The Spirit #12: Sand Seref
Too well drawn to be bad
The Spirit #12
DC Comics, January 2008 Cover Date
$2.99 cover price
Art and Story by Darwyn Cooke. Inks by J. Bone.
This issue is the last one from Darwyn Cooke, the man who basically reworked Will Eisner's golden age hero The Spirit, simultaneously updating the characters world and cast and also trying to stay true to Eisner's conception. There have been many good issues in the 12-issue run (I'm not counting the very silly mess that was penned by Jeph Loeb, the Batman and Spirit Teamup from 2006), and I get the feeling this is the one Cooke has tried hardest to achieve something, and unfortunately it is the one the comes closest in many superficial ways, but also shoots way off the mark when it comes to staying true to Eisner. Maybe it was all intended that way by Cooke, since it is a story completely at home with other tales written by Cooke involving other characters, but would not fit in with Eisner's noir ideas and moral view.
Cooke presents the "back-story" to Sand Seref, making her a sympathetic victim who has gone astray into crime. The product of a rough childhood and bitter, bad luck, Cooke uses classic Eisner page designs to present the flashbacks, and not the Eisner art of the original Spirit, but from Eisner's later years when he no longer was using just the usual grid-style comic book page that has existed since the 1930s. They're very well done imitations and for a reader familiar with Eisner's "Contract with God" and later style, it's a nostalgic and sentimental homage.
In "explaining" Sand Seref, throwing in extenuating circumstances to soften up one of Eisner's quintessential 'bad women," Cooke makes her just one more victim with bad wiring. Is there ever a female villain in a Darwyn Cooke tale that is just outright evil by choice? They're always the puppets of some psychological conditioning. And they're not really all that evil, either, as there is some other villain provided to play the foil so that the sympathy can run all the greater towards a misunderstood woman who has an 'evil' attitude and the trappings of a traditional villainess, but not the deeds. Are these girls just too beautifully drawn to actually be bad people?
These complaints aside, Cooke has been the most successful in bringing Eisner's Spirit to life again.
Spirit Artwork Pages
Original page Feb 7, 2008 | Updated Dec 2011