With Frank Miller’s film adaptation failing to create much of a spark at the box office, reprinting stories from Will Eisner’s masterpiece of detective fiction may seem like a futile exercise. But whether you liked or disliked the film, or don’t even harbour any intenion to go and see it, it’s always worth dipping into The Spirit.
These stories have stood the passage of time with remarkable rigidity, while honing Eisner’s ability to create gripping, noir-ish thrillers. The book starts with a brief introduction to the origin of The Spirit, a detective who fell fowl of some thugs and ended up being pronounced dead. Miraculously he later recovered, climbing out of his grave with a renewed desire to fight crime. Using this as an opportunity for a new start under the anonymity of The Spirit’s mask and fedora, along with the contacts he already had in the police department, he takes on the might of underworld.
The book features a nice cross section of stories, which pull out many of the elements for which The Spirit is famous. Eisner paints his crooks as trigger-happy thugs and his femmes fatales (of which there are many) as morally bankrupt manipulators. The Spirit himself is tough, smart and quick-witted, capable of giving and receiving knock-out punches.
As an introduction to The Spirit, this book offers a great peak into the character and is bound to leave you begging for more. Eisner is often remembered for helping turn the graphic novel into a force in literature but The Spirit reminds us that it was his episodic craft that got him into that position in the first place. And it was this innovative character and the way Eisner worked him that went on to inspire generations of future comic creators.
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