Written by: Justin Jordan
Art by: John Bivens
Colours by: Felipse Sobreiro
Lettering by: Crank!
Cover by: Kyle Strahm,Felipe Sobreiro
Published: Image Comics
Last month, Issue #21 of Spread (Image Comics) crawled back onto our shelves. The lucky blackjack issue acts as a sort of curtain-closer for the story arc “Outside”, and sets the stage for the final showdown in the series. The last pages, written by co-creator Justin Jordan, hint that the next arc (the story’s last) won’t stretch far beyond Issue #25. As a result, it’s no surprise that this finale packs all the teeth, blood and gore we’ve come to expect from the comic.
To carve you out some background, here’s the sales pitch for the original six issues in the series: Ten years ago, we dug too deep and unleashed something we couldn’t control. Something that twisted and warped every living thing in its path. Something that remade the world in its own image. The Spread. One man has found a child who could save the world, but he has to fight monsters, raiders, cannibals, religious fanatics, and one cranky baby to do it.
Hundreds of red-run pages later, we find our heroes-No, Molly and Hope-fighting alongside the Shield Maidens to escape the clutches of Ravello. The soft spoken villain, who has been taken by the Spread itself, catches them in an ambush in his quest to finally destroy the baby who can defeat the Spread’s power. The ensuing battle rages across several pages as No and the remnants of humanity struggle to escape the slithering clutches of the Spread.
Kyle Strahm and Felipe Sobreiro team up again to give us another powerful cover for this issue. The image of an axe, buried in the stretching fingers of the Spread, is almost swallowed by the black colour that it’s set to. It’s a background that echoes the issue’s underground fight scene as much as it does the series overall turn towards a darker tone. Spread has never shied away from horror or naked violence, but in this issue the pages almost bleed desperation too. It’s made me wonder whether we’ll even get the happy ending our heroes have been fighting for.
John Bivens (art) does a wonderful job in this issue, especially in the wide, Scorsese-style shots that have to pack in the carnage of battle while still giving us that cramped underground feeling as though we’re being choked by the Spread itself. Even so, I enjoyed the artwork a deal more when Kyle Strahm was at the helm. The original red-on-white wastelands and grainy characters were haunting, while now the art feels more rounded. Ironically, it’s this fleshing out of the artwork which makes Spread feel less scary.
Overall, it’s a series that’s no longer gnawing on bones as it once was. Instead, it seems as if the monster is retreating. I’ll likely read on until the comic finishes, but in this case, perhaps Spread just had one too many twists in its red tale.