Sunday, August 26, 2007

We've got Spirit, how 'bout you?

What to say about The Spirit #9? Well, it's got a nice cover. Ebony White reads an old hardcover with the title "Tales of Terror", his eyes shifting to one side as if he knows that there's something real bad around the corner. And quite literally, there is. A pallid zombie is right outside the window (a window that would not be out of place in Dr Strange's Greenwich pad.)

In fact, the story taken by itself is a pretty nice voodoo/zombie story. The tale revolves around the softer, more mama's boy of two sibling gangsters. When he's betrayed by his wife and killed, his mother sacrifices the two-faced bee0ch and brings him back to life. 'Cept of course it ain't exactly life, but undeath. And because he died in a struggle with Denny Colt, he's got a bit of a grudge against the man in the blue suit.

It's all very creepy and bloody, in the "Weird Tales" way it's supposed to be. My only complaint? It's a little too open-ended. The villain, El Morte, reminds our boy that "I swore to you a curse," and despite turning the Spirit's ribs into jelly beans, he makes clear that he's not done yet. The word "End" is right there on the last page. I only hope it's not a lie.

For a little background, the Spirit was created by Will Eisner back in the Golden Age, and stands as the earliest successful costumed hero to stay in the ownership of his creator. Eisner licensed the character to DC shortly before his death, although the Eisner family retains ownership.

Canadian artist/writer kicked off the new series about a year ago with a Batman crossover. He's done a creditable job. Ebony, a minstrelish character that eventually caused Eisner great embarassment, has been refashioned into a believable and not-too-trendy inner city teen. Cooke hasn't done much in the way of Eisner's socially conscious stories, but he makes it fun. And that's valuable. There's not much fun to be had in contemporary comics, particularly those emanating from the Big Two. If you've kept up, you know the symptoms. Decompressed storytelling, which usually translates to "nothing happened this month." Big events that will soon be overturned by other big events. A fixation on killing little heroes and making the big ones suffer. Superhero comics now seem to spend the majority of their time either setting up the premise or deconstructing it.

The Spirit, thus far, has been an exception. You pick up an issue, read the contents, and you get it. There are colorful villains, sexy femme fatales, and in general you like all these people, good and bad. Cooke seems to, as well. And to be plain, I'd like to see that continue. If DC demands that the title become more Countdown/Outsiders-like, better to quit soon. Kyle Baker also had a small good thing going when he wrote and drew Plastic Man. He tried going the decompressed route, albeit from a satirical angle. Again, he seemed to be indulging the powers that were. When he finished this story, Plastic Man was finished too.

So the point is, giving The Spirit a big angsty arc will not guarantee sales or survival. It would definitely not be a moral victory. And if we see Ellen Dolan being shoved'>">shoved into a fridge well, that would be a big defeat.

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