Ana's good for a few things. Puns come to mind. Another of those things is comic recommendations. She has turned me on to a gaggle of great books (Ant-Man, Blue Beetle, Shazam: MSoE, and more!) and she's been trying to get me to pick up the new Spirit series for a while now. I finally took her up on it this week.
I recently read a "Best Of" collection of the classic Will Eisner Spirit, so I was primed to jump into this series, if a little cautious that it would lack the *ahem* spirit of the original.
Like the original stories, each issue of this series is completely standalone. There are recurring characters, of course, but the drama that drives each issue doesn't have much to do with their development. Even The Spirit. He basically just bookends this story about the self-destruction of a rock band called The Killer Bs.
The basic premise is honestly a little cliché: rockers find a drug that enhances their rockin' but they end up a slave to it and the man who controls the supply starts making demands and everything goes to shit. People die. Cliché, right?
But you've never seen the story told like this before.
For one, the drug in question is a blue meteor which has been mounted to an oak tree trunk and produces some truly righteous junk when rained upon.
Oh, and the junk turns you blue. This flight of fancy in a tough world is very true to Eisner's conception of The Spirit.
...BUT IS IT EISNER?
So how does it compare with Eisner's The Spirit in other ways? As I already mentioned, it's certainly a similar format, presenting a standalone tale of woe with a complete beginning middle and end in which The Spirit sometimes plays only a minor part. The differences lie in the tone with which the tale is told. Eisner's stories were often a touch gristlier than what current writer Darwyn Cooke does in this issue. His Central City had a grunge and a texture than artist J. Bone's lacks. There's no question, the goal of this book is not to emulate Eisner but to update him. Unfortunately, that means pop culture references:
..and jokes about old-school characters in a new-school world (that's Commissioner Dolan, a regular):
There was a joke in this vein that I really loved, though. After The Spirit takes down an entire club's worth of angry punk rockers, an onlooker expresses amazement to which The Spirit replies "Please. They're just punks." It's clear he means "punks" in the 40s sense, and that he's none too impressed with the roughest our generation has to offer.
This is a damn good book. It's simple, solid storytelling that doesn't require knowledge of any backstory (Denny Colt was a cop presumed dead who decided to fight crime as The Spirit rather than return to his old life, GO!). It deals with a downer of a story but keeps it light and fresh the whole way through. If you can get past the fact that this isn't quite Eisner, definitely pick it up.