Sunday, January 10, 2016

Review: THE SPIRIT: The New Adventures #1


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

WRITER: Alan Moore
ART/LETTERS: Dave Gibbons
COLOR: Angus McKie
COVER: Dave Gibbons
MISC. ART: Will Eisner with Charles Shadoian
32pp, Color, $3.50 U.S., $4.90 CAN (March 1998)

The Spirit is a comic book character created by cartoonist Will Eisner (who died in January 2005).  The Spirit first appeared on June 2, 1940 in what readers called “The Spirit Section.”  This was a 16-page, Sunday newspaper supplement or insert that was carried in various newspapers from the 1940s and into the early 1950s.  Once known as Detective Denny Colt (believed by some to be dead), The Spirit is a masked vigilante who fights crime in Central City.

Beginning in the early 1980s, Kitchen Sink Press did a complete reprinting of the post-World War II Spirit, which many readers and fans consider to be Will Eisner’s best and most influential work.  After the end of The Spirit’s newspaper run, there was very little new Spirit material…

That was until Kitchen Sink Press started publishing The Spirit: New Adventures in 1998.  This was an anthology title wherein a number of noted comic book creators and cartoonists chronicled new, post-Eisner Spirit adventures.  Over the course of the series run of eight issues, readers got new Spirit tales from Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell, Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons, Paul Pope, and James Vance & Dan Burr, to name a few.

The Spirit: New Adventures #1 features three interconnected tales written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons.  In “The Most Important Meal,” Doctor Cobra has his last meal, a solid breakfast, before his execution for double-murder.  Cobra shares his breakfast with a young cellmate, whom he regales with a tale of how Denny Colt, a promising young criminologist became The Spirit.

In “Force of Arms,” Homer Creap has complaints about The Spirit and shares them with a young lad.  Homer knows the truth about Doctor Cobra, and that tale returns to a time when Homer was the fiancĂ© of one Ellen Dollan, daughter of Police Commissioner Dolan.  That was before The Spirit interfered.  The final story, “Gossip and Gertrude Granch,” finds widow, Gertrude Granch, entertaining a series of young men who seem to get younger with each new date… or so it seems to her gossipy neighbors.

Among the back matter in The Spirit: New Adventures #1 is a short feature article, “The Many Origins of the Spirit,” written by Catherine Garnier.  Until I read it, I did not know that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ trio of tales were a retelling of The Spirit’s origin.  In fact, it turns out that The Spirit’s creator, Will Eisner, told his character’s origin in his very first Spirit section (June 2, 1940) and then, retold it twice more.  With the debut of The Spirit: New Adventures, Moore and Gibbons were merely telling the origin story again, retelling, re-imagining, and adding to the canon.

Moore and Gibbons, using just a few of the elements they employed so fantastically in Watchmen, offer a few nods to the graphic and stylistic hallmarks that were Will Eisner’s Spirit.  As usual, Moore is clever and imaginative, here, more of the former than the latter.  Gibbons’ stoic and mercurial surrealism manages to capture the spirit of… The Spirit.  This issue’s closing tale, “Gossip and Gertrude Granch,” is pure Eisner and typical Moore.  In fact, the story reveals how much Eisner obviously influenced Moore.

I read The Spirit: New Adventures when the series was originally published.  Something made me think of it again, so I’m going to go back and re-read it.  I strongly recommend to you, dear reader, that you discover this comic book.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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