Written by: Ron Bricker
The world of comics is complicated, with multiple companies (and universes) to keep track of. Luckily, CC2K has Joey Esposito, our resident expert on all things pulpy and good. Each week, Joey will break down what's happening in the world of comics, so you can pick up right where he left off. Today, he praises the virtues (and laments the loss) of The Spirit.
Last week I mentioned how the new year of comic books started with more of a whimper than a bang, and I'm not sorry to say that the trend continues this week. The reason I'm not sorry to say that the new year is moving along slowly is because 2007 in comics was chock full of large scale, and mostly pointless, event books (see: World War Hulk and Amazons Attack), and I'm enjoying the stellar work of some new and standalone stories that have nothing to do with the fate of a universe.
Marvel came up short with me this week, as there were no books from the company that were on my pull list, so to you die-hard Marvelites, I apologize. DC however, found their greatest successes this week in two books by insanely talented creators, Darwyn Cooke and Steve Niles. Cooke's take on Will Eisner's The Spirit has provided 12 straight issues of wonderful (if off-schedule) standalone entertainment. Cooke's dual roles as writer and penciller always provides us with his finest work, as his art is just gorgeous to look at, and fits this book perfectly. It's safe to say that this week's The Spirit #12 is the best issue yet, but also unfortunately it is Cooke's last.
This issue seems to act as a send off to the character from Cooke, and he calls upon one of Eisner's most famed Spirit stories and character, Sand Saref. Eisner was known for his femme fatales from The Spirit books and Sand Saref eclipses them all in terms of character and relationship to Denny (The Spirit) himself. Cooke references these stories, providing them with great dialogue and characterization and allowing any new reader to pick up on the history of Denny and Sand. Not to mention, one HELL of a cover. This issue seems to have a lot of "bests" to it; the best cover of the series, the best splash title page (in true Eisner form) and the best colors. Dave Stewart's work in this issue and the cover draw forth the best atmosphere that has been seen yet in the series.
My favorite part of this issue as far as the art goes is the flashback scenes; Cooke takes over inking duties from series regular inker J. Bone in these scenes, and gives us scenes that recall Eisner's own work from things like the Contract With God trilogy. It's a really nice, humble touch that shows Cooke's love for the material and it's creator. The ending of this issue is great; the story comes full circle without being cliche and Denny's monologue is superb. However, it's depressing that this book is changing creative hands so soon, I would have loved to see what Cooke could dish out. At least we get one more of his covers!
In the complete opposite spectrum, the other exciting book from this week is DC's Simon Dark. Steve Niles' take on the Frankenstein monster is proving to be quite impressive. When I picked up the first issue, I had no idea that the book was set in the main DCU, with the title character, a freakish Frankenstein-like superhero with a scary ass face, taking up residence in Gotham. This makes the book all the more impressive, because it shows DC is not afraid to give the readers a peek at horror comics within the DCU. Granted, this is one of those books that could get canned within 6 issues, so I won't hold my breath. But what Niles and artist Scott Hampton have created is a Frankenstein story in which the evil monster is a vigilante. Not only this, Niles provides us with an interesting supporting cast: an attractive, curious medical examiner who befriends a young girl new to the city, that both have a great interest in Simon, and a police detective on the same case that may or may not have a very shady past. Among all of this, slowly Niles is revealing the "origin" if you will of Simon. Hopefully, the book's eerie feel and emotional center in relation to our sympathy for Simon and his newfound "friends" will only surpass the level it is at now.
All in all, 2008 is so far proving to be living up to the old "less is more" proverb. Hopefully this can continue at least for the next couple of months, until the two big publishers begin gearing up for their summer events, and small stories become obsolete once again.
This week's must read list:
The Spirit #12 (DC)
Simon Dark #4 (DC)