Take the angst-ridden, tortured soul of the Dark Knight, mix it with a dose of supernatural eeriness from the Spectre or Hellblazer, and what do you get? A hell-bent vigilante prowling through the streets of Manhattan in search of his true identity. The first six issues of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn: Origins chronicles the soul searching quest of Lt. Colonel Al Simmons, a black man who died prematurely, now donning a crimson medieval style outfit akin to the Dark Knight, yet still cloaked in a sinister aura going by the moniker Spawn (as in a spawn of hell).

However, Spawn latches on to the world of the living, for his fragmented memories irresistibly draw him back to his ex-wife Wanda Blake, whom he beholds from afar, now attracted to his best friend Terry Fitzgerald. This gnawing anguish plagues the Spawn, a supernatural being cursed by human memories who has awakened to a soulless existence, lacking a sense of wholeness. The plot reveals bits and pieces of his past through intermittent flashbacks and introspective monologues, unfolding through the character’s journey to find himself while grappling with newfound supernatural powers to which he struggles to fully comprehend and adapt.

Equally mysterious and malevolent are the villainous characters lurking about the streets in narrow alleys and hidden corners. These dark denizens of the night include a corpulent clown-faced midget and a diabolical demon—creatures with scheming machinations for an already tormented Spawn. They weave in and out of the story as part of a larger subplot as he seeks to uncover the mystery behind his agonizing predicament. The narrative pace accelerates as other characters enter this world wrapped in supernatural intrigue and mayhem laced with fractured secrets lying just beyond the reach of truth.

In addition to the subplots and mysteries surrounding the enigmatic origins of Spawn, spectacular scenes ignite the narrative action with vibrant fluency. McFarlane integrates combat scenes with two-page spreads and full page close-up shots, detailing panels with exquisite care reinforced by bold, striking colors and visual sound effects. Even the speech bubbles, penned by letterer Tom Orzechowski, boast visually stylistic penmanship, capturing the unique tone and persona of specific characters.

As a bonus, this re-issue of Spawn includes a gallery of black and white sketches of the striking covers from each issue along with penciled drafts. However, this extra feature offers little insight and leaves much to be desired. It would have been better to incorporate annotated comments to accompany this mini sketchbook of artwork. The re-issue of this series may attract newer generations of teenagers and adults, but it would be ideal to wait for an omnibus that compiles a more robust assortment of exclusive content for old and newer fans alike. Nonetheless, for e-book readers, this primer serves as a fascinating glimpse into the intricate mythology of the Spawn universe.

Spawn: Origins, Vol. 1
By Todd McFarlane
ISBN: 9781534313897
Image, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: 16+
Series Reading Order: (Wikipedia or Goodreads)

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NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18)
Character Traits: Black

  • Jerry

    | He/Him Information Strategist, San Francisco Public Library

    Reviewer

    By day, Jerry Dear, APALA member and Information Strategist at the San Francisco Public Library tackles research questions in the Periodicals department. He also teaches in the Library Information Technology department at City College of San Francisco. By night, he serves the Asian American community and ventures into the vibrant literary arts and graphic novel scene. In whatever time remains, he indulges in comics, anime, manga, and Asian American literature and film.

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