As some of you may or perhaps may not know, DC Comics and Image Comics made a deal at one point in 1994 to produce one-shot books in which the two companies crossed over their biggest titles Batman and Spawn. My roommate scored a rare copy of Image’s Spawn/Batman written by Frank Miller and art by Todd McFarlane at this April’s Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo while I pulled an easy to find copy of DC’s Batman/Spawn. I decided to take advantage of this and compare the two books as they are done in completely polar opposite ways to each other.
When it comes to the overall plot, on the one hand you have these two massive names going up against each other in these stories for sheer spectacle alone but you also have the second more bias hand that allows the publisher to tell any stories they desire. To really explain where I am going with this, the first most prevalent thing that stands out after reading these two books is that Image decided to make a big spectacle out of this crossover and shows how Batman can’t beat Spawn to the point where Spawn kills Batman and THEN revives him. DC’s take on the crossover left a lot to be desired and focused mainly on having Batman as an ultimate ninja that brings Spawn into his circle to stop crime in Gotham and teaches Spawn a lesson about how to be a detective. Image’s story was much better and really make this crossover a spectacle to be witnessed. DC kind of produced this story just to cross over the two characters without putting any real effort or substance into their story.
Art comes down to style in this comparison. First you have Todd McFarlane’s art style which is really nice and full of colour but my only gripe with his art is that he draws Batman smiling too much and the cowl and face panels look really weird for Batman art. Not only that, but Alfred Pennyworth’s art looks really disproportionate to a human’s physical structure and his head is shaped like a narrow pill or a Mike & Ike candy making the art really off-putting. Public spaces and Spawn are drawn really well however, despite my issues with the uncanny valley looking Batman. Klaus Janson did the art for Batman/Spawn War Devil which is a nice gritty art style and done with great detail. While McFarlane’s art feels much more like a modern art style, Janson’s art style makes this story feel older or more mature. Janson draws Batman with great accurate detail and also draws him in a well drawn suit comparable to the Batman: The Animated Series. Spawn is also drawn really well by Janson and feels like a perfect fit for the Batman universe while the Batman that McFarlane draws doesn’t feel like he would actually exist in Spawn’s universe.
The writing in Spawn/Batman is nice and to the point. Edgy dialogue really does Spawn/Batman well and compliments McFarlane’s art style making one nice stylized package of story and art that mesh really well together. The writing in Batman/Spawn is very much like an issue of Detective Comics where you read a lot of Batman’s inner dialogue as he breaks down the situations he’s in moment by moment and uses his detective/ninja skills to take down Spawn. The writing feels a lot like old Batman and Robin styled stories in how Batman is portrayed as the ultimate detective and teaches lessons left and right. Despite the writing fitting the art style, the whole story just feels lackluster as nothing truly spectacular happens and you are more or less reading about how Batman is diffusing the situations rather than something big happening like Batman dying and being resurrected in Spawn/Batman.
Batman/Spawn is a really good story for Batman fans and fans of his detective style inner monologue. The art is reminiscent of 80s comics but keeps a gritty tone that is suitable for both Batman and Spawn making them feel like they fit in the same universe. The whole book overall leaves no lasting impressions of note and leaves readers feeling like they have just wasted their time. 6/10
Spawn/Batman is by far the better of the two books and is simply strong cohesive story. While the art of Batman from McFarlane leaves something to be desired, people will generally find it a more pleasing and has a more modern art style that current age readers can connect with easily. This book is definitely worth giving a read as it is a pretty hard hitting tale that every Spawn and Batman fan must read. 8/10
~ Tyler Head