Creator Owned

The Spirit #1

Probably about what everyone expected from writer/penciller Darwyn Cooke’s ongoing revival of the Will Eisner character: a playful, respectful slice of entirely straightforward costumed adventurer comics, with some attractive visuals. No more, no less. A little seal of quality on the cover promises Action, Mystery, and Adventure, and all three are present in some quantity, though none of them to excess. Does right was it says on the label, this one.

You’ll be forgiven if you still don’t really know much about the Spirit or his cast by the end of both this thing and the recent Batman/The Spirit one-shot; Cooke handles everyone on the level of pure archetype, so it’s sufficient that the Spirit is a masked hero, and Commissioner Dolan is an authority figure who trusts him, and the villains are bad and ugly and need stopping. The point right now is obviously not character work, it’s offering up slick, light superhero exploits with lots of pretty pictures. The story is ultra-simple: Ginger Coffee, ace television reporter, is kidnapped by the Pill, a villainous gangster, and the Spirit must save her under the 24-hour eye of the news media. Light jokes about annoying news personalities and the like abound, someone die in goopy (though not off-putting) circumstances, and the day is duly saved by issue’s end.

The trick with this comic is that its not as much convincing a revival of Will Eisner’s classic character as it is a convincing revival of Darwyn Cooke doing a monthly comic. Frankly, after (essentially) two issues I’m not sure the new reader can pick up anything particularly noteworthy about the established cast of characters, or the premise, or much of anything Eisner-specific. Cooke treats it all for now as sort of a machine for gallant, old-school superhero comics, the type that goes on for much longer than the average Eisner Spirit epic (though still wraps up by issue’s end) and doesn’t have much in the way of visual invention (as Eisner’s pages are famous for).

It has a lot in the way of visual beauty (inks by J. Bone, colors by Dave Stewart), and Cooke’s action storytelling is as clean and strong as ever, but the overarching feeling is more ‘Darwyn Cooke doing a genteel superhero book’ than anything property-specific, which maybe wouldn’t have stood out so much if this particular property hadn’t been so closely associated with its creator. Batman can be whatever Batman he really wants these days, but the legal indicia happily notes that the Spirit is still owned by the Will Eisner Studios, and applying the character to easygoing-if-unspectacular urban superheroing never feels entirely right outside of Eisner’s hands, even if Ebony has a great entrance. Hey, I felt the same about The New Adventures of the Spirit the last time they tried this.

Still, I’d be silly to claim that you wouldn’t probably be satisfied with this book if uncomplicated (in every way) superhero comics is what you hunger for, especially if your hunger is Darwyn Cooke-specific. Indeed, like I said above, this is pretty much what everyone expected anyway, so there's little use in quibbles. It doesn't really matter if you like the Spirit much at all - if you like Darwyn Cooke, and his overall approach to superhero comics taken on the level above specific characters, you'll probably be into this. The title seems almost optional.