Spawn 2 (1998)
(Original Air Dates: May 15, 1998 - June 19, 1998)

Gratuitous Violence and Gore... and not enough else!

J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

I like Spawn, the Character. He's a complex guy with issues that make Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne's look like models of psychiatric health. Todd McFarlane created Spawn to be everything that he liked about Comics, and because he created this character so long ago (long before the character's comic book debut in 1992) he had time to flesh the character out and have him ready before the first issue hit the stands. Spawn is the story of Al Simmons, a war hero and CIA Agent murdered by his bosses and sent to hell. The Devil (or Malebolgia) sent Al back to Earth, ostensibly to be with his wife, Wanda Blake. In actuality, the devil has created a new Spawn, faceless, lonely and finding the wife he came back for married to his former best friend, Terry.

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Hellspawn are sent to Earth with great power to bring back to hell the worst and most powerful souls while training to lead those souls in Hell's Army! The Spawn who are sent are generally good guys (who have done enough bad to end up in Hell) so more often than not they end up being vigilantes of sorts. In Arthurian times, Spawn was a Knight who saved Princesses from evil lords and dragons. A Feudal Japanese Spawn might become a wandering Ronin doing in Brigands who threaten innocents. Spawn of the future becomes a super soldier fighting evil oppressors. Modern day Spawn (Al Simmons) naturally becomes a Super Hero! All hunt down and kill the bad guys of their various times. Naturally this sends those souls to Hell, which works perfectly into the devil's plan. When Spawn's power runs out he returns to Hell as Malebolgia's General! How's that for a Catch 22 you can tip your hat to? You do Evil, you do the devil's work! You do good by doing in the bad guys... you're still doing the Devil's work! What's a guy to do but lie around all day in an Alley staying purely hands off? If only it were that easy. For all the complexity of Spawn though, he sure looks like a cross between Batman and Spider-Man... which he is... Check out McFarlane's early sketches. But I'm not here to critique the comic, or the character, but the second season of the HBO Television show.

Spawn's first season ended on a somewhat hopeful note, with Spawn seeming to connect to Wanda and Terry's daughter Cyan after having saved her life. Spawn also finally got used to his Earthly status and accepted his fellow alley derelicts as his friends (they surely smell better than Al does)! So in Season 2 do we get a kinder, gentler Spawn? No. Do we get a more action packed, ass-kicking Spawn? Huh-uh. Do we get a more interesting, thought provoking Spawn? Nope! Do we get a Spawn that sits on Roof Tops, or behind dumpsters and bitches about everything that happened last season, might happen this season, and is probably happening in his pants? Oh, but yes! How about a Spawn that watches multiple times while murders take place and acts like Stuart Smalley wishing that he could change the Channel? Check! That's what second Season has to offer!

There are some episodes that are better than others, and some that are worse than the norm, but seeing as how I viewed this all together on one Spawn 2 DVD collecting all the episodes, it's only fair that I review this as one entity. It's a good thing too, because had I been watching this on HBO, I'd more than likely have tuned out after the third episode in which next to nothing transpired! The season starts with Chapel showing up in the alley Al sleeps in looking for reasons that Jason Wynn's weapons were used there. Along the way Chapel beats and murders a few of Spawn's buddies while Spawn himself grimaces, makes faces, and essentially looks like he's about to ask for some Preparation H! It's only when Spawn realizes that Chapel might have some connection to Al Simmons' death that he gets involved. There's no heroism there, just selfishness! The violence continues then with more blood, more teeth flying out and more screaming. It's at this point that Chapel reveals to Spawn who actually had him killed: Jason Wynn, Al's former (and Terry's current) boss!

Wynn's a bad guy all right. Selling arms to both sides of wars (including terrorists) and coming out like the winner's best friend. That's all on top of having boys who were like sons to him laser gunned to death! This guy is one evil, evil soul! All right! So this is it! Spawn's about to do something, and there's going to be some serious action, right? Uh, no! Instead, how about Wynn putting a price on Terry's head, Wanda brooding like a well built she-Spawn, and Spawn himself moaning and bitching on Cathedral roofs, in Alleys, and... oh, wait... he doesn't go anywhere else.

Spawn really does very little for about four whole episodes! There are more serial killers in the next few episodes than in an Andrew Vacchs novel, and I can't count the number of times that someone innocent is brutally and graphically murdered within eye or earshot of Spawn and his only action is to wince uncomfortably like a man with Jock-Itch wearing Jordache! This is probably the most frustrating thing about the entire series... the lack of action by the "protagonist!" There is a way to make this sort of thing work! Shakespeare did it in a little work called Hamlet, but in spite of McFarlane's ego, Spawn is no Prince of the Danes! It's maddening to watch displays gorier than the GOP Convention taking place right under the heroes nose, and him only be concerned with how crappy his life (or un-death) is! Isn't this the same guy who last season went out of his way to save lives, and to keep people out of his alley? They explain this away by pointing out that Spawn is confused, and doesn't know what he is, or what to do, or even what's real! Great... I have the same problem every Friday Night that Farscape doesn't come on, but I know that Murdering innocent people is a little on the crappy side! No I haven't died and come back to find Jeff and Suzanne in bed, but were that to happen, I think I'd still get off my ass once in a while, especially if a friend was getting mutilated! This guy only does something if he himself is getting threatened, or, in one case, Wanda!


Other Comic Book-(ish) reviews:

  Spider-Man 2 (2004)
  The Hulk (2003)
  X-Men (2000)
  X-Men 2 (2003)
  Hellboy (2004)
  Teen Titans (2003)
  Smallville (2004)
  Road To Perdition (1998)
  The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

The last few episodes of season 2 come close to making up for the apathy as Spawn finally starts confronting Wynn, and starts to kick some ass. The season starts to make some sense and to gain some coherence as it comes to a close. No more must they manufacture a villain of the week, but they focus on the real bad guy, Jason Wynn! Spawn begins to finally act like a Superhero!

There are a few touching moments in the season, mainly surrounding Spawn's encounters with Wanda. She doesn't understand what his intentions are (but then, neither does he). Cyan does though, because she befriended him at the end of last season. Spawn/ Al's gradual warming up to the on-the-lam Terry is also a pretty decent sub-plot. Al goes from an "If I can't have her no one can!" attitude in which he imagines Terry and Wanda having passionate sex while laughing about his Murder, to a grudging acceptance of Terry, at least "until I come for her!", which is more than a little unsettling. A dramatic twist is Spawn's dealing with Wynn himself. He's torn between knowing that Wynn deserves to die, and realizing that the evil in Wynn's soul will simply create a incredible super-soldier for Malebolgia's army! It's just too bad that all this interesting tension, drama and action comes too little too late!

A few good things about this season include the animation. It's not perfect, but it's above average. Spawn himself is always in shadow which adds a deeply rich presence to him. The voice acting is also pretty good. It took me a while to get used to Keith David as Spawn/ Al Simmons, but I think he gave a good, tortured performance. David lends a remarkably deep voice to a character whose testicles were burned off. I have issues with the writing as a whole... too many ideas, not enough complimentary to each other, but there are some excellent one-liners once in awhile. All in all, if you're going to watch this, rent or buy the DVD. After about the fourth episode I would have stopped tuning in thinking this was going nowhere. The last two episodes are almost worth the wait. Of course, on the DVD there's also the extra "Bonus" of hearing McFarlane at the end extol his own virtues. This is interesting once, but his voice, mouth-breathing, and ego get old (and annoying) quick! Any comics fan can tell you that you either love Todd or you hate him. I'm one of the few that sort of like him... and that's after a long road out of dislike.

I like Spawn though, and Spawn the TV show does carry the mythos in a noteworthy direction. I would have loved to see a little more experimentation, as was done in the comics. There's more to Spawn than Brooding. And while I have no problem with Violence if it's necessary to the story, there seemed to be far too much here that went nowhere. It felt like the producers decided that because they had a "Mature Rating" that they had to put as many gratuitous slow-motion blood spurts, amputations, and tooth hurls as the animators could draw. I'd rather have seen Spawn intervene and stop people from getting killed than have him watch with mild annoyance only to show up later and take revenge. Dead is dead, man!

Spawn of any season is not for the kids, as you can see. Oh, it's not a bad series, but there's a little too much blood for no reason, and not enough solid story. The last few episodes though really do make you want to watch the next season to find out where it goes. Two and one half Stars (out of Five) for Spawn 2! It's good, but not great, but when it gets good, it's hard to look away! I'd love to see more, as long as there's something besides moaning to see! One question for you... if Spawn is Al, and he kills someone and is covered in their blood and guts... would that be "Al Gore?" If you're from Florida, don't answer that!

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Spawn Season 2 reviewed by J.C. Maçek III who is solely responsible for his views and the mess of Image Comics under his bed!
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