November 6, 2010

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The Spirit Book 2

Written by Darwyn Cooke (with Walt Simonson, Kyle Baker, Gail Simone, Denny O'Neil, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Glen David Gold)
Illustrated by Darwyn Cooke, J Bone, Kyle Baker, and others
DC

New adventures of the Spirit continue as Denny Colt and his cast of characters stop plots by old enemies such as Sand and the Octopus and a man who should be dead.

Though I like the many writers involved in this collection, I have to say that there's a distinct lack of cohesion as a result. Each writer has a slightly different take on Eisner's classic, and while none of them are bad, placed together in one clump like this the feeling is less than the sum of its parts.

Take Kyle Baker's version, for instance. His Spirit has a slight touch of sleeze to it, using the pulpy nature of the time period to take Eisner's G-rated characters and goose them up a bit. When that's right near an extremely serious story about Denny facing the fact that his resurrection also resurrected a horrible murderer, the impact dulls both portrayals of the character, in my opinion.

Things were not helped by the placement of a comical story of a killer lurking in the political TV talk show world right in the middle of the most dramatic story in the book. It's as though no one was thinking about story organization when this series was coming out or being formatted for trade.

Regardless of the writer-artist combination, this is very much Cooke's modern Spirit. Gone (thankfully) are Eisner's misogyny and really awkward racial portrayals. Gone also, however, is some of the magic. Cooke is a gifted artist, as are the others who work in these pages, but the panel structure is much more pedestrian than I'd like to see in a work echoing Eisner. Sometimes we get a splash page trying to capture the magic of the master artist, but the scenes look far too much like what we could get from just about any comic book story.

There is one exception, and that's where Cooke uses Eisner's tenement stories as a framework for the history of Sand and the Spirit. You can see a change in Cooke's style to ape Eisner's graphic novels, and the effect works perfectly. I wish he'd done more of this in the rest of the series. Ty Templeton doesn't do a bad job, either, of matching Eisner's look, using the entire page as a canvas and really capturing the feel of Eisner's eyes. Risso and Baker just use their own artistic stylings, which ends up okay but again makes cohesion difficult. Gail Simone has a nifty silent story, but Hester and Parks don't give it the big visuals such a tale requires.

There are lots of touches in this book that work for me, but they just don't create a whole I can see myself wanting to read more than once. Overall, it was nice to read the rest of Cooke's run on the book, but unless you are a huge fan of Cooke or the character of The Spirit, I don't think there's a need to seek this one out. I had the chance to read it, so I did, and it was fine. However, there's no reason to go searching Amazon to pick this one up. Every creator involved has stronger work elsewhere for you to enjoy.