Al Simmons was your ordinary government assassin, until one day he was killed in the line of fire. Making a deal a demon lord named Malebolgia, Simmons is promised that he can return to Earth to see his wife Wanda but he must become a Hellspawn and serve in the demon’s army. Now Spawn has a choice: give in to his darker side and commit acts in the name of Hell, or overcome the evil that’s inside of him and become a hero.
Today I’m looking at the fourth episode of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, “Dominoes.”
1. Day and Night
A surprising amount of this episode takes place during the daytime, and it’s crazy how different the show looks when it isn’t a wash of moody shadows. The episode opens with a couple of city shots during sunrise where the sky is painted with these soothing pastels. Eisner award winning colorist Steve Oliff was a Color Consultant for the series and these morning shots really show off his palette. Oliff was also the colorist for the first 40 or so issues of “Spawn.” There’s a later scene set in a park, and we get a full shot of Spawn in the daylight that looks incredibly menacing. He’s this giant void of black that engulfs the scene and his victim.
Here’s a couple of nice shots (I wish there was a HD remaster of the series):
2. Angela: Assassin
We had the first appearance of Chapel last episode and now we’ve got a new player in the mix: the angelic assassin Angela! She arrives into the city by train (is this set in New York? They never established that) and makes her way to a monolithic office building where all of the angels work out of, apparently (It’s known as the Terran Affairs Headquarters in the comics, but there’s no mention of that name here). She slayed the last two Hellspawn (we get a brief glimpse at Medieval Spawn) and is extremely pissed that no one told her about the new Hellspawn. Angela’s been benched by her boss, Gabrielle, even though you’d think killing a powerful soldier in Hell’s army would take precedence over petty bureaucracy. For an eternal war between Heaven and Hell, the Heaven side doesn’t seem particularly motivated.
Fun fact: Denise Poirier who plays Angela also voiced Aeon in Aeon Flux.
An investigator, Max, who’s friends with Wanda has uncovered a ton of dirt in regards to Kyle Watson. The fingerprints of the actual killer were found on one of the victim’s eyeballs but that evidence was buried. It’s a conspiracy that goes beyond the police. Wanda is getting closer to the truth, but the closer she gets the more danger she’s putting herself in (she was being trailed and photographed by a government photographer). Detectives Sam and Twitch are slowing piecing together the larger picture from all of the different alleyway murders. Despite Spawn warning Twist to stay away from his alleyway or suffer the consequences, Wynn demands the mob boss meet with him. We also learn that Terry, Al’s old best-friend and Wanda’s husband, works for Wynn and is in charge of keeping track of CIA ordnance. As for Spawn, he’s still moping around the alley. The crossover of everyone’s story is ramping up and there’s definitely a showdown between Spawn, the police and Wynn’s criminal empire on the horizon.
4. Editing Woes
In the first scene with Angela she fights two thugs in an alleyway. It’s supposed to be a cool moment that shows off how deadly Angela is – which admittedly, it does do – but the show’s weird editing choices lessens most of its impact. There’s a recurring effect used throughout the series where the screen will flash with a negative version of the shot, distorting it and cutting really quickly. It works well when it’s used to show one of Spawn’s nightmarish visions, but when it’s used in fight scenes it’s too confusing. None of the hits have any weight to them.
5. Legal Woes
Here’s something that bothered me: Nowhere in the credits is Neil Gaiman listed as co-creator of Angela. Looking back through the series’ credits there are no co-creator credits for Cogliostro either, who was also co-created by Gaiman in “Spawn” #9. Considering how heavily he features in this series that’s a real bad look – although not surprising, considering McFarlane’s relationship with the Gaiman-created characters. In 1997, Gaiman signed a deal waiving his rights to the Angela and Cogliostro in exchange for what McFarlane owned of the superhero Marvelman (as it turns out, it was just logos). Gaiman would later sue McFarlane in 2002 over the ownership of Angela, Cogliostro and Medieval Spawn along with all of the royalties he didn’t receive for them, which I imagine includes this series.