Sunday, September 13, 2015

Review: Will Eisner's THE SPIRIT #1


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

WRITER: Matt Wagner
ART: Dan Schkade
COLORS: Brennan Wagner
LETTERS: A Larger World Studios
COVER: Eric Powell
VARIANT COVERS: Matt Wagner with Brennan Wagner; Alex Ross; John Cassaday; Francesco Francavilla; Dan Schkade; Matt Wagner; Dennis Calero; Jenny Frison; Stephen Mooney
32pp, Color, $3.99 U.S. (July 2015)

Rated T+

The Spirit (a.k.a. Denny Colt) is the masked crime-fighting hero created by legendary cartoonist, the late Will Eisner.  The Spirit first appeared on June 2, 1940 as the main feature of what would come to be known as “The Spirit Section.”  This was a 16-page, tabloid-sized, newsprint comic book insert first distributed in the Sunday edition of Register and Tribune Syndicate newspapers.  “The Spirit Section” ended in 1952.  With only a few exceptions, Eisner did not produce new stories featuring The Spirit as a regular feature after 1952.

In the last two decades, Kitchen Sink, DC Comics, and IDW published comic book series featuring new Spirit stories created by other writers and artists.  Sometime in the last year, Dynamite Entertainment obtained the rights to produce new Spirit comic books.  July 2015 saw the debut of Will Eisner's The Spirit, written by Matt Wagner, drawn by Dan Schkade, colored by Brennan Wagner, and lettered by A Large World Studios, with covers by Eric Powell.

Will Eisner's The Spirit #1 opens some time in the 1940s, two years after the last sighting of The Spirit.  Central City Police Commissioner Eustace Dolan wonders about the fate of his loyal, crime-fighting friend, but he must focus on the city's politics, which are not necessarily playing in his favor.  Commissioner Dolan's daughter, Ellen Dolan, is busy with her role as a city councilman, and though she was romantically involved with The Spirit, she has moved on with her life.  She even has a new boyfriend, attorney Archibald “Archie” Shale.

The Spirit's former sidekick, Ebony White, is now part of “Strunk and White: Private Investigators.”  Ebony has grown bored of chasing people, and has decided that it is time to chase The Spirit.

There have been some good recent Spirit stories produced by creators other than Will Eisner; Alan Moore and Darwyn Cooke come to mind.  Even back in The Spirit's original run, the comic was produced by people other than Eisner.  I imagine that readers who are not familiar with Will Eisner won't know the difference between his Spirit and that of other creators, so I will partly review Will Eisner's The Spirit #1 in that context.

It is a decent comic book.  It has potential, but I wouldn't pay a cover price of $3.99 for it on a regular basis.  Series artist Dan Schkade draws so that his compositions try to capture the graphic style of a comic book from the 1940s.  However, his drawing, in terms of comic book art and storytelling, is raw, and the quality of his work says semi-pro webcomic.

Now, as a longtime fan of The Spirit, who has liked both Eisner and non-Eisner Spirit comics, I have to say that Will Eisner's The Spirit #1 simply does not live up to the best of either Eisner or non-Eisner Spirit.  The reality is that anyone who takes on The Spirit works in the shadow of Eisner, one of the greatest and most influential comic book artists and creators of all time.

So truthfully, Dynamite Entertainment needs to do better than Dan Schkade as the series artist.  Flashy cover artists cannot hide that this book does not even come close to living up to its pedigree.  [I must admit to loving Alex Ross' gorgeous “Subscription Cover” variant cover.]  I want this to be better, and I think writer Matt Wagner and artist Dan Schkade can do better.  They must.

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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