Overview: In Batman/Spawn #1, Batman and Spawn must get past their differences to root out the demons pulling their strings.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Batman/Spawn #1 opens with Spawn recounting his encounter with Batman when he entered a new world in search of the soul of his deceased wife, Wanda. There, he met the Black Beast, Batman, and the two formed a bond over their shared vengeance for those they couldn’t save. But it nearly didn’t turn out this way. Spawn had been told to seek out Batman to force the Dark Knight to open a portal.
On the anniversary of the death of the Waynes, Batman is called to Crime Alley. He is taunted by a member of the Court of Owls, who uses his mother’s pearls to harass Batman. Suddenly, Spawn attacks, and the two fight, Spawn quickly gaining the upper hand. When Spawn realizes that Batman is human, he balks, which allows Batman to fight back. The two are locked in an even battle now, with the Court of Owls watching.
Members of the Court from Gotham want Batman to die, but there are other members from Spawn’s universe who want to see Batman win. During a break in the fighting, Batman uses it to try and talk with Spawn. Spawn wants his wife’s soul, whom he has been told Batman is keeping.
Elsewhere, the Court of Owls meets, and they decide to send a Talon into the fray to exploit both Batman and Spawn’s weaknesses.
At the Batcave, Batman and Spawn talk this through. Their exchange is heated, but they agree that their respective Courts need to be taken down. They then go out and look for clues, arriving at Joker’s hideout. This version of the Joker is the one during Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on the Batman title, as he has his face carved off.
Joker gives them another clue, telling them he’ll help because he wants to get rid of the Court of Owls too. When Batman and Spawn leave, Joker is surrounded by miniature Violators, and it seems that Joker and Violator are in cahoots.
Talon meets with the leader of the Court of Owls. It seems they have a plan of their own. They need Batman to build a device and open a portal through which they can gain access to the cosmos and further entrench their control.
Batman and Spawn head to Arkham Asylum, which has a dead zone they can use for their device, which can save the souls of Martha Wayne and Wanda Blake. At Arkham, Spawn gets into a fight with Talon, who exhibits magical powers of his own.
The leader of the Court of Owls joins, and Batman takes him on. During the battle, Spawn dons the appearance of Batman and murders the Owl. As the inmates of Arkham watch, Spawn argues it’ll give them a greater reason to fear the real Batman.
Talon gets the drop of Spawn and threatens to slit Spawn’s throat unless Batman opens a portal. Batman reminds Talon that Talon spoke aloud of how he created Batman. All Batman has to do is open every cell in Arkham, and the inmates will tear Talon apart.
Spawn regains control of the situation, and when Batman says the word, Spawn readies himself. Batman kicks Talon, and Spawn catches the fiend in his cape, taking him to the darkness.
Batman picks up a pearl that Talon dropped, wondering if the pearl ever mattered. Elsewhere, Wanda sees the Bat-signal, unsure of its meaning. In another universe, Martha Wayne enters a church. Still elsewhere within a void, Violator notes that everything is going according to plan.
Analysis: There are two types of comic fans in this world — those who love Todd McFarlane’s gritty, drenched-in-anguish-and-darkness narration and those who don’t. If you’re on board with McFarlane’s moody and stylistic tone, then Batman/Spawn #1 is the right book for you. For those who find the beat-you-over-the-head tone of classic Spawn exhausting, Batman/Spawn #1 is the very definition of fatigue.
For longtime Spawn fans, it was never really about the storytelling or the narration anyway. Spawn is a book born of gripping and haunting art, ushered into the world by a man whose talents cannot be imitated. In Batman/Spawn #1, art duties are handed over primarily to Greg Capullo, who does a phenomenal job of splicing the visual aesthetic of Spawn with Capullo’s now-classic designs for Batman.
The plot for Batman/Spawn #1 doesn’t make a lick of sense. It’s something about a demon trying to convince both Batman and Spawn that they have to save the souls of their respective loved ones. The two creatures of the night duke it out, and then they discover that each respective hero has his own “Court of Owls” to fight, finally teaming up to take down Talon and Gotham’s Court of Owls. Oh yeah — Capullo’s classic design for the Joker makes a pointless cameo, too.
The plot isn’t worth extrapolating on because that’s not what this book was ever going to be about. We’d be lying to ourselves if we, as readers, said we were here for the gripping story. This book is about Todd McFarlane returning to DC and bringing Spawn back for another go-around. It’s about wild, crazy art with bombastic fights, blood, and a really heavy mood (and gorgeous colors by Dave McCaig). As mentioned earlier, longtime Spawn devotees may talk a big game about Al Simmons’ backstory, but that’s all bluff and bluster. Spawn has always been about art, and it’s no surprise that his most recent team-up with Batman carries on that tradition. Readers will forget about the story when they close this book, but the stunning cover for Batman/Spawn #1 will be cherished forever. It’ll probably look fantastic behind glass on the wall somewhere, next to all of the other covers for Batman/Spawn #1.
Speaking of which, have you seen how many covers there are for this book?! There are fifteen covers (by my count), each one beautiful and a work of art in its own right.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally on Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title through Things From Another World.