Thursday, July 2, 2015

Will Eisner's The Spirit (Dyanmite Entertainment)

This week Dynamite Entertainment debuted the next chapter in the saga of the Spirit — almost literally. The series by Matt Wagner and Dan Schkade begins at a time when the main character has been missing for two years.

The Spirit, in flashback origin story. From Will Eisner's
the Spirit
#1 (2015); art by Dan Schkade. 
The splash page is the front page of the Central City Gazette. Its story, "Who Killed the Spirit?" beares a 1940s date (the last digit obscured), and sits two years after the hero's last appearance. (This clearly places this series chronologically in the middle of Eisner's original run, which lasted all the way to 1952.)

While the Spirit remains missing throughout the setup, there are several flashbacks, one being a retelling of his origin by Commissioner Dolan. His daughter, Ellen Dolan has since become a councilwoman.

The Spirit's trusty aides, Ebony White and Sammy have since teamed up to form their own private investigation service, Strunk and White. (Sammy did not originally appear until 1949.) When trouble calls, the two hop into Ebony's trademark cab and rush to help.

Left: Ellen with Archie and her father, Commissioner Dolan. Right: Sammy and Ebony.
New characters include Councilman Weatherby Palmer, the mayor's pick for Dolan's replacement as police commissioner. Councilwoman Dolan keeps in tow a new pencil-necked suitor/assistant, Archie. Archie closely resembles her original beau, Homer. Ebony and Sammy rely on Ebony's cousin, a great hulk of a man named Francis, aka Boulder.

Schkade's art is great, in line with the ... spirit ... of the original series, and is playful in a way that most super-hero comics no longer allow. Matt Wagner has loads of experience with this genre, having recently penned The Shadow: Year One, an excellent, gritty rendering of the classic pre-comics pulp character. As in The Shadow, Wagner searches for and retains the essentials and knows when to begin his departure.

The only mild disappointment is that the Spirit himself is but a ghost in the tale. Maybe that's a poetic start. It's also refreshing to see his supporting cast in their "what if?" moments, and to be left hanging a bit until next time.

Want to brush up on your Spirit? 

Read "The Spirit Quality Index"