Will Eisner was a true pioneer of the comic book medium, and his series The Spirit pushed the boundaries of comic book storytelling, adding to the possibilities of what a panel (or page of panels) can do.
Sadly, I don’t own any Eisner books. I’ve read some, thanks to the local library system, and I remember being impressed. But since I have no examples at the ready for review purposes, I’ll go with the next best thing…
DC Comics acquired the rights to the Spirit at some point and launched a new series written and drawn by the great Darwyn Cooke, perhaps the most fitting successor to carry on the character. Cooke really captured the, er … (dammit, the perils of quickly writing a review a day…) captured the spirit of an Eisner book (I’m hanging my head in shame).
Basically, the Spirit is a masked vigilante crimefighter who operates with the cooperation of the police commissioner (and dates his daughter). He used to be a detective, until he was killed (or maybe “killed” – I don’t recall the exact origin), and he came back as the anonymous Spirit. The stories range from lighthearted action to darker noir.
In #2 of Cooke’s series, we see a mix of that range, a sort of “lighter side of noir.” Recurring femme fatale P’Gell strikes again, with her usual modus operandi of marrying wealthy men and then killing them and stealing their fortunes. Cooke adds details to her backstory, giving her a bit more depth with a first marriage that was legit but ended tragically.
There’s plenty of humor along the way, though. For example, the Spirit poses as a blind man to gain entry into a shindig…and then the guards, while beating him up, call him out on that very not-PC act.
The most direct tribute to Eisner each issue appears in the opening splash panel, a two-page spread featuring an inventive layout with some symbolism. In the case of #2, we see a large image of P’Gell lounging across the pages, dangling a tiny Spirit toy. It says much about her in a primarily visual manner.
So, sorry I don’t have an actual Eisner Spirit comic to share, but the Cooke Spirit comics are worth a look, too.
(And just pretend the movie doesn’t exist. What movie? Exactly.)
Writer/Penciler: Darwyn Cooke
Inker: J. Bone
Publisher: DC Comics
How to Read It: back issues; included in The Spirit, Vol. 1 (TPB)
Appropriate For: ages 12 and up