That's right, Spawn is still around. I know. I was surprised too. Although the attention of its creator has been elsewhere as of late, the comic that Todd McFarlane built is still going. With over two hundred issues and nearly two decades of history, is the indie favorite still relevant or has the whole thing just gone to Hell?
Spawn is the story of a decent guy named Al Simmons who died and went to Hell. Literally. So literally, in fact, that he gained the powers of a Hellspawn and returned to Earth to kick a little ass, make a little love, and declare war against Heaven, Hell, and anyone who messes with the homeless. Except Al Simmons isn't Spawn anymore. For those who have not been keeping track, Al has taken on a new role in Hell and has left his powers and costume to amnesiac Jim Downing. As the new protagonist Jim struggles to not only fight enemies from above and below, he's also trying to learn just what his powers are and why he got them.
What really surprised me about Spawn #209 was how well it seems to work as a jumping on point for those who might want to start reading the series. Sure, there's a lot of continuity one could catch up with, but it did not seem to be entirely necessary to enjoy the story in progress. Jim has been Spawn for several issues now, but he is still working on restoring his memory and discovering his abilities. Effectively, Jim is still at the beginning of his hero's journey, allowing readers to come in and learn with him. This issue sees Jim visiting Al's old home in the alley and seeking Detective Twitch's knowledge on the kind of person Al Simmons was. Not only is there a decent relationship starting between Jim and Twitch, in a way not unlike Batman and Gordon, but Twitch's reminiscing sheds some light on past dealings to new readers.
Of course, while this is a surprisingly good issue to start an interest, it is not a perfect book. Obviously longtime fans are not going to be so interested in how well the issue lends itself to new readers. Those already fans of Spawn may be a bit disappointed by how little actually goes on here. There is no action to speak of and, while the dialogue is by no means bad, a great deal of it is just more and more exposition. The plot moves forward only slightly as Twitch checks in on his hospitalized partner, Sam, and the notorious Clown checks in on the Lord of Hell whose power he is helping to restore. With so little going on, the best reason to read is for the genuine sense of camaraderie developing between Twitch and Jim, but that may not be enough for everyone.
Szymon Kudranski's art is fantastic and detailed. The opening pages in the alley give a great atmosphere to the proceedings. Al's former throne was especially impressive to me. That being said, without any fights or the slightest hint of a necroplasmic fireball, there is not as much as there could be to really show off.
Spawn #209 impressed me. It is by no means a must have, but I will say that it has gotten me more interested in the series than I have been in a long time.