In the previous issue, Spawn dropped off a famous rapper and he has just revealed himself to the world in the middle of Time’s Square in New York. This sets off a major worry throughout the government as Spawn just showed up and vanished in mere moments. Spawn #284 deals with the fallout of this revelation and Spawn’s subsequent arrest.
Spawn is a long-running series that has changed direction many times. Admittedly, it has been a while since I read Spawn, but I know the basics. The story was easy to follow up on. The only weird issue that I came across was that I read this book because I was promised a New Violator (one of Spawn’s most infamous villains) and that didn’t happen at all. I thought I bought the wrong comic, but it turns out that Spawn #283 and #284 were solicited differently from the actual print comic. The likely answer is that the original stories for these two comics were pulled for some production reason and will likely see the light of day in the future. Shame, since I really wanted to read the story about Violator.
That said Spawn #284 had an okay storyline. As previously mentioned, it has been some time since I read Spawn, but I picked up on the story pretty quickly. Todd McFarlane writes a decent plot. The idea of Spawn willingly going to prison was something interesting. While reading, during the whole issue you are wondering why Spawn would willingly be incarcerated, especially by the federal government. The flaw is that writing has never been a strong suit of McFarlane’s. He has improved dramatically over the years, but it tends to be clunky. Talking heads (ala Dark Knight Returns) are still being used in 2018. It works in the story, but it is weird to see a narrative relic of the late 80’s still in use. The narrative device is rough. The third person narrator doesn’t do much to help the story out and is written in a stiff manner.
There isn’t much in terms of dialogue, but that is the point. Spawn is largely silent for the issue until the end. The side characters are the only ones talking, but they are largely part of the police procedural feel of the story. There is not much in terms of characterization except in broad strokes. There seems to be an attempt at social commentary about police brutality, and it is subtle in that no comments direct themselves towards what happens on the page. It can’t help to be noticeable that Spawn, a black superhero, is brutally assaulted by the NYPD and the prison system, all while he is visibly disarmed. While there is no direct commentary by McFarlane or the characters, this can be interpreted as a reflection on society, and its systematic, racist methods of oppression and violence. It has some clunkiness to it, but surprisingly, is handled competently.
The art of Spawn #284 is fantastic, which is to be expected. McFarlane has an eye for visual design. It is his strongest talent and something people tend to forget about the Image co-founder. While he hasn’t contributed too much to the art of Spawn in recent years, he has had a stable of more than capable artists to do the work for him. Jason Shawn Alexander is the current artist on the book and his art is stellar. He brings a painterly style to his illustrations, but not like that of Alex Ross, but instead more like Alex Maleev. It is incredible to look at. There is an inherit pencilled look to it, but that is not a knock. It gives the more static scenes some life and character.
Alexander gives a lot of personality to his figure work. It is very emotive and life-like, but not so overtly realistic that it detracts from the comic itself. Just masterful work. The way he portrays the suit as Spawn’s literal skin is haunting, especially as they try to unmask Spawn.
Now, the coloring is done by committee by FCO Plascencia, Alexander, and Lee Loughridge. This makes it difficult to attribute anyone portion to an individual, but as whole the work is seamless. There is no daylight between the artists in question and this speaks to the art direction of the book when each colorist complements the other. They provide a texture to each page and continue the sketchy look of Alexander’s line work. Everything has a painted feel about it that just works, and it is the first thing I noticed as I flipped through the issue.
Overall, Spawn #284 is an okay superhero comic that has a couple nuggets of gold in it. The art is fantastic and some of the commentary is surprising. That said, there are flaws in the narrative and the dialogue is clunky. I enjoyed the comic, but I cannot recommend it outside of the art. It is merely a serviceable comic.
Spawn #284 is currently available from Image Comics.