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The Spirit: Book One (DC Comics, 2007; #1-6, Batman/The Spirit #1)

The Spirit.jpg

Darwyn Cooke threads a tricky needle with his take on The Spirit.  The character’s pulpy, noir roots hold firm in Cooke’s writing and art.  Despite that, his take on Denny Colt feels fairly contemporary—sleek cars, cell phones, and cable news all fit right into The Spirit’s world.  That sense of timelessness, along with a subtle, intentional flow of character backstory and relationships, makes for a take on The Spirit that is not only fun but approachable.

One of the most notable elements of this arc of Cooke’s run is his treatment of the women the Spirit encounters.  Leaning into the noir femme fatale, Cooke sets up the women he writes as strong and competent.  In just about every case, they’re a step ahead of of Colt.  If you’re concerned that that somehow makes him irrelevant, don’t be.  For one, there’s something charming about his bumbling, making-it-up-as-he-goes schtick.  But there’s also an underlying structure to the story that makes Colt’s missteps valuable to the narrative.

Each issue stands alone as a done-in-one.  But characters and story elements that Colt comes across feed into a larger mystery—one surrounding Colt’s death and subsequent rebirth as the Spirit. This structure is also where the book’s art proves invaluable as a storytelling tool.  Darwyn Cooke’s linework will always be some of my favorite in comics; but J. Bone’s and Dave Stewart’s inks and colors provide clarity to non-linear storytelling.  Internal narrative and flashback sequences are a major part of Cooke’s story; by varying how loose and light Bone’s inks are, he provides immediate context for when the story shifts between the past and the present.  Similarly, Stewart’s colors denote change in time as well as place.  

Regardless of whether you’re a fan of The Spirit, if you like noir comics you should check out this run.  All of the creators involved are working at the top of their game.  The result is a book full of clever characters in an intricately layered story.

Collected in

  • The Spirit, Book One (#1-6, Batman/The Spirit #1)

Credits

Writers: Darwyn Cooke (1-6), Jeph Loeb (Batman/The Spirit) | Artist: Darwyn Cooke | Inker: J. Bone | Colorist: Dave Stewart | Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher

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