Hellspawn Review

-by Andrew Goletz

Rating: 7 out of 10

I’m not a fan of Spawn and I never was. The only issues I enjoyed with the character were early on when McFarlane gave creators like Dave Sim, Alan Moore and Frank Miller a few issues to guest write.  I was never particularly impressed with the character, the writing or even the art. I never could grasp the appeal of McFarlane’s Spider-man renditions. Sure, I suppose the pictures were pretty to look at, but did anyone ever stop to consider that it would be physically impossible for any human to assume those strange positions without missing a few joints?

Brian Michael Bendis took a couple bit characters from Spawn, Sam and Twitch and put them into their own series of the same name. The S&T series focused on the detectives in Spawn’s world. The stories deal as much with the relationship between the two they do the actual crimes. Spawn remains a character way, way in the background and it’s one of the reasons why the title works.

When Brian announced he would be writing the new Hellspawn series, I knew I’d try it. With the exception of my unhealthy obsession with Spider-Man, I buy and read comics because of the writer, not the character or concept. I know I liked Brian’s writing, so I figured if anyone could make the character somewhat interesting, it would be him.

I’ll admit the book seems very far removed from the main Spawn title. It’s one of the darkest books I’ve read in a long time. It takes place in current Spawn continuity, but it doesn’t resemble the main book in any way except for concept, from what I know. With Hellspawn, Brian is taking the reader to a place that we have not been to before and that is a place no one would want to be at. This Spawn’s world is filled with vile people who do reprehensible things. In the first issue alone, we’re treated to a dissertation by an evil creature called The Clown who waxes philosophical on the actresses in X rated movies and what brought them to this particular point in their lives. While The Clown torments the sad fellow trying to watch his porn in peace, we see him stare at the screen in wide-eye terror. It’s the same expression I had while reading it.

Artist Ashley Wood worked with Brian on the initial Udaku storyline in Sam and Twitch and his haunting, fully painted work fits greatly with the mood of the story. This isn’t a pretty world we’re dealing with and the visuals are as disturbing as what’s written on the page. As a pure psychological horror book, Ashley’s work is amazing, in fact. His paintings in Hellspawn remind me of similarly frightening visuals in the old Arkham Asylum graphic novel from years back.

Sounds like I dig the book, doesn’t it? Well the problem isn’t as simple as the art or writing. Ashley’s art is perfect for the book and Brian doesn’t ‘phone in’ his writing, but it doesn’t seem to have the same punch as his previous efforts. Perhaps he doesn’t care for the character as much as some of the other projects he’s working on. It would be unfair for me to presume that he doesn’t. But I know that the story isn’t getting me eager with anticipation for the next installment. The whole big guns, big attitude in the character is a non too pleasant reminder of the 90’s style fiasco of some of the more popular independent titles of the time.

Brian gives it a good effort and Ashley’s work makes the comic easy on the eyes, but there isn’t enough substance behind the work for me to continually seek this out. I will wait out the current storyline because I want to see how Brian wraps this up, but even still, there isn’t really much of a point for me to anticipate much of anything. It’s already been revealed that Brian will be leaving the book in a few months, and along with him goes my interest level.

While not exactly a failure of dramatic proportions, the Spawn-thing still doesn’t do it for me. I’m quite content with reading a lot of the better tales written by BMB and I’m sure that there are a lot of readers out there who share my feelings. Onto bigger and better things, I’d be willing to bet.  And I wish them luck.

Hellspawn is available monthly from Image Comics. To find out more about Hellspawn, visit www.jinxworld.com. You can find everything here from ordering information to merchandise to upcoming events and pop into the message boards for some of the most interesting conversations with fans and creators alike!

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