The Scorched #1 comes off the heels of a year filled with Todd McFarlane’s creations getting their series launches in the forms of Spawn’s Universe #1, King Spawn #1, and Gunslinger Spawn #1. The intention is to bring over thirty years of Spawn characters into a single series while recruiting some of the best talent comics have to offer. Unfortunately, The Scorched #1 is off to a rocky start. It’s a mixed bag of talent putting their best feet forward, but the story falls flat, the threat feels underwhelming, and in the case of the first issue, the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts.
A pious Russian military division plans to rewrite their own bible in blood, forcing the original Spawn’s hand. Al Simmons brings together a group of Spawns to oppose them. Redeemer, Medieval Spawn, and She-Spawn come together to form a powerful – albeit somewhat broken – team. But She-Spawn has her own agenda and brings in the team’s proverbial “wild card,” Gunslinger Spawn. Heaven, hell, and humanity is at the forefront of things to come.
According to McFarlane:
The Scorched will allow myself and the creative team to bring in a rotating cast of heroes and villains and to have fun creating new characters and storylines.
While that may be the objective of the series, the opening salvo is simply… underwhelming. The big bad is Colonel Krushev, a cold-blooded military mind with a penchant for military weaponry in any form it may take. His plans include a familiar character from the Spawn-verse, which could prove to be on scale with the rest of the team, but that waits to be seen. The team dynamic is at the forefront of the opening issue, with She-Spawn taking point. Other team books use similar energy but tend to have more robust variation in terms of backgrounds and abilities. Think of the many powers and skills involved in an X-Men team, for instance, and how they must manage themselves on and off the field of battle.
With that in mind, writer Sean Lewis attempts to bring out each character’s personality to distinguish each Spawn from their counterparts truly. It works to a degree, but even with 48 pages, it just isn’t enough. As a result, Redeemer, Al Simmons, and Medieval Spawn take a back seat to She-Spawn and Gunslinger Spawn. Ideally, each member will eventually get their time to shine, but that isn’t the case here. Preferably, many of the Spawns touted in the previews are given a greater spotlight. Unfortunately, the execution leaves plenty to be desired.
Thankfully, the dichotomy between Gunslinger Spawn and She-Spawn is an interesting enough plot point. She-Spawn (Jessica Priest) becomes an impromptu team leader, recruiting Gunslinger Spawn for his brutality, the very thing that proves to be a point of contention in their ranks. It will be interesting to see how the crew moves forward and if Gunslinger Spawn can co-exist with the rest of the team and their pending missions. Not to mention that Al Simmons didn’t recruit Gunslinger Spawn for a reason. Expect things to explode when he finds out.
One story point that helps is the inclusion of an omniscient narrator. With so many moving parts, and three decades’ worth of story/history, even the most fervent of Spawn fans have a lot to remember. An all-knowing narrator can provide the information new readers need to catch up while setting the tone of a particular scene. Also, considering that McFarlane clearly indicated that Scorched would have a rotating cast, it makes sense to have a narrator that can balance the many personalities involved and pivot to new members as they enter the series.
Lewis manages to keep the action-heavy in terms of pace, but the plot is as cookie-cutter as they come. The issue opens with a potential cliffhanger, only to cut to a flashback of events that eventually lead to that scene. Most of the issue builds up to this moment, but at no point does the audience feel wowed by the revelation of how they arrived at this stage of the narrative. The plot could have been told sequentially and still had as much impact. There is plenty of fighting and bloodletting to satisfy most fans and remain faithful to the Spawn series as a whole, but nothing about the series feels fresh. With plenty more to come, however, that could change.
By far, the best aspect of the issue is the artwork of Stephen Segovia and Paulo Siqueira. The artwork shifts mid-story dramatically, but each artist’s unique style works well to carry the underwhelming plot thus far. In addition, the team eases readers into the transition by including a series of pages that breaks up the action. It consists of government documents that inform the reader and almost seamlessly shift into the new aesthetic.
Long-time Spawn fans will be pleased with The Scorched #1, with their years of fandom and knowledge of the characters helping elevate the story. But newcomers may feel out of sorts and left wanting. While the idea of The Scorched was meant to reach lofty goals, the result is anything but. There is plenty to improve upon as the series continues, but The Scorched #1 doesn’t deliver as expected in its opening chapter.
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