The Spirit #17

The inevitable consequence of the DC 52 reboot is that for those of us who pick up their books (and admittedly my standing order is heavily skewed toward their output) some favourite titles will be cancelled. A couple that I particularly enjoy will be biting the dust, Red Robin being one, The Spirit being another. Red Robin will be missed, but Tim Drake will undoubtedly pop up in the Bat books I’ll be collecting post reshuffle, and he is also becoming a Teen Titan, so IF I choose to continue reading his adventures, there is an option for me. Essentially it’s no big loss. The Spirit however seems at this point to be heading for a hiatus with no real plans to bring him back in the foreseeable future. His demise has more of a sense of permanence about it.

It’s a shame. I’ve been picking up Denny Colt’s DC books pretty much from the start of the DC resurrection in 2007, and certainly avidly for the last 3 or so years. Over that time he’s been treated pretty inconsistently with some great writers seemingly unable to quite find his voice. All that changed some 17 months ago as creative team David Hine and Moritat took up the reigns as part of the First Wave set of books. Frankly from what I can make out The Spirit was by some way the better of the small group, telling as it did tight moody noir tales, very much in keeping with this classic Eisner character.

Both Hine and Moritat have moved on to other projects now, and this final issue is handed over to three sets of creators to tell three mini stories in the style of the black and white back up tales that featured early on in the current run. It would be pure speculation on my part to suggest these had just been kept to one side to provide a series capper, but…well they kinda feel like it, as none of them really feel as though they were written specifically as though they are designed to give the character the send off he really deserves.

That said all three are a treat, and very enjoyable to read. The art too seems to bring out the classic qualities of the character, and make the book feel as though it’s a previously unseen treat from the silver age (the themes are to modern to feel earlier). The Spirit also seems to bring something out in the chosen artists too, all three are deliciously rich deep and beautifully crafted, and for this reader deeply pleasing to the eye.

The first team Howard Chaykin and Brian Bolland present a short story of a philandering Councilman mixed up in a murderous story of revenge. It does a lot of story telling in 8 pages, but gets the balance of light and dark, noir crime with a healthy dollop of whimsy, just about note perfect, the capper to the story being particularly amusing and satisfying. Chaykin cleverly uses a newspaper front page as his opener to get much of the exposition out of the way to ensure that while telling a lot of story it stays light and flowing.

The second tale is Paul Levitz and Lose Garcia-Lopez, and while this is a much less dense tale it’s a satisfying crime short, telling the story of a newspaper vendor taken advantage of by an unscrupulous small time hood. The story is pleasing enough but this tale has my favourite art work of this mini anthology. Garcia-Lopez knocking the feel and style I feel most suitable for the character out of the park. The opening splash in particular being a panel I’d happily sacrifice my right arm to own, it’s just so perfect. (Mind you I’m left handed; it’s not the sacrifice you might think…)

Finally is a more avant-garde feel to it, written by Will Pfeifer and drawn by Galen showman, it features two night janitors in a museum of art cleaning and discussing The Spirit and in the back ground, Denny battles a thief who has broken in. There are lots of artistic references and strangely, echoes the Batman and Robin finale written by…David Hine the creative force behind this book for the last couple of years. Spooky. It’s a nice little tail and until the end, it’s never really clear if the action is happening for real or its just invoked by the story telling of the janitor.

All three are satisfying and proves that there is still plenty of mileage left in the character yet. But I guess ultimately the 52 is about a new set of books the DC feel will sell, so if anything its not the fact that the book is ending that makes me feel sad about the conclusion of this title, its more that it didn’t get the sales that I feel it deserved. I fear not though, Denny’s survived 80 or so years, I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll hear of The Spirit.