Spawn (#19 – 20) – Tom Orzechowski and Andy Grossberg

2 out of 5

Harry Houdini and Spawn in a flying car. Is that the first image that comes to mind when you think of this title?

Tom Orzechowski and Andy Grossberg take over at the end of the fill-in reign on Spawn, and deliver a cluttered couple of issues that aren’t really recognizable as part of any identifiable title – that is, though I’m not a Spawn reader, the story has such a malleable personality and tone that it could fit in on any fantasy-laced book. Greg Capullo makes the most of a talking-heads style of writing, and, at this early stage for the illustrator, might have been a good training ground: when there is action, page flow still suffers, though having letterer Tom Orzechowski as a co-writer at least renders the narrative in a proper reading order, which wasn’t really the case in the previous arc.

The atomic bomb; Ukrainians; demons in “The Overlap” testing methods of killing Spawn; a kid tinkering with explosives on the homeless; and dressing up our lead character in a chauffer’s outfit. Individual pieces of this would work, but the combination is pretty clunky, seeming more like our writers wanted to figure out a way to put Harry Houdini into the book – which is that he exists in the Hell-like, timeless Overlap, and wants to teach Spawn magic. And ride in flying cars. With a chauffer.

Spawn narrates out loud to himself, and exposition-dumps via news reports tie together some Ukrainians’ plot to blow up New York for some vaguely thought-through reason about fighting for rightful representation.

From what I can glean of the Spawn wiki, Harry Houdini and The Overlap wouldn’t show up again, so make of that what you will. Moments of the issues work in a campy fashion, and, as mentioned, thanks to Capullo, but are otherwise immemorable.