Pick of the Week

January 9, 2008 – The Spirit #12

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Story & Art by Darwyn Cooke
Inks by J. Bone
Colors by Dave Stewart
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher

Published by DC Comics | $2.99

If I hadn’t freshly shaved my head this afternoon, I might have pulled it all out tonight.

When a comic book can evoke a visceral emotional reaction in the reader, it is not just doing its job but I would argue that it has reached the apex of its potential. Beyond just providing entertainment and telling a fun and interesting or even though provoking story, if a comic makes you feel something genuinely emotional then you really cannot ask for more. A comic book that makes you feel something can overcome mediocre art or subpar storytelling. A comic book featuring fantastic art and sublime storytelling that also evokes an emotional reaction enters loftier territory.

There were two such books in my stack this week. There were two moments in Green Arrow and Black Canary #4 in which the anguish was so palpable that I felt it in my chest. And then there was my Pick of the Week, The Spirit #12 which hit me in the gut on so many other levels it was ultimately impossible to top.

(I should mention that there was a strong dark horse candidate in Teen Titans Lost Annual #1, the most amazingly and awesomely wacky book I’ve read in forever.)

WIth The Spirit #12 so ends the one(ish) year run by modern master Darwyn Cooke. He alone is responsible for thousands of people (really, only thousands — the sales have not been good) being exposed to one of the classic characters in comics, Denny Colt, The Spirit, and I am one of them. I have always known of The Spirit, I knew he was created by Will Eisner and I knew what he looked like but that was about it — up until the excellent Batman/The Spirit special issue which led to this most excellent series.

I have to admit, that I haven’t loved this book all the way through. I feel like there was a gap in the middle when I just could not get into it for about three or four issues. But this book came on strong at the end and this final issue knocked it out of the park. This might have been the best one of the entire run.

We open on The Spirit desperately trying to save the life of his mysterious friend, a character we have come to know in the last year, Hussein. His efforts are in vain, but before Hussein passes on he gives The Spirit a few clues to the mystery of his murder — a hotel room key and two names, one of which is one of those great names found in The Spirit lore: Sand Saref.

(If there is one indisputably great thing about this book it is that Will Eisner gave his characters great names.)

Sand Serif was Denny Colt’s first love. The one girl and the one name that can stop him cold. Hearing the name flashes Denny Colt back to childhood and we see how he and Sand met and the tragic event that ensured that they would never find happiness together. Throughout the course of this series we haven’t had a ton of backstory on Denny Colt, we don’t know a lot about his life and where he came from. The flashback tale, which is interspersed throughout this issue — and is taken from two Will Eisner stories — adds a ton of great depth to Denny Colt. His tale of lost love and the glimpse of a life he could never have was so tragic. The last four pages were like four consecutive punches in the gut. I admit that I am bringing my own issues in this arena to the table, but that’s what great art does — it taps into something relatable in the audience and makes them feel something genuine, even if it isn’t always pleasant.

In the midst of this flashbacky, character development goodness we get The Spirit confronting Hussein’s killers and a few nifty and exciting fights. I may be on a Darwyn Cooke kick right now but I found myself marveling over every page — not just for the beautifully clean and elegant art (with equally beautiful colors by Dave Stewart) — but by the masterful storytelling therein. Darwyn Cooke should teach a class in comic book storytelling and make a lot of people who currently make a living drawing comic books attend.

One of the great highlights of this series has been the double page spreads on the title page which have been almost uniformly fantastic. This one was no exception. When I turned the page and saw the city very feint in the negative space of Sand’s face and a contemplative Spirit in the corner, leading me to the next page (and the colors matched in the next page!) I let out a sound somewhere between my patented “oooOOOooo” and a gasp.

Some of my luster for this book may have waned in the middle but it returned in full force for the last few issues and this one made me both happy and sad. Happy that I was able to experience such a near-perfectly made comic book and sad that Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone’s tenure was over.

I’ll take that Absolute The Spirit now, please.

Conor Kilpatrick
I hate you, Denny Colt
conor@ifanboy.com

Did you read The Spirit #12? Add a comment and tell everyone what you think about this week’s comics!

Comments

  1. Oh, man –I hardly had anything in my stack this week, so I was going to pick up one book I don’t usually read. I almost picked this one. After a review like this I’ll have to go back and get it.

    Is somebody else taking over “The Spirit” after this? It’s hard to imagine somebody filling Eisner AND Cooke’s shoes.

  2. The new creative team is

    Writers: Sergio Aragones & Mark Evanier

    Artist: Mike Ploog

  3. Great pick. That title page was absolutely gorgeous as was the one later on when he’s looking out the window and you see his reflection in the glass.

  4. Green Arrow & Black Canary rocked my face off this week.

    That scene with Ollie yelling out for Clark sent a chill up my spine. Or when Hal showed up? Ohhh!

    Winick and Chiang look to be putting one helluva run together here.

  5. so you’re saying i should probably go back and pick this book up, huh?

  6. Damn, I knew I forgot something when I left the shop today. Looks like I’ll be going back tomorrow.

    Green Arrow/Black Canary was great, I really hope we get a nice long run out of Winick and Chiang.

  7. I have only read mighty avengers and I thought that it had some awsome moments. The stuff with spider woman and tony stark was great. It also had some real weak moments that made the book seem real kidish. But I have a large stack to get through so here’s hoping for the best.

    I didn’t get the spirit.

  8. Couldn’t agree more– The Spirit #12 was greatness. Strange thing: yesterday I also went back and picked up and read Spirit #11 (somehow I had missed it), and it was also terrific— but Spirit #11 actually had more of the feel of an “end of the run” book that #12 did.

    Anyway, GA/BC #4 was also terrific. I actually like the soap opera stuff, and that ART….

    I read the Teen Titans Lost Annual… and … well… um… okay.

    X-Factor #27: OK, I’ve officially lost interest in the crossover. Does the completist in me now require me to buy the remaining issues…?

    Nightwing was good, although I was a little thrown by having them in New York City….

    And, Countdown continues it’s little resurgence. or “surgence,” I guess.

  9. Huzzah! Cooke really went out with a band, didn’t he? And the art in this book borders on perfect.

  10. I recently purchased all 11 previous issues, plus 12 yesterday and while I haven’t had the chance to read them, I am glad to hear it ends as strongly as I’ve heard it started.

  11. I know this question gets asked a lot, but is it easy to pick up this particular run without having read any Spirit in the past? I keep hearing how great it is, but I don’t want to be lost since I don’t have a lot of experience with the title character.

  12. Great choice! I also agree with the Teen Titans Lost Annual. Also, I happend to stop at a new shop in my area and was looking around and picked up The Evil Dead #1. I wasn’t going to pick this up originally, but I got the new Ultimate Edition DVD for christmas and my interest in the Evil Dead was renewed. I found that this book was pretty good, expanding on scenes, keeping old ones, and remaking other things. I found this to be quite interesting.

  13. Absolute Spirit, absolutely. 😉
    I’m going to try the next one out, but I’m lowering my expectations.

    C.

  14. I’ve never read any “The Spirit” before this recent run by Cooke, and this series made perfect sense to me throughout. I’m sure there were some things that might have had a little more impact had I known the history of the characters better, but all in all I never felt lost as a result of my unfamiliarity with the world.

    I thought that this issue, more than any of those previous to it, had an art style that was VERY evocative of Eisner’s art. Particularly that title page that Conor gushed (deservedly so) over. I think I saw it most in the vertical lines used for shading. I’ve really only read the “Contract with God Trilogy” of Eisner’s work, so I might be seeing things here, but this really did come off as an homage to Eisner more so than the rest of the series. Just a beautiful cap to what has been a great series.

  15. I didn’t get the Spirit, I’m reading it in trades, so I’d have to go for the Green Arrow & Black Canary issue. As Labor Days pointed out the scene with Ollie repeating “Clark” was great. It’s one of those things that you always wonder why heroes don’t do more often, so it’s nice to see it here.

    I find it weird that I read not one, but two comics this week that featured the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The first was in the Teen Titans Lost Annual which I want to believe is actually a lost annual and not just a modern take on how terrible comics used to be. After the really fun Teen Titans Year One last week, this book annoyed me. (The other was in the newly issued Avengers trade Darker Than Scarlet, so it was not a new reference but still odd to see for the second time in a night).

    Mighty Avengers was good, and it’s nice to see Bagley with Bendis one last time. It felt oddly like Ultimate Spider-man though (wonder why), and hopefully I can shake that off by the end of the issue.

    X-Factor was the first issue in the crossover where things started to actually make sense. It’s nice to get some motivation for someone. If the last few issues stay this level then this will have been the best X-Men crossover in years. Granted that’s not saying much…

    The problem with Countdown is that I have the feeling the last dozen or so issues are just going to be the slaughter of various copies of Batman, Superman and other multi-verse versions of DC’s heroes to establish how bad ass the threat is. In a comic we have to believe that a character could die, and that their death might mean something. Granted we know that Batman isn’t going to die, but the possibility has to be on the table for the drama to work. With Countdown we’ve got 51 Batmen to go through before we get to the one we actually care about, watching those 51 others get killed isn’t going to be that interesting.

  16. I know this question gets asked a lot, but is it easy to pick up this particular run without having read any Spirit in the past? I keep hearing how great it is, but I don’t want to be lost since I don’t have a lot of experience with the title character.

    As I said in the review, I’ve never read any of The Spirit before this series. It is entirely new reader friendly.

  17. “When a comic book can evoke a visceral emotional reaction in the reader, it is not just doing its job but I would argue that it has reached the apex of its potential.”

    Which is exactly what Green Arrow and Black Canary #4 did for me. I was actually a wee bit choked up when seeing that last page. I had a light week, but even if I had a hundred books, and they were all Spirit #12 quality, my POW still would have been Green Arrow and Black Canary #4. Winnick and Chiang are firing on all cylinders here. It’s amazing.

    That being said, holy crap, what an exit for Darwyn Cooke on The Spirit. I knew the pick was going to be one of those two. The aforementioned title page spread was stunning.

  18. This ish was freaking awesome, and Cooke’s whole run has been really, really spectacular. I loved every single one, and Cooke definitely went out with a bang. I’ve been campaigning for the Absolute of this bad boy for awhile, and I hope we see it sooner rather than later. His art deserves that format.

    My pick this week was Scalped #13. Holy shit was this book amazing with all the metaphors and emotion coming from the pages. The art was spot on and I’m soooo on board for this arc. Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera have my dollar for a good long while.

  19. Hear hear on Scalped. That issue was really good.

  20. Yep I just read Scalped and it was like being punched in the face. The art was incredible…

    I haven’t got to The Spirit yet but it must be a hell of a comic to top that.

  21. “RE: Mighty Avengers. Oh, yeah, and SYMBIOTES attacking NY? Wow, I just never would have seen that coming – oh, wait a minute, didn’t that just happen 4 months ago in another AVENGERS title? Wait, this is supposed to happen BEFORE that other title?”

    Yeah, the thing is we can either let the “Cho is slow” issue ruin what looks like it’s going to be a really good arc or we can just get over it. It’ll always be a stick we can beat Mighty Avengers with. Or we can just accept it as a part of comics and deal with it. It would have been amazing had these tied in, one coming a week or two after the other, but that didn’t happen so it’s merely good.

  22. I may be a week off but did anyone read The Twelve #1? I really love anything Golden Age and I thought this was a lot of fun. Does anyone know, are these heroes actual Golden Agers from the Marvel/Timely vault or are they original creations?

  23. I think they’re all original creations, made to seem like Golden Age heroes.

  24. “I think they’re all original creations, made to seem like Golden Age heroes.”

    Marvel had a Golden Age, chief. Timely existed!

    Except, Death-Defying Devil was originally Daredevil. And the characters have been sufficiently revamped.

  25. I read The Twelve #1 (and #0) and yes, they are original Golden Age heroes. I think some are Timely/Marvel and some aren’t, but all of them are public domain.

    If you’re digging it, you may also want to check out Image’s Next Issue Project, which is also a doing “new adventures of old Golden Age Heroes” thing.

    Anyway, I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy The Twelve, but so far I’m onboard. It’s pretty damn good.

  26. rational discussion about brand new day? reasoned discussion about what’s good and bad about it? pigs are flying!

    also, i know the podcast was packed, but i hoped for a shoutout to The Twelve #1, which was very cool.

  27. I read The Twelve #1 and it would be my pic of the week ! ( though I didn’t read The Spirit..)

    I’m surpirsed the Fanboys didn’t mention it.

    Black Canary / Green Arrow would be my runner-up !

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