Spawn (#16 – 18) – Grant Morrison

3 out of 5

Some solid fill-in work from Grant Morrison on Spawn, perhaps, ultimately, more notable for being Greg Capullo’s first penciling outing on the title.

Not being a Spawn reader, I can’t say for sure how much of this was Grant versus Todd McFarlane’s preexisting contributions, but there’s definitely spice here that comes across as one of the parallels / reinventions that have become common in Grant’s writing: we’re introduced to a “town” that’s been military-constructed over a portal to Hell, making use of Hell’s output of psychoplasm to construct everything. The result is a psycho-active location that’s a composite of Al Simmons’ – Spawn’s – memories, and also happens to be populated by demons and whatnot. “Simmonsville,” as it’s being dubbed, is being tested for the battle applications of the psychoplasm, meanwhile using soldiers as fodder for those tests. This is a cool idea that gets a lot of play up front, but ultimately doesn’t have much direct impact on the three issues, although Morrison does use it to create an appreciable emotional throughline for Simmons’ need to let go of his past.

The foreground stuff deals with the “Anti-Spawn” – a heaven-sent creation dressed up in a sadomasochist’s take on Spawn attire, empowered with, like, anti-Spawn stuff that gives us our throwdown. Plenty of room is allowed for Capullo to shine during this, but it’s actually tempered pretty well by Spawn’s internal dialogue, realizing he’s somewhat outclassed, and then the interaction of the homeless denizens Spawn has buddied up to.

The stitching surrounding these two elements – the town, Anti-Spawn – feel rather generic, but they’re not poorly written. It’s the taint of the fill-in: you can do some cool things, but you can’t change the world, and ultimately you have to pick up and lay down pieces to connect to what came before and what will come after. Capullo’s artwork is also a bit eye-boggly, not always giving us the clearest choreography or page-reading order in favor of cool splashes and poses.

So minor-ish stuff as part of Grant’s oeuvre, but fun issues overall.