Comic Review: Spawn: Origins Collection, Vol. 2

Well, after Spawn: Origins Collection, Vol. 1 left me wanting more, I had to jump right into this second volume.

This collection covers issues 7 through 14 but it omits issue 10, which I actually just read in chronological order because I still have my original Spawn comics up into issue twenty-something.

The first issue in this collection sees Spawn call out Overt-Kill in an effort to finish their intense battle from the previous issue. Spawn is intent on finishing the job and the second meeting between the two is pretty grand.

After that, there is an issue featuring Billy Kincaid and what happens to him after death. It also shows you what the different layers of Hell are like in the Spawn universe.

We then get introduced to Angela, who would become a pretty popular character in the Spawn series and would eventually move on into Marvel Comics, leaving Image and the Spawn series behind. She’s a character with a really weird journey through comic book history but she got her start in Spawn issue 9.

Probably the most important part of this collection is the two issue story arc that covers Spawn confronting his killer. While I remembered this being much more epic when peering back into my 13 year-old self’s memories, it was still a pretty good story but left a lot unresolved.

The final issue included in this collection is the first half of a tale that Violator tells to a group of kids, which then carries on into the first issue of Spawn: Origins Collection, Vol. 3.

This is a better group of stories than the first collection and it helped to enrich the Spawn mythos. Although, the first book is necessary in order to pick this one up. This is where Spawn started to figure out what it was and Todd McFarlane really found his footing in these issues.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The other Spawn: Origins collections and other early Image Comics releases, especially Youngblood and The Savage Dragon.

Comic Review: Spawn: Origins Collection, Vol. 1

Having just revisited the original miniseries for The Savage Dragon, I wanted to return to this original Image Comics title and relive the experience that enchanted me as a kid in the summer where I found myself wedged between seventh and eighth grade.

Spawn is only one of two original Image titles to have a really long lasting run that went beyond two decades. In fact, it is still published today. The other title that has outlasted everything else is The Savage Dragon.

These Spawn: Origins books are reprints of the original Spawn stories. This first collection covers issues 1 through 6. Reading this now was actually really cool, as it brought me back to that place I was when my thirteen year-old mind first picked these up. I actually still own the first twenty-something issues of Spawn.

The only real problem with reading these as a collection, is that there isn’t a narrative that holds it all together as one story. Each issue continued the overall saga but each can also be read as its own standalone tale. We do meet Spawn, those he loves, as well as the villains Violator, Malebolgia, Billy Kincaid and Overt-Kill. This collection just sort of ends where it ends and leaves it wide open to keep going forward in the series, as nothing is really resolved but ultimately, I’m just really pumped to get into volume two.

Revisiting the earliest Spawn stories, two decades later, was a better experience than revisiting The Savage Dragon. I feel like these have aged better than a lot of the other early Image Comics stuff that had a tendency to embrace some of the bad ’90s comic book tropes.

Spawn was the most iconic Image Comics character to come out of the original launch titles in 1992. He is still the most iconic Image Comics character today and that’s including characters from The Walking Dead, which became Image’s biggest powerhouse series.

This collection does a good job of reminding us of how cool and how important Spawn was when he debuted in 1992.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The other Spawn: Origins collections and other early Image Comics releases, especially Youngblood and The Savage Dragon.

Comic Review: The Savage Dragon, Vol. 1: Baptism of Fire

I recently watched a documentary about the formation of Image Comics in the early 1990s. It was a company that I immediately aligned myself with as a fan, as every artist that I loved at Marvel left and went independent in an effort to buck the system and make more money, all while having the creative freedom to do whatever the hell they wanted.

Erik Larsen left his cushy job at Marvel, working hard on the top Spider-Man titles, and brought his creation The Savage Dragon to Image. In fact, this series was so huge and successful upon its debut that it has had a long lasting effect, being only one of two of Image’s launch titles that continued to be published from its 1992 debut all the way into the 2010s. The other title was Todd McFarlane’s Spawn.

I actually haven’t read The Savage Dragon since the ’90s but I stuck with it for several years until later high school social responsibilities monopolized my schedule. Plus, I got burnt out on comics for awhile, even though I was once an aspiring comic book artist. I think I just picked up on how bad a lot of the ’90s comic book tropes were and when I did read comics, I was more driven to check out all the older classics that were readily available in my comic shop or in trade paperbacks in bookstores.

While The Savage Dragon is still cool, it does fall victim to some of these unavoidable tropes, just as the other Image Comics titles did. It has clunky, uninspiring writing, bad dialogue and some pretty awful character designs, especially where the villains are concerned. I think a lot of artists, whether they realized it or not, were taking creative cues from comic book wunderkind Rob Liefeld in how he loved big odd-looking guns, cyber body parts, metal masked villains with huge capes and well… just about everything that became synonymous with ’90s comics. In this first chapter of The Savage Dragon saga, I don’t know if Larsen even knew where he was going or if this was just more about experimentation.

Dragon is a cool hero and I’m happy that Larsen didn’t try to answer the mysteries of his past too soon. This collection covers his original four issue miniseries before he would go on to have an ongoing series. Enough is established here to get you interested in the characters and situations but there really isn’t much of a traditional story arc in this limited series’ narrative structure. It serves as a four-part origin story with just enough origin to get things rolling but certainly not the whole backstory of how Dragon came to be Dragon.

While I did like my experience in revisiting the earliest Dragon story arc, I’ll have to get back into the longer running series in order to get a real feel for the character and Larsen’s larger vision.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other early Image Comics releases: SpawnYoungblood, WildC.A.T.S., etc.

Documentary Review: The Image Revolution (2014)

Release Date: January 25th, 2014 (Amazing Arizona Comic Con)
Directed by: Patrick Meaney

Respect Films, Sequart, 81 Minutes


The cool thing about The Image Revolution is that it covers the coolest time in comic book publishing history and, as a fan, I lived through this when it was happening and it was honestly, the coolest thing that my young middle school brain got to experience. I used the word “cool” a lot in that run-on sentence but that’s what the early ’90s were all about: cool.

Image Comics was, by far, the coolest comic book company to ever exist. When seven of Marvel Comics’ top dogs left the company to breakout on their own and go independent, it was like the comic industry’s version of the punk rock revolution.

Here you have Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Erik Larsen, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino and Whilce Portacio: all heavy hitter creators at Marvel, bucking the system and forever changing the game. These guys were superstars within the industry and after their revolution, became rock stars in pop culture.

This documentary covers why these guys felt the need to kiss away their steady careers and stick it to the man. It also follows the formation of Image Comics, the struggles they faced and how even after things seemed to fall apart, these guys all sort of found each other again, despite their young rebellious attitudes, their fallouts and their intense competition with one another. It also shows how each artist formed their own studios, what that meant and how all of this built a solid foundation for new and emerging talents to ply their trade independently. And truthfully, without Image Comics and what these guys did, there probably wouldn’t be The Walking Dead or McFarlane Toys.

This is an exciting documentary for fans of the comic book industry, especially Generation Xers that were savvy to this story, back in the day. It’s really cool seeing these guys, all these years later, reflecting on the details of how this all went down. While comic industry reporting was great back in the early ’90s and my friends and I knew the story, some details were unknown until now.

Comic Review: Hack/Slash – Omnibus Three

It has been a few years since I’ve read through the Hack/Slash series but it is my favorite horror comic. I read this omnibus back when it first came out and since I just recently picked up the fourth and fifth omnibuses, I’m revisiting the first three to refresh my memory.

Out of the first three, this one is my least favorite. Granted, it is still thoroughly enjoyable. It has longer stories but some of them feel like filler without as much action as there was in the earlier volumes. Also, the number of slashers in this entry isn’t as large as the earlier stories.

However, at this point in the series, we get more stability. New villains pop up that are bigger than just being one off or two off threats. Samhain, for instance, feels like a presence that will maintain an important position throughout the series as it keeps going. But is Samhain even a villain? Or is he an antihero that out antiheroes our regular antiheroes? He’s a complex and interesting character, almost like the Deadpool of the Hack/Slash universe.

There is a lot more emotional baggage that comes forward in these stories, which contributes to the action not being as much in the forefront as it was previously. That’s okay, as Cassie is dealing with the death of her parents in a really awful way. This book deals with her sorting that out and figuring out what her real place is in the world and how that is going to effect Vlad and others close to her.

While I love the variety in art styles that grace the pages of comic books, this omnibus has so many drastic changes in style that it is a distraction. Maybe seeing each issue as a separate piece is a better way to approach it but as I was thumbing through the pages of this big collection, it just jumped around too much stylistically and the changes were quite drastic. Not to say any of the art was bad, it was all good but it messes with the tone.

This third omnibus sits in the middle of the five. This is the Wednesday of the series, or the hump day. It connects the beginning with the end and is a bridge that looks back at what’s happened and sets the stage for what’s still to come. It mostly works and it still leaves me excited to finally read the last two books and to see how the end of this story plays out.

Comic Review: Hack/Slash – Omnibus Two

Reworking my way through the Hack/Slash comic series, I have now finished the second omnibus.

Revisiting this series has been a lot of fun and I’m doing it to refresh my memory, as I am a bit behind and need to read the fourth and fifth omnibuses, as I last stopped at the third.

In this collection, the series really finds its footing. The series begins to really take shape, as Cassie Hack’s team of allies start to come together to create something bigger than just her and Vlad taking on slashers. The people she has saved and helped, up to this point, want to assist her in her noble fight by putting their talents to use from wherever they are.

The stories in this volume are more fleshed out and not just one-offs. This collection is also capped off with a crossover between Hack/Slash and Re-Animator. In fact, the Re-Animator story works as a sequel to the film series, following the events of the three movies but tying the character of Dr. Herbert West to the family affairs of Cassie Hack.

This omnibus has a good mix of artists. One story in the book also takes on the form of a classic Archie comic in its visual style.

Cassie and Vlad’s relationship develops deeper and we also get to see possible love interests for both characters enter the picture. Plus, we get the introduction of my favorite demon dog Pooch, a talking, grotesque but very comedic mutt from the depths of Nef, a special kind of Lovecraftian Hell.

I prefer this omnibus to the first, even though the first was a great introduction to the series. Now the series feels more lived in, the characters have more depth and the relationships are blossoming into something more complex than just victims appreciating the hero. The emotionally complex hero now has people that she can put that emotion into, as well as her trust.

Comic Review: Hack/Slash – Omnibus One

Since it is just about time for Halloween, I wanted to revisit my favorite horror comic book series. No, it isn’t The Walking Dead, it is this great series by Tim Seeley and originally Devil’s Due Publishing (before Image Comics picked up the series).

I didn’t read Hack/Slash until the first omnibus was published. Since then, there have been five omnibuses to date, each coming in at around 300 pages, which equates to about ten regular sized comic books. This one covers the first several stories put to paper.

Hack/Slash follows Casey Hack, a girl who is an outsider that would rather hunt down slashers than try to conform to a normal life. She is aided by her very large sidekick Vlad, a Hulk-sized slasher looking guy in a gas mask. The slashers that she hunts are of the Hollywood variety. They aren’t just gimmicky serial killers though, they are essentially undead and incredibly hard to kill like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers.

In this omnibus, we get the first story, see Cassie and Vlad’s origins and get to see them take on a myriad of evil slashers. We even get to see her face off against Chucky and Eddie the Head, the mascot of the thrash metal band Iron Maiden.

The stories are well-drawn and the plots are really entertaining. Hack/Slash uses a lot of humor to balance out the horror and dread. It feels like a true throwback to the 1980s slasher era and adds in a mix of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although, Cassie is much cooler than Buffy and Vlad is a better sidekick than any of the people from the Buffyverse.

This is one of my favorite comic book series of all-time and this is the best starting point for anyone who wants to check it out.