Will Eisner’s/Darwyn Cooke’s The Spirit
Okay, though I know nothing about it, I expect The Spirit comes from the same original era as Batman, The Shadow, and The Whistler, but that didn’t stop me from really enjoying this. After all, it’s Darwyn Cooke!
Cooke, consciously or unconsciously, has been emulating Russell T Davies in the series reboot arena. The first story of The Spirit, “Ice Ginger Coffee,” does not expect you to know anything about The Spirit and doesn’t dump a bunch of backstory into your lap. There’s a reporter who’s walking the thin line between assertive and excessively annoying and a disgusting villain named Mr Weinstock (I think his head used to be a cheesecake). The Spirit aka Denny Colt himself makes one of the most memorable entrances in comics ever, and a fast-paced chase, punctuated by Ginger Coffee’s irritating speeches, ensues, culminating with the arrival of The Spirit’s sidekick, Ebony, who drove a cab (one assumes) decades before Short Round did it.
GINGER COFFEE: You’re playin’ me, right? I mean, when you get home, do you stand on this guy’s law with a lantern or what?
THE SPIRIT: No, it’s Tuesday. I stand on his lawn tonight.
“The Manhunter” introduces the problematic femme fatale P’gell as well as the amusing character Hussein. It isn’t until “Resurrection” that we get the backstory (no more or less incredible, really, than Batman’s origin story) for the Spirit, and by that time we’re gagging to know. There are quite a few different monologues/POVs in this story; I’m not sure how well that will stand up to repeated scrutiny, but during the first read through, it only increased the pace.
“Hard Like Satin” has one of the best issue covers I’ve ever seen in my entire life. The character of Silk Satin is about as problematic as P’gell and Ginger Coffee (ie, irritating), but she has her moments (I have to believe, however, that she got into the CIA the way Jo Grant got into UNIT). And it’s the reintroduction of Hussein, who is entertaining highlight of the story. “Media Man” is a teasing story that reminds me a tiny bit of Firefly. Mr Carrion and Julia his buzzard must be one of the strangest villain pairs in comic history. “Almost Blue” is the most Love and Rockets of the collection, which makes for a strange and satisfying combination.
Of course, me being me, I was most wowed by the Batman/The Spirit mega-mash-up at the end, epitomized by yet another gorgeous cover. It begins with Gordon and Dolan, his counterpart in The Spirit, musing over the “Missing Adventure” of “How the Spirit Met Batman.” The Joker and Harley have some great stuff in this story (they’re definitely enjoying themselves in Hawaii).
HARLEY: Now then. Who wants drinky-poos? Catwoman? I make a mean pink pussycat!
Dolan has been seduced by Poison Ivy, looking better than I’ve ever seen her drawn; Gordon has likewise been seduced by P’gell. The scene at the Masquerade Ball is just hilarious because Dolan has come as Sherlock Holmes and Ivy as Watson—complete with moustache! Catwoman tries to seduce The Spirit, but it doesn’t go according to plan.
THE SPIRIT: You sure like telling other people what to do!
I love the way The Spirit’s drawn, I love his costume, I love his self-depecating humor and the fact that he’s another superhero (if that) without superpowers (other than, like Jack Harkness, surviving when he should have died). I’d like to see better female characters in the next volume; giving them ridiculous names is just demeaning as well.