Green Light the Darkness
Todd MacFarlane’s Spawn is a landmark character that helped bring the comic’s industry out of the dark ages. Wow, that is a huge thought, to think that a single concept did that. Well, it is only partially true. There were a number of other comics and factors that helped but Spawn did come about during the time of transition. Aside from the depictions of graphic violence and gore, the hero was something a bit different than what we had seen in comics prior to this. Mind you this doesn’t take away from the contributions of stories like the Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns, but Spawn was something more than just the anti-hero. He was a warrior for the armies of evil, more, he was created to be a general for the demonic hordes.
Comics have always been based on the premise of good vs evil. Essentially they were set in terms of black and white. Spawn was essentially no different. Epic battles between good and evil were the driving ideas of the stories. But the caveat was the idea that the Hellspawn as the devil’s greatest warrior, and supposed to lead the demon hordes, but he chose a different path. This is the prevailing idea of many of the stories within the Spawn universe.
The Medieval Spawn series fits perfectly within that mold. I read the complete collection (my favorite way to do this too. I didn’t have to wait for the next release), published in 2013 (Spawn The Dark Ages The Complete Collection). Throughout the span of the series there were different writers and inkers (so I won’t be naming them here. Read the book).
On the surface we have a man who had been a holy warrior within the crusades. He traveled the countryside and into foreign lands slaughtering with wanton abandon. But in the end he found that for his murderous crimes he paid a much bigger price when he ended up in hell. The deal made allowed him to return to the world as the Hellspawn. But as we find with reluctant heroes, their freewill dominates more often than not, their character can be their own undoing.
Iain Covenant denounces his agreement and fights back against the hellish forces. But in the process he finds that man can be just as cruel and vindictive without the added strength of hell’s might. The series is predicated on his need to find redemption, even though he knows that Heaven has turned its back on him. His reward no matter what he does now will be eternal torment in the pits of hell.
The mark of a hero is the man (or woman) who pushes on and does the right thing no matter the consequences. Even though they may be condemned for their actions they still seek to do what needs to be done to protect and serve the innocent. Within the series, we find that no matter how flawed the character of Spawn may be, he still seeks to atone for his crimes.
The greater theme within these stories is always something more than just the idea of the struggles of Spawn. We can see good and evil laid out before us and we see the epic struggle that all of us fight on a daily basis. Sure it may not be that we are fighting epic battles but at the same time our actions have consequences. The choices we make on a daily basis add up throughout our lives and at some point we will look back at the destruction we have wrought or the peace and tranquility that follows our footsteps.
Which sounds all well and good until we realize that the path we have followed was never a straight line. It was crooked and garbled with side steps and briar-filled passageways. Our path to ultimate salvation is never going to be a straight line, because of one simple concept, free will. Much like even in undeath Spawn must make decisions everyday that will affect all of the people around him, we too live our lives making decisions and pursuing goals that have an impact on the world around us.
I don’t know, I may have side stepped from the precise thoughts on this set of stories but I don’t think I strayed too far from the path that they set in front of me. Stories like this will always be great for the stories themselves but they will also always send us down a path of thought that will give us pause and a chance to reflect on our own lives.
Back to the book itself. The art is incredible. Splash pages and panels dance with the story. The art is as epic as the story itself. Throughout you are drawn into just how vast the concepts are within the story worlds.
I think my only issue with the depictions as a whole would be the story line for Maeve and her children’s army. Throughout the story she grows ever more brazen in her depictions. This can be seen as the growth of her power but at the same time it tends to feel a bit inappropriate based on the age of the character and the times the characters lived within. It could be seen that this was one of Spawn’s memories so it would be clouded as all things are through the filters of minds. But for me it did feel just a touch out of place.
The book as a whole is the collection of the entire series. So it ends up being quite epic with several different storylines throughout the piece. But at the same time because of what this book is, we also gain an assortment of bonus material that adds to the enjoyment of the art overall. In the back not only do they give us original covers but also alternate covers and a section with concept art. For a Spawn collector the book has a number of great benefits.
Overall, I loved the stories. I couldn’t put it down (which is saying a lot since the book is in hard cover and huge). It is one well worth your time if you are into epic stories and concepts.
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