I woke up one morning and had a dream... Could I own every single issue of Detective Comics, Batman and all of the other subtitles in the Gotham universe?
Insane? Stupid? Inspired?
This can only end in obsession and financial chaos.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Crossovers: Batman/Spawn: War Devil

In comics when a successful crossover occurs, there is always a sequel just begging to be released.

In the case of Batman and Spawn there was less a sequel and more of a return match.

The first Spawn/Batman was a regular comic superstar-slug-fest. Miller and McFarlane took two characters that were synonymous with their comic creating endeavours, whacked the volume up to eleven and probably bought new cars with this very Image-like outcome (and I mean that in a good way).

'War Devil' definitely is not an Image book, this is a DC comic and it involved the holy writing trinity of 1990's Batman: Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon and Alan Grant (art was by Klaus Janson, a note of interest as he was involved with Frank Miller's DKR project). I can only assume Moench got top billing because he did the majority of the writing on this book. Anyway, there were a few ways this book could have gone...

This is a book that healthily sums up all of the various ideas and themes throughout the Trinities work. Hokum, for sure, but this was the 1990's and this stuff was always interesting. So what themes and concepts have we got? Satanism, Conspiracy Theories, Tyrannical Moguls, Buildings as Symbols of Power. All the big budget tricks are here: Historical mysteries, Pentagrams carved into Gotham and Assassinations. We've got a walking army of skeletons, Transforming demons. Oh, and fire, a lot of hellfire.

Like the Miller/McFarlane prequel, this has been written as a simple, fun one shot that had no basis on continuity or achieves any bigger purpose (hell, they even totally ignore the other book). It's a horror tale, pure and simple. But what it does do is actually make Al 'Spawn' Simmons a more rounded character, and a man dealing with the mistakes, or decisions of his own past. Spawn, here is dealing with his demons, because he works for demons, and is indebted to demons, it is only natural that he hopes to overcome these demons.

There could be more blatant finger-wagging by Moench, Dixon and Grant at the Image-creation (or indeed the path Image Comics were taking the industry), but they don't do it. However, there is a feeling of one-upmanship here; at it's heart they've taken MacFarlane's creation, added a proper grown up story arc and added character development to Al Simmons that 'Spawn', as a comic title, always promised in the 1990's but never delivered upon. Indeed this story doesn't actually need Batman at all, and he only really is there to deliver this line at the end:

“Good and evil are not determined by the intercourse of people with one another, but entirely by a man's relationship with himself”. For me, it's like Moench et al are using Batman to say to Image you've got a cool character here that can really go places, don't mess it up!

The book ends with hope. Spawn can successfully achieve redemption by doing the right thing, and in (a comic book way) doing so become a proper superhero that is personified by Batman. As Batman jumps off into the Gotham night, it's almost as if Spawn is straining himself not to follow him. And that is significant in itself.