BY MATT TUCK
Spawn’s Universe #1 is a cliched homage to 1990s superhero comics that leans more toward Batman than hellspawn.
SPAWN’S UNIVERSE #1
Written by Todd McFarlane
Art by Jim Cheung (Main story)
Brett Booth (Gunslinger Spawn)
Stephen Segovia (Medieval Spawn)
Marcio Takara (She-Spawn)
From the first panel to the last, Spawn’s Universe channeled its inner 1992, which proved to be both its strong suit and its Achilles heel.
What you will notice about Spawn’s Universe as soon as you open the cover is its 1990s style from the artwork to the dialogue. The art was on point, and I appreciated the level of detail that is oftentimes missing in modern comics. For that, I applaud this issue.
As much as I love Todd McFarlane, this was not the best writing he’s ever produced. This issue, as I am sure was intentional, read less like the gothic horror tales of those early Spawn adventures and more like a bland, old school superhero comic. Some readers will find this to be its most endearing quality, but I found it riddled with enough superhero clichés that would have made Stan Lee cry.
This issue has a main story featuring the classic Al Simmons’ Spawn (referred to as “Original Spawn,” which was a little on the nose) with plenty of recalls to the early days of the comic. To gear up for the future, there are three backup tales starring Medieval Spawn, She-Spawn, and Gunslinger Spawn. These are seemingly meant to establish the characters in preparation for the multitude of upcoming issues.
Giving this issue a fair grade is a bit tricky. It is not a traditional #1 for a new series, and it is one piece to a much larger whole. The dialogue became a bit blocky at times with names being clumsily tossed about as if the characters were addressing the readers directly. I had to bear in mind that this issue is intended to get fans up to speed on the happenings of Spawn. Many of us old schoolers wouldn’t recognize the characters or get the references to other events since those early days of Spawn. Because of that, I tried to cut McFarlane a break on his storytelling.
The story itself, however, was subpar. I understand it is meant to lead us to the bigger picture of the Spawn-verse, but this story was too heavy on clunky narration and forceful to the point of feeling more like I was reading the working script rather than the finished product.
THE NEW FACES
As teased ahead of the issue’s release, three new faces graced the world of Spawn: Jericho, Disruptor, and Sinn.
Spawn’s Universe is the launching pad for the bigger, inter-connected Spawn stories that are coming later this year. McFarlane did what everyone else is doing in modern publishing: utilizing new characters to help sell copies. I can’t fault him for that when roping in new readers is such a challenge on today’s comic scene.
At least these didn’t seem like throwaway characters that are simply a cheap marketing tool. The main story suggests that these debut appearances will be the first of many for all three villains, which will make the issue itself more collectible.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Image Comics has always been the alternative to Marvel and DC. That’s what draws me to its variety of titles. I am all for expanding the Spawn Universe, and I understand why McFarlane would want to take Spawn mainstream. While I enjoy a massive universe of characters and places in my comics, I don’t want the same stories I could read in a comic from the big two. Throw out the clichés and make Spawn the superhero with a mature, horror edge like he was in the beginning.