The Dark Knight and the unholy avenger Spawn are back together again in the new oversized one-shot special Batman/Spawn #1 by the fan-favorite creative team of Todd McFarlane and Greg Capullo.
With Spawn brought to Gotham City, Al Simmons must learn to overcome his differences with Batman as the two face a mutual threat in the Court of Owls and their fiendish machinations. Across this intercompany crossover, Batman and Spawn learn that they have more in common than simply a propensity for brooding while shrouded in a cape and overlooking their respective cityscapes.
For all their similarities, Batman and Spawns are quite different, even beyond the discrepancy between power sets and crimefighting strategies. This is underscored not just by Batman and Spawn’s latest adventure together but also in the previous crossovers between the DC and Image Comics icons. Here is how Batman and Spawn are quite similar while being vastly different as they battle evil in their own respective ways.
A Dark Knight in Gotham
Batman/Spawn #1 highlights the fact that Bruce Wayne has been fighting ever since he was child, with an emphasis on the loss of Martha Wayne's effect over Bruce since that tragic night in Crime Alley all those years ago. Of note, Batman/Spawn #1 posits that Bruce lost his parents and Al Simmons were both killed on June 26, setting both men on the paths that lead them to take on costumed personas in their respective worlds. However, for all of Batman’s training and resources, he is still fundamentally just a man, a revelation that shocks Spawn when the two heroes first come to blows in McFarlane and Capullo’s special. Bruce doesn’t see this distinction as a weakness but as a strength, forcing him to rely on its wits even more than his body as he fights crime.
The story’s prologue underscores Batman’s crusade as one that has always been driven by that loss of family, with the main story opening as Bruce goes out on patrol on the anniversary of his parents’ murders. This is a Batman who gets a measure of solace from striking fear into the hearts of criminals, but all within a conscious sense of self-restraint. Over the course of Batman and Spawn's joint adventure, Batman knows when to hold himself back, with Spawn providing a portrait of a lethal avenger who is openly willing to cross the line. While Batman holds a begrudging sense of respect for Spawn, he does see Al Simmons as someone who perhaps goes too far.
Spawn of Hell
Al Simmons’ life was also deeply shaped by violence and a lifetime of rigorous training but, in contrast to Bruce, Al chose to kill the wicked long before he put on a cape. As a special forces soldier, Al fought shadow wars all over the world before transitioning to being an assassin for American intelligence agencies. On June 26, Al was betrayed by his superiors and murdered, condemned to eternal torment in Hell for all the carnage he inflicted while alive on Earth.
For all the hellfire and demonic retribution he faced in Hell, the wound that always cut the deepest for Al was the loss of his beloved wife Wanda, a loss which prompted him to sell his soul for a chance to return to Earth to see her. Rising as the hellish warrior Spawn, Al now battles mortals and monsters alike as part of his twisted deal, often out of a sense of his own redemption.
Whereas Batman sees Spawn as going too far in his quest, Spawn sees the Dark Knight as not going nearly far enough, arguing that fear alone isn’t enough to combat evil. As a hero who has fought against the literal forces of Hell, Spawn has a tendency to put his enemies down for good, often as violently as possible to ensure they never get back up again. Batman reminds Al of his lost humanity but also illustrates why being human may not be enough to get the job done, especially with the types of villains that he often confronts.
The differences in strategies and outlooks between these two characters is highlighted at the end of Batman/Spawn #1, with Spawn posing as Batman and murdering one of the Court of Owls’ leaders to make the villains believe the Dark Knight is now more than willing to employ lethal force, heightening their fear of Batman as he parades his kill before a captive audience in Arkham Asylum. Though Batman naturally is opposed to this move, he is preoccupied by a showdown with a Talon, one of the Court of Owls’ assassins. Having reached something of an understanding with Spawn, Batman does not object to Spawn taking the Talon back with him to his world to endure some eternal torment of his own.
Other Avenging Team-Ups
2022’s Batman/Spawn #1 is not the first time the two heroes have crossed paths, with the 1994 one-shot special Spawn/Batman #1 by McFarlane and Frank Miller marking their first official encounter with one another. Rather than taking place in Gotham, this story has Batman and Spawn working together in New York City against a common enemy who creates cybernetic soldiers out of his murder victims while threatening the world with nuclear armageddon. Despite their differences in methodology, the caped crusaders agree to cooperate to stop their mutual enemy and avert disaster.
The two heroes met again later that year in the other 1994 special one-shot Batman/Spawn: War Devil by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant, and Klaus Janson. The crossover story has an occultist using Gotham as a staging ground for a demonic ritual, causing the dead to rise across the city. Spawn arrives to stop Satan’s latest plot from succeeding in unleashing Hell on Earth, with Batman providing timely assistance after triumphing over Spawn in a brief skirmish.
Though Batman and Spawn may never completely see eye-to-eye in how they keep the peace, there is a mutual respect between Bruce Wayne and Al Simmons that leads to them making an effective partnership. Both haunted by loss, Batman uses his grief as crimefighting fuel to ensure that no one else suffers like he did whereas Spawn is looking to save the world by making the hard decisions no one else will.
With each the best they are at what they do, Batman and Spawn’s team-ups highlight how these two heroes align and what sets them drastically apart from one another.
Batman/Spawn #1 is written and inked by Todd McFarlane, penciled by Greg Capullo, colored by Dave McCaig, and lettered by Tom Napolitano. The issue is on sale from DC Comics.
Which is more popular: Spawn or its creator, Todd McFarlane?