found at its source, showing the truth to the name “Violator.” Meanwhile, the newly-awakened comatose man has a name, and begins to learn about his surroundings. As this is going on, others scurry into action now that this patient is awake…and the patient finds that he has a friend he was unaware of, as something shows up promising harm.

I have no idea who the character on the last page is. I have a slight suspicion, but will have to wait for the next issue. The visual style in this issue is quite good…I like it in context of the story, though it probably wouldn’t be as pleasing on a more “clean” or less “gritty” type of story–it wouldn’t work well with Superman, for example, in my mind.

The story is a bit take-it-or-leave-it…I think I’m more engaged for the simple fact of wondering if the major change wrought last issue will actually stick, and curious at the potential if it does, and what that would mean for the series.

Something about this whole “Endgame” thing feels like a soft reboot, and I’m rather curious at how quickly I might engage with the series as this is the first time I’ve ever bought two consecutive issues, let alone on the day of release.

The main weakness I see is that there’s very little given in-story/contextually to let someone know who someone is–“the patient”‘s name is Jim, but there are no captions for other character (only a couple for locations), and so there is the feeling of being a bit lost, wondering who is important and why or when.

If you’re looking for an entry point to Spawn, this issue coupled with the previous seems as good as any as a point to start–there’s definitely a feeling of a new beginning that would probably justify a new #1, even (making this a new #2).

Story: 7/10
Art: 8.5/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Spawn #185 [Review]

Endgame part one

Writers: Todd McFarlane, Brian Holguin
Pencils: Whilce Portacio
Digital Inks: Todd McFarlane
Color: Jin Han
Lettering: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Todd McFarlane
Cover: Todd McFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Greg Capullo

Thankfully, there’s a “recap” on the inside cover of this issue, explaining recent events leading to where this issue opens. Having followed this title only on an extra-textual “meta” level and not actually reading any issues of this in probably a decade, something like that is definitely good for providing just a little bit of context.

We open on a man deciding that it’s time to do something, and after witnessing some energy manipulation/show, he sets off some sort of green energy flash that lights the sky above the city. Meanwhile, a comatose patient–apparently of some importance–finally wakes, which triggers a flurry of activity and possible conspiracy (Someone is angry at not knowing in advance the man would wake). Finally, we have a clown/demon tracking Al Simmons and the discovery of what that green energy display did.

This is a fairly unique spot for me to be in as a reader. I’ve been aware of Spawn since its earliest issues, but have never particularly “gotten” it. I’ve read the first issue, the 25th issue, an annual, and the first issue of what I believe was the first Violater mini-series (not sure if there’ve been multiple), and I’ve seen the live-action film. So for most intents and purposes, I’m a new-reader for this 16-year-old well-known/recognizeable title & character. The issue’s number gives a sense of history (how many titles in comics these days have actually hit the 185 mark and seem on-target to make 200+?) Yet, this seems to be a breaking-point issue, a potential “bridge” and fresh start.

Spawn creator Todd McFarlane is back on the writing end as a co-writer, which is largely what spurred me to pick this issue up. After so many years of knowing the character’s creator to not be on the book and now returning, I thought it’d be interesting to see what he’d do with the character. Looking at the issue itself, I’m not impressed with the writing. It’s not bad….but it’s not good. We get a lot of vagueries, and not being familiar with details, I don’t know if it’s from lack of previously-read issues, or setup of mysteries to be revealed in coming months. I was able to determine from the end of the issue that the man at the beginning of the issue is Al Simmons–Spawn–the title character…but I in no way recognized him as such with confidence from the start.

The art was not bad–I have no real point of comparison for it in terms of this title. I think it fit, and from a visual standpoint never felt lost. Something about the tone put me in mind of reading a Vertigo title–perhaps for the grittiness and fact that the story was dealing with people interacting with people with no superheroes nor super-powered entities to be found in much of the issue.

My thoughts on the end of the issue might be able to be expressed through that character’s own dialogue re-applied to McFarlane. There’s potential here, and depending on what the follow-up is, there might be just enough of a hook to keep me checking this title out. That follow-up will also determine a retrospective view of this issue, as I’m hoping that this might be a good jump-on point for new(er) readers and those deciding to check the title out.

This issue is priced at $2.95, making it one of the cheaper comics out there in an age of $2.99, $3.50, and $3.99+. If only for remaining at this lower price point, and the potential that this is a decent jumping-in point…this issue is above average, given my average expectation is the title’s too convoluted and long-running to be accessible. I think this is as good a point as any to check the title out if you’re so inclined.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

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