Saturday, March 29, 2008

Random Comic Review: The Spirit

I am starting a new feature around here, the random comic review.  Well, technically, I suppose it started when I reviewed The Immortal Iron Fist, but now it has a fancy new name!

First up is the comic series The Spirit.  Now, as some of you may know, the Spirit was originally created by comic legend Will Eisner as a newspaper strip in 1940.  Eisner used the comic to experiment with new art and storytelling techniques and as a result The Spirit is generally considered Eisner's masterwork. 

As great as the original is, I am actually going to review the 2007 revival by Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone.  When DC comics first announced they were reviving the series cries of blasphemy filled the blogosphere.  Eisner's work was held with an almost religious reverence, and it was widely assumed that whoever DC put on the book would screw it up.

Wouldn't you trust this man? Thankfully, Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone were up to the task of reinterpreting The Spirit for a new age. Nominally, the comic was about Denny Colt, a former police detective who took to fighting crime as the Spirit after he was believed to be killed in action.  In realty, the comic was often less about the title character than it was about the fascinating and fun world he lived in.

If I had to use one word to describe The Spirit it would be quirky.  One of my favorite stories involved a villain marketing old Russian army surplus pork and beans to kids by using the Spirit in his advertising.  Another one involved an all girl rock band with blue skin gained by sitting under a blue meteorite in the park when it rained.  Oh, did I mention the meteorite made you high?

What amazes me is these convoluted quirky plot lines were usually setup and finished in a single issue.  It made The Spirit a quick and fun read.  I have to admit The Spirit was always the first book I would read when I got home from the comic shop.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.  Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone left the book with issue twelve.  I had high hopes for the new team, particularly the writer Sergio Aragones.  Unfortunately, the series has lost the strange alchemy Cooke and Bone used to create the unique crime noir/comedy/post-modern/humanistic  feel of the book.  I will likely be dropping the book from my monthly comic order.

Well, it was wonderful while it lasted.  C'est la vie!