Written by Brett Reistroffer
Spawn #229 (Image) – Growing up in the nineties, Spawn was my comic. My go-to caped ass-kicker and superhero, a habit fueled by my dad’s enthusiasm for how cool the character’s name was and the slick cover designs. Of course he never had the good sense to actually flip through the pages of the ultra graphically violent comic book that he was feeding to a ten year old kid, but I wasn’t complaining. But we all grew out of certain things and my Spawn habit was put to rest for many years, enjoyed a revival during the mid 100’s, then laid to rest again. I will occasionally pick up the odd issue, for old time’s sake and to check in on how the world Al Simmons built is fairing, sometimes shaking my head, other times nodding in approval. Lately I have to say, the current state of McFarlane’s brainchild, the perennial comic fanboy love-to-hate favorite, is in an interesting place. Not necessarily because of any specific plot points currently being muddled through, but for the evolution of the book itself.
The growth from a straightforward superhero title of equal parts capes and action, to a supernatural crime detective noir, and on to the shadowy character-drama-meets-The X-Files book that it is now makes for an interesting study in story development. There will of course be detractors for any change in any series, and say what you will about this one, but you really can not deny the book its breadth and depth of history and lore, both inside and outside the pages. Look at any conventional comic book mainstay, ie. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Insert-Noun-or-Adjective-Here Man, etc. and you will find a lengthy history of differing writing styles, art styles, subject matter, new plots, old plots and so on, but at the end of the day that history is only a thing of scholastic fancy and no more. Those characters now are the characters they always have been, independent of any misleading ‘world altering’ story arcs of days gone by, sheltered from their own antiquity by the virtue of simply being the timeless archetype placeholders that they have been chiseled into. They don’t rely on the finer points of their heritage because they are characters driven by their own character, not the story.
McFarlane and his ever-changing team have certainly not been able to refrain from the occasional gimmick used by those characters, but in the overall scheme of things Spawn has managed to buck the janitorial ideology of the publishing elite by actually conforming to its own history, no matter how deep it has to dig. The current plotting certainly was not conceived of some twenty years ago, but it nevertheless has to fit within those twenty years of twists and turns and stumbles. Even the reset button that was hit some time ago figures into the grand scheme in such a way that you could never point to any ‘reboot’ issue in the series. Looking back through the timeline of the title is like watching evolution take place, for better or worse depending on specifically where you stop, but the point is that in no era of the book’s life does the story live safely tucked away from everything that has come before it. And love it or hate it, that is what makes Spawn a story, not a character.
People will always have something untoward to say about Todd and his hellspawn, and I’ve been included in that demographic plenty of times, but for a man who set out to make something different than the general fair, something that actually grew and developed with time, you do have to give it to the guy: he has succeeded in doing exactly that.
Fever Ridge #2 (IDW) – Got your history lesson for the week? Well if you haven’t, you can always check out Fever Ridge from IDW, a series detailing the Pacific Theater of war during WWII, specifically concerning Papua New Guinea. Inspired by his grandfather’s experience in the army during the fight for that country, writer Michael Heimos delves deep into the history of the region and of the countries involved in the conflict. In the second issue out this week, we mostly learn about both the lead up to the New Guinea conflict in regards to the two main players (Japan and America), and of the personal war that General McArthur made it into. The history lesson is detailed but clear and concise, noting the main points and some interesting side bits without being dry and reading like a textbook. It actually flows much like a History Channel documentary and you could almost picture their logo next to the bold IDW on the front cover. While the series does have its characters and story (absent in this issue besides McArthur himself), the narration is not told from their perspective, rather it is doled out in the neutral tone of a classroom lesson, albeit an interesting one. Accompanying that is some fantastic art courtesy of Nick Runge, whose textured and gritty panels help give the book a legitimately biographical feel with their war photo aesthetic. If you are a history buff like this reviewer, Fever Ridge is definitely something you will want to check out, both for the general overview of its subject and for the wealth of interesting minutiae that can be found in the captions and also in the back pages that give additional reading.
Buddy Cops #1 (Dark Horse) – Culled from a few issues of Dark Horse Presents, Nate Cosby and Evan Shaner’s Buddy Cops is, as the name implies, a buddy cop comedy. A drunken and demoted space cop is teamed with a reactivated 1970’s era android police officer with a strict adherence to the letter of the law (all the letters, no less). They go on random cases, usually involving giant space monsters bent on terrorizing New York City, and of course hilarity ensues most efficaciously. To be perfectly honest, this book is f#@!ing hilarious, thanks to great one-liners, absurd dialogue, and even more absurd situations. This is all thanks to the dynamic of the two principals, playing the good cop/drunken moron cop schtick to excellent effect. The two don’t get along together at all, and really that is what makes the comic work, with Uranus’s constant jabs and jokes at his android partner’s expense, and T.A.Z.E.R.’s unfailing insistence at pointing out the myriad of ways that his partner breaks more laws than he prevents. It’s a simple and straightforward delivery, every case is a stand-alone adventure and there are three of them in this collected one-shot, plus a few pages of appetizers presented by the dysfunctional duo themselves. If you need a good laugh, pick this one up and here’s hoping we’ll see more from these two crime bashers.