Rating: 4.5/5 – One of the Best Classic Character Relaunches in Years.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.
I love Will Eisner’s Spirit. Love him. I’ve read all the original material (in reprints) and DC’s two reimaginings (for the record I preferred the 2007 series to the 2010 version where he was roped into DC’s ill-fated “First Wave” universe). That said, I was really worried when I saw Dynamite was doing this latest relaunch. They don’t have a great track record with me on relaunches lately. The King stuff (particularly the updates of The Phantom, Jungle Jim, Mandrake, and Prince Valiant) were really not to my liking. Their Doc Save relaunch was OK. Gold Key started off good and faded quickly after the first few issues. One of the problems I usually have is when they try to ‘modernize’ characters that best exist in a particular time period. It doesn’t make them bad, per se, but it’s just not to my taste when anyone pulls a character from the 40s or 50s or 60s and proceeds to radically alter them to place them into modern times. Your Mileage May Vary.
That said, this Spirit relaunch is a period piece. I really shouldn’t have worried once I saw Matt Wagner was the writer. He does period fiction with the best of them: Sandman Mystery Theater, Zorro, Green Hornet: Year One, and The Shadow: Year One. All among some of my favorite stories told for those various characters. It looks like The Spirit will be added to this illustrious list of period crime fighters.
This story is set two years after The Spirit disappeared and is set (from the semi-obscured date on a newspaper) in the late 1940s. This can track with his last published Eisner adventure in 1952 if we allow for some lag time between when the stories occurred and when Eisner had a chance to document them in the newspaper’s sunday comics section. We have some great scenes with Commissioner Dolan, and The Spirit’s long-time flame Ellen Dolan. We see an updated version of Ebony White that has thrown off his very stereotyped portrayal in the 1940s (which was normal for it’s place and time) and is played totally straight. It really delighted me to see Ebony teamed up with The Spirit’s other short-lived sidekick Sammy. In a wonderful move, Wagner has given Sammy the last name Strunk. Thus, the detective Agency run by Ebony and Sammy is “Strunk & White”. Delightful! And yes, they do get calls asking about grammar!
Wagner even works in a really nicely done retelling of The Spirit’s origin story that tracks very well with the very first Spirit strip from June 1940. And the art by Dan Schkade is great. He has a really clean line and has nailed some classic looks for the characters I know and love, updating where needed to make them play with a modern audience but still giving the book a nice feel of its 1940s period setting.
This comics is completely self-contained and that’s great. You don’t need to have any history with the Spirit to enjoy it, but there are lots of nice touches thrown in that make it all the more fun for people familiar with the character. I really enjoyed this comic and look forward to more of this story arc. I hope Matt Wagener sticks with this book for a good long time and we get to see this classic character re-established with some great stories for a new generation of fans.
Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
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