Welcome back to First Strike, as we take a look at our favorite heroes' first published encounters with their deadliest villains! Given the recent announcement about the new Spawn movie, now seems a good time to delve into his first battle with his most famous foe - the Violator!
We're first introduced to the Violator in his alter-ego of the Clown, bragging to a cat about how awesome he is and all the brutal, grotesque things he's going to do to...someone. Intercut with Spawn recalling more details of his life, we get some scenes of a monstrous, emaciated horned creature murdering crime lords - and in an admittedly interesting twist, the creature turns out to be the Violator's true form. After the Clown generally makes a nuisance of himself to Spawn, by issue #4, he's finally provoked a fight (much of which happens off panel, much to my annoyance). The battle is interrupted by Malebolgia himself, who provides some helpful exposition about Spawn and revealing his true purpose. Malebolgia is also less than pleased with how the Violator has handled his current assignment, and as a punishment, he traps him in his Clown form. The battle over, the two combatants go their separate ways, certain to meet again.
When he isn't killing mob bosses or endlessly yakking about how much of a badass he is (although to be fair, he can put his money where his mouth is), there's not really much substance to the guy. He resents humans for supposedly not being strong enough to lead the armies of Hell, and he doesn't seem to like having to train Spawns to do so, but that's all we get. The Clown/Violator dual identity is interesting, but feels more like a case of style and gimmick over substance, and the reveal of that dual identity at the end of Spawn #2 doesn't carry over with any payoff at the beginning of Spawn #3 (one of numerous instances of choppy storytelling in these first few issues). Some seeds have been planted for a rivalry, but I'm left wanting a lot more - especially a fight between these two that doesn't take place almost completely OFF-PANEL.
I hesitate to call the Violator's debut "bad," but there were a lot of story flaws that kept it from being as good as it could have been. If you enjoy it, by all means, keep enjoying it and don't let this editorial prevent you from doing so. If you still want to check it out for yourself, either in a trade paperback or even the original issues, go for it. Just be prepared for a potentially underwhelming experience.