Saturday, 18 July 2015

Will Eisner's The Spirit #1 - Dynamite Entertainment

Celebrating “the Seventy Fifth anniversary of Will Eisner’s iconic and ground-breaking character” this opening instalment of “an all-new ongoing series featuring The Spirit” by “Dynamite Entertainment” will doubtless disappoint many of the masked crimefighter’s “long-time fans”, despite the publisher’s advertised assurances to the contrary. In fact it is hard to imagine this first in a twelve-issue story-arc will entice “a whole new generation of fans” either. For having established that the Central City vigilante has been missing, presumed dead, for almost two years via a wonderfully genuine sounding Forties newspaper article, Matt Wagner’s twenty-two page narrative frustratingly focus’ on a world where the famous hero is no more.

Admittedly the Pennsylvanian-born oft-times penciller does include a rather nicely scripted ‘flashback’ of the blue business-suited hero’s origin. But just as soon as the ‘dead’ Denny Colt Junior reveals his “state of suspended animation” to senior lawman Eustace Dolan and utters the ‘immortal’ words “they can’t strike back against a ghost, a phantom… a spirit” then the narrative disappointingly returns to the ‘present’ day and spends a deplorably long time simply depicting the retiring Police Commissioner conversing with his strong-headed daughter, Ellen.

Fortunately such a pace-lacking plot is eventually bolstered by the American author’s (re)introduction of Ebony White; the titular character’s “unofficial” African-American sidekick. Now consigned to a meagre existence as the partner of small-time private investigator Sammy Strunk, the youthful taxi driver at least manages to inject some much needed humour and action into the storyline by becoming involved in a back-street brawl with two 'shifty-looking' “shysters”. But regrettably even this fist-fight is almost immediately resolved thanks to the presence of Aloysius’ enormous cousin Francis and a well-pitched baseball thrown by the one-time racial stereotype’s fedora-wearing associate.

Arguably even worse than Wagner’s uninspiring writing however, has to be Dan Schkade’s unpardonable pencilling. Whilst it is clear that the Austin-born artist has clearly attempted to try and emulate the “vital and prestigious legacy of one of comicdom’s most talented and influential creators”, the final result is an inauspiciously poor imitation of Will Eisner’s “singular vision”. Indeed it is hard to believe that senior editor Joe Rybandt was particularly impressed with the American’s amateurish efforts in any way shape or form. Especially when “The Goon” creator Eric Powell does such a wonderful job of capturing The Spirit’s brutal naked aggression with his gritty main cover illustration.
The variant cover art of "WILL EISNER'S THE SPIRIT" No. 1 by Alex Ross

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