Not a very good week for top tier anticipation, I'm sorry to say. There was only one book that leapt out at me as I headed home from the LCS. As I do every week, I pick that most looked-forward to book and read it first thing so I can write a post about it. And since I'm not really looking forward to the World War books all that much, and the Ultimates are what they are, this week's choice really was made for me.
The Spirit #5
Artist / Writer: Darwyn Cooke
The Spirit is an enterprise that I completely missed out on growing up. It was only after I expanded my comic history knowledge that I even heard the name Will Eisner, and later of this, his most famous creation. And, in hindsight, I'm a bit ashamed that I never really thought to go and pick up some of his stuff just to see what all the fuss was about. Just as well, I suppose, because knowing what I now know, I really wouldn't have appreciated it much. I didn't understand storytelling, pacing, plotting, and all of the other subtleties that Eisner's stories are just riddled with. It wasn't "Fuck, Yeah!" enough for the young Soup. So, until recently, I just knew of the character - that he was some kind of goofy Batman detective type that got beat up a lot. Oh, and it had pretty splash pages with "The Spirit" cleverly hidden in the backgrounds.
Then Eisner died, and all that attention got me to really look into him. And I started reading back issues, finally. And I was very impressed. That guy could write! I mean, freaky good write! I didn't get all collector mentality on it, and I certainly didn't read enough to see all of the ways Eisner was using The Spirit as a way to frame stories - so he could push them into different areas, but I read enough to have a healthy respect for the man. Especially after all of the biographical information his death brought to the surface.
So, when DC released The Spirit / Batman one shot last year, I picked it up. Now, I'm not a big fan of Leob's writing - unless it's something television-related (Heroes starts up again next week! Yay!), so I picked it up with a little trepidation.
It was decent. The story was neither fantastic nor off-putting. All in all, it was a pleasant read.
But the art! Great Galvanized Gorillas, Batman! was that some sweet artwork! And thus, I learned of Darwyn Cooke. And thus, I added "anything drawn by Darwyn Cooke" to the list.
Shortly afterwards, I learned of The Spirit ongoing. And that Mr. Cooke was going to be writing as well as doing the artwork. That was a happy day. I think I got to play with puppies, too.
Since it's first issue, The Spirit has been fantastic. These "done-in-one" stories are near-perfect comics. They're just the right balance of crime drama, character advancement (Cooke had to re-introduce and modernize the entire Spirit universe), adventure, whimsy, and gosh-darnit just out and out fun. They're a joy to read. And, of course, the artwork is incredible. His use of style, mood and pacing is as good as it gets. Oh, and don't forget those awesome splash pages - which I may collect and get framed together in some sort of poster. And it just occurred to me that J. Bone and Dave Stewart deserve a lot of credit for that mood and style as the finishing and coloring are perfect compliments.
That's The Spirit in general. In this issue, we get gangland hits, stolen identities, pet vultures, Russian mob bosses, exploiting the children and The Spirit gets beat up again. Oh, and beans. Lots and lots of beans. Beans. Delicious, delicious beans.
If you're not reading The Spirit - I'm not going to convince you if everyone else in the freckin' comics blogosphere hasn't already. Pick it up, already. Or better yet - since this is issue #5, wait a month and get the trade. However you do it, this book deserves to succeed. Imagine the incredible honor to Mr Cooke if The Spirit ends up winning "Best ongoing series" from the award named after its creator. Me, I'd plotz. That'd be like winning the Emmy from Mrs. Lou Harris. Or an Oscar from this guy.
All in all, The Spirit really is just an example of darn fun comics, and I have it on good authority, that that's the way they oughta be.
Most Wanted Panel: