Batman + Spirit = It's A Mad, Mad, Mad World
BATMAN/THE SPIRIT NO. ONE DC COMICS 2006
"Although, as far as it goes, the Spirit means well..."
Written by Jeph Loeb
Artwork by Darwyn Cooke
Colors by Dave Stewart
40 pages of artwork and story
(Cover dated Jan 2007, purchased Nov 29, 2006)
Batman and The Spirit are both detectives in costume, but in this story by Jeph Loeb, there's not much detecting or deducing going on. The tale barrels along at such a high rate of speed, and with such a high joviality to the drama that there's no need for deducing any sort of puzzle. The oddity of Bats and The Spirit together (which doesn't seem very strange, nothing equalizes characters like a superhero tale) is offset considerably by the pairing of P'Gell with Commissioner Gordon and Poison Ivy with Dolan. Yes, these pairings are dating, and the two old cops have no sense whatsoever that they're being set up by these femme fatales (so much for a cops "extra" sense concerning criminals!) and there is a busload of criminals planning the usual mayhem. Like something from 1960s Hollywood, Loeb's tale is a Mad, Mad, Mad World escapade set in Hawaii. The combined roster of Batman's "rogues gallery' and the Spirit's makes for too much for these forty pages, and aside from The Joker and the brief "romantic" interlude with P'Gell it's all just one big rush to the finale, though the familiar faces of both casts pop-up here and there.
Darwyn Cooke's artwork is a delight of design and drawing execution. It gives the tale a silly sort of nostalgic kick, but beyond that it's all so well done and interesting from panel to panel that maybe it doesn't matter that, for example, The Joker is characterized as a homicidal and sadistic madman, but also a bungling loony cartoon for laughs. Maybe that's meant to be that much more disturbing?
Dave Stewart's colors are bright and integrate the pages well - - and seem to have an emphasis on purples. With this potpourri of villains, though, I don't know what he can do except make Killer Croc green (as he does) and the Cossack with his red vest remain red - - but this seems to stick out of the pages in an unappealing way because everything else is otherwise muted.
I saw Will Eisner at the Library of Congress in 2003 ('cybercast' here) where he gave a lecture on the subject of the "Graphic Novel," and though it was an interesting lecture (and well attended by Library of Congress standards) it covered Eisner's old detective/superhero comic The Spirit minimally, as Eisner was much more interested in chatting about comics as a literary and fine arts medium. But following Eisner's passing away, here is his golden age hero, The Spirit hitting the comic book store racks with a DC Comics emblem over his head, written and drawn by someone(s) who are not Eisner.
This comic book is apparently the kick-off for a revival - - and there's a pun here in that this, after all, is Denny Colt, deceased lawman aka The Spirit - - of this character as an ongoing series for DC Comics. (See the review of the first issue written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke from December 2006 here).
Getting a grip on Eisner's hero, and making it something that connects to the reader in the 21st century, may prove a hard chore. This issue at least has style, with energy and wit, and the pizzazz of Cooke's visual storytelling. The appeal of this book, for me, is rooted entirely in the team that produced it, because there's just not much to the characters here, nor is much explained, and it is assumed the reader is already intimate with the cast.
By the way, no sign of Ebony (that I could find) in these whole forty pages.
Artwork image of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman
Spirit Artwork Pages
Original page November 30, 2006 | Updated June 2016