Review: Will Eisner’s The Spirit #1

TNSpirit01CovAPowell“Who killed The Spirit?”

I must say this was just a good ol’ fashioned reminder of what was the Golden Age of comics. The Spirit is a character (created by master comic book legend Will Eisner) who has been around since 1940 and reading this harkened back to that time period. For those who are unaware, The Spirit is the crime fighting alter ego of hardboiled private detective Denny Colt. The quick easy explanation is one night on the trail of his arch-enemy Dr. Cobra, Denny barges brazenly into a fight and in the process of getting shot at is exposed to a chemical which “kills” him in the line of duty. Long time fans know though, Denny Colt does not die. He was actually in a state of suspended animation and he comes back to fight crime. (Perfectly acceptable comic book logic there.)

Now this latest volume from Dynamite Entertainment serves as our reintroduction to The Spirit and his world. When I read who would be helming this project I was excited. Matt Wagner who is a long time fan of Will Eisner and pulp comics, made me feel this would be in terrific hands. I had only wished he was drawing in addition to scripting the book. Nevertheless I remained very hopeful.

The issue opens up with a splash page of a Central City Gazette Newspaper and it’s headline “Who killed The Spirit?” I like how the date is blurred out but from the surroundings and the rest of the comic you can tell it’s supposed to be in the  1940’s. Leaving it blurred allows for the reader to have a suspension of disbelief and keeps the story timeless. (Something that all comics should be in my humble opinion) Immediately after the splash page we are reintroduced to Commissioner Dolan, who is being interrogated by a newshound demanding he reveals what he knows about The Masked Mystery Man’s disappearance. Of course Dolan brushes it off by stating he knows what we all know, and that’s nothing.  Refreshingly the reporter states he doesn’t believe it as there is way too close of a connection to the late Mr. Colt and the good commissioner. (Good for him, a reporter with brains in the Golden Age is rare)

Dolan gets to his office for a reprieve to think to himself about the events that lead to Denny Colt becoming The Spirit and in the process reintroduce his origins to new readers. As he’s reminiscing, the arrival of his daughter Ellen (a striking blonde beauty usually clad in all white, who just happened to be love of our masked hero’s former life) She’s there to introduce her daddy to her new beau Archibald Shale who is up and coming on the fast track to be a district attorney. Dolan exchanges pleasantries and Ellen shows Archie out of the room for a moment of private time with her father. The Commissioner says a comment alluding to his daughters relationship with Shale being a sham, and Ellen gets defensive. Commissioner Dolan reminds her of what today is the anniversary of. Ellen then says it’s been two years since Denny’s death and she’s moved on. She had to. On her way out of the office though she breaks down to her dad that she really misses him. Dolan replies to his daughter “We all miss him.” “All of us.”

We then switch gears and go across town to the office door of Strunk & White: Private Investigators. One of the partners is actually Ebony White, long time sidekick of The Spirit now out on his own. Apparently the fledgling team is having trouble drumming up clientele and they are willing to take just about any case to keep the doors open. Sammy Strunk the younger partner to Ebony heads out with him on the case. There is a scene in the car where he asks Ebony what his real name is (Obviously his parents did not name him Ebony White or they have no sense of irony) and it’s a funny little moment.

After the name revelation, the rest of the issue features the introduction of a new character and a new direction as the former sidekick decides to honor his mentor by finding out what happened to him. This obviously sets up the tone for the new series and giving some face time to the supporting cast which I am ok with to start out.

Overall: This was a fun little read, but it read quite too quickly. I wanted a little bit more from this team’s opening salvo as I have always been a fan of The Spirit character and pulp comic heroes in general. I thought it was cool to reintroduce the audience by fleshing out the supporting cast without the title hero around (reminded me of the episode of Arrow where the team has to endure in Ollie’s absence) but it’s something that can only be done for an issue or two before it becomes tiresome. The writing is good enough and faithful to the source material, but I expect a little more oomph from Matt Wagner and I hope his turns it up a notch in subsequent issues. The art however I had a major disconnect with. I know it’s supposed to be presented in the style of comics in the 40’s with the simple page layouts and even the word balloon imaging but this was a definite miss. This was my first introduction to Dan Schkade’s art and it was just far too inconsistent. Main characters like The Spirit, Commissioner Dolan and Ellen were all rendered great, but any of the minor characters all came off looking very childlike. I’m hoping the art improves as he progresses because it really took me out of the story. I wish this title great success as it has so much to offer. I can’t wait to see what makes The Spirit comics great: Action, mystery, jaw dropping death traps, femme fatales, fisticuffs and did I mention the Femme Fatales? Unlike the hero himself, I hope this title doesn’t stay in suspended animation too long.

 

Story: Matt Wagner Art: Dan Schenke
Story: 7.5 Art: 5 Overall: 6 Recommendation: Read (for The Spirit fans)