“Spawn” #250 is a landmark issue that sees the end of Jim Downing’s time as the host of the Hellspawn symbiote and the return of Al Simmons as the caretaker of the title. It’s a beautiful book that features Szymon Kudranski’s final installment as series artist. Unfortunately, this is a 59 page story that could have been told in 22 thanks to a densely verbose script by series creator Todd McFarlane.
In the issue, an unknown infestation of bugs and bats has swarmed over New York City and, through a mystery, Jim Downing returns to the Dead Zone where Al Simmons died to rid himself of the Hellspawn symbiote once and for all. It takes entirely too long for these events to transpire. It’s a repetitive, arduous script to push through, often repeating itself and the points it wants to make. There are multiple instances where characters hammer home the point that the bugs are so plentiful that they cannot be removed, a fact that could easily be shown on a single page or across three panels if need be.
There is a lot of standing around and talking about a disaster in strategic locations like city hall and the Pentagon but a severe lack of the actual events of the infestation — too much tell and not enough show. McFarlane’s penchant for uneven plotting endures nearly 22 years into the book as Spawn himself doesn’t appear until nearly a third of the way through. The reader spends almost half the time with emergency responders, Same and Twitch, who are putting together the pieces of the puzzle incorrectly. Twitch believes he’s cracked the code and it’s played for dramatic effect, only for the narration to tell the reader that they were definitely wrong. McFarlane explains to us that the bugs are here for Downing but they don’t really do anything to convey that point. At no point does the swarm proactively attack the character, merely distracting him as Downing returns to the scene of Al Simmons’ suicide. In fact, it’s Downing himself that is the real threat, rather hilariously blowing through a building full of people and killing a few in his effort to get to the alley. He’s labeled a savior but does nothing to save anyone.
The book is beautiful to look at, which makes sense considering this is a McFarlane Studios comic book. Kudranski and colorist FCO Plascencia deliver an atmospheric tale full of grime. The swarm looks and feels disgusting when it’s shown and, as the story moves into a supernatural standoff between Downing and the symbiote, there are plenty of chances for the coloring to dazzle with great visual effects. With the script being so dense, it also calls attention to the tremendous lettering work of Tom Orzechowski, who has been with this book since the beginning. The letters are precise, beautifully laid out and strategically placed on every page to maximum effect. His dialogue is top notch and his narrative boxes are also outstanding. I haven’t been this impressed with a lettering job in a long time.
While it’s a great accomplishment to reach this issue, unfortunately there isn’t enough happening in the book to recommend picking it up. Longtime readers may be disappointed when Downing is almost literally swept under the rug, and new or returning readers would be better off looking into next month’s “Spawn Resurrection” #1 before returning for the next sequentially numbered issue.