Given that my knowledge of Will Eisner’s classic character The Spirit is extremely limited; I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this new series which aims to introduce the character to a new generation of readers. Having now read the issue I can say that it succeeds in being relatively friendly to new readers such as myself, but that being said fans of the original series would still probably get more out of this reimagining of the character. The glaring problem with The Spirit #1 is that it feels dated. Writer Matt Wagner has quite clearly made a conscious effort to make this series reminiscent to stories that Eisner himself wrote many decades ago. It is for this reason that perhaps long-term fans of the character would get more out of this debut issue than I did, as new readers won’t be able to appreciate any nostalgia factors at play here.
Something that I find very important in a comic-book is for the dialogue of the characters to sound like the way people actually talk in real-life. Of course there are exceptions, but I think in most cases this is a good asset for a comic to have. Needless to say, this isn’t the case here. The characters in this comic talk the way that 1940s stereotypes often do, and their delivery of exposition lacks the subtlety that some of today’s best comic-book writers have mastered.
That’s not to say that this issue should be written off completely however, as there is much potential that it could find its footing and flourish in the coming months. The foundations are laid for an intriguing mystery here; The Spirit has been inexplicably missing for two years, with the supporting cast of characters left to put together the pieces and find out what exactly happened to him. While this issue does have quite a slow pace, by its end all the pieces are in place for the book to begin firing on all cylinders.
Additionally, while there’s a chance that it won’t be for everyone, I found the artwork by Dan Schkade to be quite charming, and an excellent fit to the retro-style story that Wagner is attempting to tell. Schkade has a distinctive style for each character, and his detailed backgrounds are interesting and effectively set the scene for events to unfold. Meanwhile, the colors by Brennan Wagner are very well done indeed, with the frequent juxtaposition of bright and dark colors proving to be an effective way to make certain panels and pages stand out.
Ultimately, The Spirit #1 is far from a perfect debut for this new series and undoubtedly won’t please everyone. While the book is new-reader friendly, those unfamiliar with the character may find the writing to be a tad dated, which suggests that long-term fans may be an audience better suited to this new book. But in spite of its flaws, the story Wagner is telling here has potential and is accompanied by some nice artwork that succeeds in giving the book an energetic feel. The Spirit #1 is worth a go if either you’re a fan of the character, or want to learn more about him; however, if you haven’t had an interest in the character up to now, then this book probably won’t be the one that sparks your enthusiasm.