The Spawn/Batman crossover that was released in way back in 199, is a bit of an odd beast. I'm sure that there was a lot of excitement about this book before the release simply because it was Frank Miller's first return to Batman since Year One and DKR. Even in the inside cover there is a note to mention that this is a companion piece to the Dark Knight Returns universe. Did it need any more hype?
Spawn, for those who aren't initiated, was Todd McFarlane's creation when he and a few other artists went and formed Image Comics. McFarlane had every ambition to take over the comic world with this guy and this crossover would've helped him to achieve this goal. From a promotional standpoint 'Spawn/Batman' would confirm that his new could have equal billing with comic book character royalty. There is no question, McFarlane's art is gorgeous. And the story, ahh the story, well most of it works...
There are a few moments of brilliance here. Like a lot of Miller's 1990's stuff there is a lot invention and experimentation going on, and this is all over this crossover. For example, there is the humorous determination of Alfred's insistence that Bruce should drink the calming chamomile tea that has been prepared for him. There is the 'mind fusion' scene between Spawn and Batman that is really well done. I love the consequences of the first fight (c'mon that's what two superheroes do when they meet for the first time!) between Spawn and Batman that really pads out Miller's updated characterization of the Bat. Also, there is a cleverness to the way Spawn is the presented as more heroic of the two in this crossover, by the stories end.
For me though, it is in this volume that the Frank Miller 'Goddamn Batman' is born. For sure, the older Batman in DKR is a cynical, calculating fellow that is weighed down by the demons of abandoning his vigilante quest. Added to the excessive actions of his enemies, the reader accepts that Batman must be a little more hard-boiled, and more hardcore, than he ever was before.
Here in this volume Batman, still early in his DKR-world career, is presented just as a really, bitter and twisted, highly obsessed Dirty Harry-style vigilante. For Miller, Batman doesn't like anyone or anything much. Any objective he sets himself is accomplished with ruthless aggression, and by any means necessary. This is the same Batman that would again pop up in later works.
However, where the story disappoints is that the entire project feels a bit too rushed. The finale happens way too quickly. I had to skip back a few pages to make sure I hadn't missed something in the stories climax (I hadn't). And the villain of the piece turns out to be a wet paper bag. Also, there is an almighty faux-pas that occurs right at the start of the book that cannot be easily forgiven by a true Batman fan.
You can now pick up this book rather cheaply. And for 50p at a comic mart, it's quite a lot of fun. It's just I expected, and you probably did too, a lot more.