In 2007, DC Comics decided to re-launch the Spirit in a monthly comic that would bring Will Eisner’s hero into the modern DC Universe. Luckily, unlike the Frank Miller movie disaster, DC chose the perfect candidate for the comic book re-interpretation; Darwyn Cooke.
Writers: Darwyn Cooke, Jeph Loeb
Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Publisher: DC Comics
Anyone familiar with Cooke most likely recognizes his name for “DC: The New Frontier,” an award-winning work that received large amounts of praise and inspired an animated adaptation. Those familiar with the work will also understand why he was the ideal creator to handle the update to the Spirit. Cooke is a master at retro super heroics, whose best skill is the deft way he shows that these “classic” superheroes and their stories are actually timeless.
Cooke brings the Spirit into a modern Central City, dwelling in the contemporary DC Universe, yet still dripping classic noir shadows. The Spirit’s Central City is much like Batman’s Gotham, a city that remains timeless despite the passing of the years. Indeed, much of the Spirit will remind readers of “Batman: Year One,” although more light-hearted and jazzier in tone. The comparison is easily evident, as the book closes with a Spirit/Batman team-up, written by Jeph Loeb, showcasing the resemblance of the characters and their supporting casts, despite differences in methods and demeanour.
Unlike the majority of Batman books, however, the Spirit doesn’t really read like a superhero comic. Instead, it follows the tagline of “Action ~ Mystery ~ Adventure,” alternating between the pulp and noir beats that so richly influence it. Despite his miraculous resurrection, the Spirit doesn’t posses fantastic powers that he can call on to save the day. Instead he finds himself frequently beaten physically or forced to flee, relying on his wits or sheer grit to see the day through.
Book one collects the first seven issues of the comic series, as well as the Spirit/Batman crossover. It’s an excellent starting point, featuring stories that are mostly self-contained as well as an origin stories for those unfamiliar with the character. It’s a great example of Cooke’s skill at characterization as it introduced you fluidly to the Spirit’s large cast of friends, allies and love interests. It’s also a great gateway to both the past adventures of the character as well as both of the creators involved, Darwyn Cooke and Will Eisner, who truly number among the greats in the field.