Published on July 9th, 2015 | by Steven Roman
Review: Will Eisner’s The Spirit #1
Once he was Denny Colt, a private detective on the trail of the notorious Dr. Cobra. But after he was sprayed with a chemical that put him into suspended animation, Colt appeared to return from the dead as the two-fisted “masked criminologist” called…The Spirit! And so began the adventures of one of pulp comics’ greatest figures. Created in 1940 by writer/artist Will Eisner—whose later character-driven graphic novels include A Contract with God, The Dreamer, and New York: The Big City—the Spirit appeared for twelve years in comic book inserts that ran in newspapers across the United States, and became Eisner’s most famous character.
When Eisner passed away at age 87, in 2005, comic fans around the world wondered what might become of Eisner’s iconic creation. After the Spirit enjoyed brief runs at Kitchen Sink, DC Comics, and IDW, it was in early 2015 that Dynamite Entertainment announced that they’d acquired the rights to the character, and would be publishing a new series. Spirit fans like myself reacted hesitantly to the news—while Dynamite has a history of hiring talented writers for their projects, their choice of artists sometimes tend to be questionable. Would they assign a creative team that honored Eisner’s legendary work, or would Denny Colt suffer the fate of the not-so-great, recently canceled series of another famous pulp hero, Doc Savage?
Well, Eisner fans, allay those fears, because the Spirit appears to be in good hands!
Will Eisner’s The Spirit #1, written by Matt Wagner (Mage, Sandman Mystery Theatre) and illustrated by Dan Schkade (San Hannibal) picks up two years after the rumored death of Central City’s ace crimefighter, and the citizens—as well as the Spirit’s cast of supporting characters—have moved on…but haven’t forgotten. Commissioner Dolan is set to retire. His daughter, Ellen—formerly the Spirit’s love interest—is now a city councilor, and her new beau, Archibald, is a milquetoast in comparison to the masked hero who’d won her heart. And the Spirit’s sidekick, “Ebony” White, is now a private eye himself, partnered with Sammy Strunk to form the Strunk and White detective agency (a sly nod to William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, whose The Elements of Style remains an essential reference guide for writers.) But the question remains: Who killed the Spirit?
It’s an interesting, though risky, way to launch a series, without your main character figuring in the action, but Wagner seems well aware that one of the appealing factors to the Spirit strips was Eisner’s focus on characterization—a well-told Spirit story doesn’t actually need to have the Spirit in it, and this is a well-told tale. Artwise, Schkade does an admirable job in following Eisner’s example without being derivative, giving his own touch to Eisner’s characters but keeping them recognizable. Together, he and Wagner make for a great creative team.
Bottom line? With its combination of sharp writing and Eisner-influenced art, Will Eisner’s The Spirit is sure to appeal to longtime fans of the character. I think Eisner himself would have enjoyed it.
Will Eisner’s The Spirit #1
Written by Matt Wagner
Art by Dan Schkade
Main cover art by Eric Powell
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
32 pages • full-color
Now on sale