Writer: Matt Wagner
Artist: Dan Schkade
Colorist: Brennan Wagner
Coming into this book, I didn’t have a huge set of expectations due to my inexperience with the Spirit character. I am, however, very familiar with the excellent work of Matt Wagner, which is what drew me to this book, and set the bar for the quality of story we were going to get. In the time it takes me to remedy my novice nature on Will Eisner’s Spirit work, I have this to get me into the world, and this issue was a fun start and a breath of fresh air.
When I read books like Grendel, or any Wagner comics really, I know that the art is going to be cream of the crop. My experience with Dynamite books in the past hasn’t had that quality to it, so I was slightly trepidatious going into this one. I’m happy to say that I couldn’t be more wrong. This art was incredibly strong, and in many places reminded me of Wagner himself. A certain amount of credit there goes to the colorist, Matt’s son Brennan, who not only set the book perfectly tonally, he also established this world to be similar in time and aesthetic to that of Grendel or the Grendel/Shadow mini series published from the Wagner’s last year. The world we got will make any fan of the Bruce Timm Batman The Animated Series giddy, and whip you back to watching that cartoon back in the day on Fox Kids (at least that’s where I got it). In terms of the character renderings, there’s a sort of simple but expressive style here, very in the vain of Wagner. What really made the art stand out on it’s own as being strong was the cartooning. If this book had no words, I would still get the same rich story, which you can’t say for many books on the stands. The emotions and actions in the character’s faces are slightly over the top, but in the almost wacky world of the Spirit, it fits right in. There’s a sense of the world of the Pulps, but fun and for all modern readers as well. If I had a seven year old, I would be rushing to give them this book, to show them what comic art can do.
Matt Wagner is telling a nice ground floor story here, as one should when approaching a number 1 issue. Not knowing much about The Spirit, this introduced a big chunk of the major players in that universe, and gave the Spirit origin and backstory. The general idea of the story is The Spirit is missing and considered dead, and Central City is moving on, politically and in the police department, but those who knew the Spirit aren’t exactly moving on. The detective duo, Strunk and White (one previously referred to as Ebony), while thwarting the plan of some underground crooks, decide they need to take on the case of the missing Spirit. With an incredibly rendered final page proclamation, I am on board for the continuation of this series. Wagner does a great job making us sympathetic to almost every character we encounter, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen to them in the course of this investigation. While Police Commissioner Dolan and his daughter are almost unrealistic in their manners, it’s due to the style of the noirish world rather than poor writing. And seeing their relationship with the Spirit, they’re lives going forward in the investigation will certainly be interesting.
I can’t think of a better way to start a series for a Pulp character like The Spirit than what we got here. In a “noir lite” world, we get introduced to the characters and have an awesome hook to bring us back for more. Really, cannot ask for anything more.
5 Double-Breasted Suits out of 5