I didn’t really care about The Spirit before Darwyn Cooke came along. I knew of the character, and I’d read Dark Horse’s excellent Eisner/Miller, but I never had any interest in the character or the comic. Really, about all I knew is that everyone loved it, it was a classic, that it’d influenced a handful of writers and artists I enjoyed, and that Ebony White was shameful.
I finally gave the character a chance when Cooke’s run began. Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone, and Dave Stewart on colors is really the kind of creative team you shouldn’t turn down at all. So, I got over myself and finally dipped into Eisner’s character… and I wasn’t disappointed.
Cooke hits the ground running in the first issue, providing only a hint at The Spirit’s origin. Barring that page, the rest of the issue is essentially a series of chase scenes and fights. The Spirit has to rescue a kidnapped TV reporter while simultaneously evading her kidnappers and surviving Ginger Coffee’s idea of journalism.
This version of The Spirit feels old-school without being old. DC has been trying to bring back the olden glory days of their universe by bringing back Supergirl, Hal Jordan, and Barry Allen, but the stories just feel overwrought and hollow. With The Spirit, though, it just feels classic. You’ve got a hero (clean-shaven, lantern-jawed, virtuous), a damsel in distress, an angry ally/mentor, and a kid sidekick with a smart mouth.
I think what sold me on it in the end, though, was the last panel. The Spirit #1 ends with a joke, in the comic book-equivalent of a sitcom freeze frame. And that’s good. That’s the mythical “fun comic” that everyone’s been looking for and talking about. Open on action, throw in some adventure, end on a laugh. The hero spends 21 out of 22 pages being heroic, and the last panel is a joke at his expense. It reminds me of old cartoons, but with 2009% less cornball behavior.
The Spirit #1 is a fair indicator of the rest of Cooke’s run. The remaining issues dip into melancholy, slapstick humor, weirdness, action, and adventure in varying amounts, but it’s all here in microcosm. Cooke gives us the hero, but having a generic hero can get a little boring, so he throws a little sauce into the mix. Yeah, The Spirit is a good hero, and sometimes troubled, but you know what? He likes life. He has fun.
And Ebony White is dope.