Batman/Spawn: War Devil Dc/Image Comics Review
By: John C. Mayberry
The Hellspawn and the Dark Knight of Gotham were, as popular as they continue to be now, certainly two of the most recognizable characters that would come to mind when speaking on the subject of the darker, edgier heroes of the early 90s. The team-up of many fan’s daydreams would inevitably happen with the crossover one-shot Batman/Spawn: War Devil, with artwork by Klaus Jansen and co-written by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, and Alan Grant. The story takes place sometime early after Al Simmons’ return as a Hellspawn, as pieces of his memory are still coming back piece by piece as Batman is simultaneously looking for a mutual person of interest… someone Al Simmons remembers. With the premise of a dark story involving two immensely popular heroes pairing up, this one-shot likely proved to be something that must have sold quickly when first printed.
Upon reading the first page the reader is treated to something interesting in that they saw that the main story would be set against the real-life mystery of the disappearance of the Roanoke Colony in 1590, where the word “Croatoan” was the only visible, but cryptic clue ever seen. We begin by seeing a brief segment about the Roanoke Colony three years before their disappearance, where a baby girl is born, now increasing the population to one hundred. The girl is named Virginia Dare, whose surname does come out later in the story. Fast forward to a modern day Gotham where Batman is in the middle of investigating the criminal Virgil Dare, who is presumably a descendant of Virginia Dare?
Since he believes Dare could lead him to the so-called “big time apes” that are responsible for the shipment of explosives he just stopped, who he’s suspecting in possible acts of terrorism involving real estate previously owned by Wayne Enterprises. Elsewhere, Spawn is lamenting on the fact that his memories are not complete and that what he does remember is just in pieces that don’t make sense. Until he sees the face of a man named Simon Vesper, who he remembers being hired to kill six years prior, alive and well and about to open his Gotham Tower. With both Batman and Spawn seeking answers from a mutual person of interest, Batman wanting to solve the murder Al Simmons committed against Vesper, and Spawn seeking what could be another connection to his past.
Inevitably encountering each other as their investigations lead them to a more sinister plot, the reader is treated in a crossover that everyone, no doubt, was waiting anxiously for. Not without its flaws, however, since the very fast-paced story and also unfortunately contains an unresolved plot hole, which could confuse some readers. Reading this one-shot the you can see the story the writers are trying to tell, just not as spread out or as intricate as it could’ve been. Otherwise, for hardcore fans of Batman or Spawn, this is still a nice little addition to your collection.
- The team-up of two popular characters – Batman and Spawn are as popular as they’ve ever been, especially in the early 90s, where the dark and brooding comic book characters were experiencing a surge in popularity, possibly due to the success of dark and gritty stories like Watchmen or Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Teaming them up was sure to generate a massive audience.
- The plot – The story is set against the mystery of the disappearance of the Roanoke Colony. With both protagonists the plot thickens until they find out the true evil behind the story’s events. Compliments the dark and gritty natures of both characters.
- Artwork – Another excellent display of Klaus Jansen’s skill, whose work on Batman can also be seen in the stories Batman: Death and the Maidens and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Some poses may look a tad awkward, the inking in few parts also taking away some details, but minor complaints only as the artwork throughout is still great.
- Story pacing – The story progresses very quickly, and as a result what could have been something great ends up feeling rushed, and not as fully fleshed out as it needed to be. This may cause some confusion while taking the reader out of the story itself simultaneously.
- No real conflict – Due to the fast-paced story, there also really isn’t much of a challenge for the protagonists to face at all. Once they do encounter the great evil really behind the events, the battle is over too quickly, and seems more like something that should have served as a single panel rather than the story’s concluding events. What we’re left with instead is the slight disappointment of not seeing a more climatic battle.
- No real connection between the protagonists – At one point there appears to be a moment of understanding between Batman and Spawn, but feels out of place since, also due to the fast storytelling, they seemingly rarely spend much time together to investigate the mystery to be able to have any sort of connection.
- Plot hole – The tie between the characters Virginia Dare and Virgil Dare seems to be an obvious familial one, but there are a couple of things that are never explained or resolved. For one, when the Roanoke Colony vanished, it is only surmised that Virginia survived somehow, or was able to hide but that is never made clear, it just happens. Just as well, it is never explained why Virgil was so important to the story’s plot. The reader will be left to merely guess what might have happened, which would confuse them even more.
OVERALL RATING – 6 out of 10
Batman/Spawn: War Devil I’m sure was highly anticipated when it was announced and finally released, but it would unfortunately be a disappointment for readers everywhere. The premise and the team-up were an excellent idea, but just rushed and not given the time it deserved to be better than what we got. The excellent inter-company crossover we could have gotten instead was replaced with a story with somewhat confusing events, unresolved plot points and pacing that was so fast you may feel like you just read only one page of the Sunday funnies. Nevertheless, this is at least a good collectable to keep in your collection.