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Getting In The Spirit

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When DC announced in 2006 that they were creating a new ongoing series featuring the Spirit, it felt a bit like sacrilege. The character had become synonymous with its creator, Will Eisner, and Eisner had passed away the year before. It seemed inconceivable that anyone but Eisner could do the character justice.

Enter Darwyn Cooke. Cooke had just come off DC: The New Frontier, an “Elseworlds” tale set in the 1950’s. That series won the creator a bunch of awards and set him up as a creator to be reckoned with.

Cooke taking over the reigns on The Spirit eased a lot of worry in the minds of comic savvy fans. Was he Eisner? No. I’d wager a guess that Cooke would be the first to admit that. But he was a unique talent with a definitive style. He was a great writer and artist. He could bring a lot to the character, which was most important.

Over the 11 issues Cooke had a hand in creating, he modernized the character, bringing him into the 21st century. He kept the feel of Eisner’s Spirit while making it totally his own. His run became something Spirit fans, both old and new, could love.

Fans were once again put into a tizzy after the San Diego Comic Con when Cooke announced that issue #12 would be his last on the title. Shaken by losing editor Scott Dunbar due to a business decision and informed by his inker and self-professed “right hand”, J. Bone, that he would be leaving the title to pursue other options, Cooke decided the time was right to leave the series.

Much like how people wondered who could replace Will Eisner, people began to wonder who could replace Darwyn Cooke. Creative changes are always uncertain events, but with a special property such as The Spirit, there is even more cause for concern.

The announcement that the replacements were to be Mark Evanier, Sergio Aragonés and Mike Ploog, I’m sure many people’s fears still weren’t eased. After all, Aragonés and Evanier were most known for their collaboration on Groo. While Spirit stories did contain a lot of humor, they weren’t humor books, per se. And Ploog is probably best known for co-creating Ghost Rider, a horror/superhero comic. The Spirit does feature, at times, a dark and mysterious mood, it is pretty far from the horror genre.

I, on the other hand, wasn’t worried at all. Was it a risky, outside-the-box choice by DC? Absolutely. Can the creators pull off the awesome responsibility of doing The Spirit the way it should be done? I believe so, yes.

Aragonés and Evanier have done more than just humor. Aragonés co-created the western character, Bat Lash, and did some writing for DC’s horror books of the 1970’s. Evanier co-created Crossfire and DNAgents and wrote Blackhawks, another Eisner creation. And he respects the history of comics in all their forms. He is a respected authority on Jack Kirby and Walt Kelly’s Pogo.

As good as the men are as writers separately, they are even better together. Their work on Groo is so pitch perfect that I would trust their synergy in any genre. If they decided to start writing Harlequin romances, I’d probably have to pick them up.

It is true that Ploog is most identified with drawing horror, from his work on Warren horror titles, and Ghost Rider, and Werewolf By Night at Marvel. But he is more than just a horror artist. He has worked at making storyboards at various TV shows and movies and most recently gained some recognition by providing the art for Abadazad, a kid-friendly book series he co-created with writer J.M DeMatteis.

Ploog also worked with Eisner on P*S: The Preventative Maintenance Monthly. That was an Army magazine that Eisner started in the 1950s and which Ploog worked on it with him in the 1970s. There are a lot of artists out their that have been influenced by Will Eisner, Ploog is one of the rare ones who was influenced by him while working with him.

So all you worry-warts out there, relax. The Spirit is in good hands. You should be excited about where these talented creators will take the book from here, because there is nothing to worry about.

Also out this week :

Cable &Deadpool #50

The jury is still out if the Messiah CompleX claimed Professor X as a causality (A coma? Really, Marvel? A coma? He was shot in the head!), but the crossover has definitely meant the end for one victim—this title.

This is the last issue of this series. Cable is set to get a bright and shiny new series all his own in a month or so. This means Deadpool, who has been keeping this title going all by his lonesome for several months now, is left to fend for himself. Cable gets to play a role in the future of the X-titles, Deadpool joins the ranks of the guest star. Poor Deadpool goes from second billing to second class citizen.

Reilly Brown with Fabian Nicieza (W), Reilly Brown (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99.   Final Issue.

Superman/Batman #46:

The solicitation for this issue leads off with the fact that a new color of Kryptonite will be introduced in this issue. Apparently, our heroes discover this while on a quest to rid the world of all Kryptonite.

Is a new color of Kryptonite really that big of a selling point? And is this a new “new” color, or just the reintroduction of a pre-Crisis color that hasn’t made its first post-Crisis appearance?

Either way, it seems that Metallo has something to do with it. This means that in addition to this new Kryptonite, our team has to deal with the fact that if they want to collect all the Kryptonite in the world, then the meteor-rock-hearted Metallo has to die. Are the willing to go that far?

Michael Green and Mike Johnson (W), Shane Davis (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Zorro #1:

There are not many 88 year old crime fighters out there, but one of the most famous returns to comic pages this week.

Zorro was created for the pulp All-Story Weekly way back in 1919. Since then, he has graced movies screens in eight different decades, appeared on TV in five separate decades, and now, with this series, starred in comic books published in five different decades.

And even though he’s been around the block a few times, he is still getting the superstar treatment. Comic veteran Matt Wagner lends his expertise to this latest installment. So, as Zorro begins to approach his 90th year in existence, he might be in the best hands, creatively, that he’s ever been. 

Matt Wagner (W), Francesco Francavilla (A), Dynamite Entertainment, $3.50.  Ongoing Series.

Perhapanauts Annual #1:

The Perhapanauts have moved! The team of ghouls, ghosts and urban legends has left their former home at Dark Horse, where they starred in several miniseries, and set up camp at Image. And to provide a special treat to their fans, they are rolling out their first annual.

This book is a great place for new readers to start reading the series, as the over-sized annual will introduce the team and set the stage for their new series, which will begin in April. So, if you were a fan of the team from the very beginning or if the concept has caught your eye, this self-contained story is aimed directly at you!

Todd DeZago (W), Craig Rousseau (A), Image Comics, $3.50. Annual.

Jenna Jameson's Shadow Hunter #1:

She starred in such films as Where the Boys Aren’t 7, Deep Inside Celeste, and The Devil in Miss Jones, now she joins the legion of movie stars to have a series at Virgin Comics. Yes, porn actress Jenna Jameson comes to comics with this new title.

A porn star? Really? I mean, is this how far you’ve come, Virgin? Movie directors I can see. Even musicians. But a porn star? Yes, I’m sure the porn market has a whole lot of potential mainstream comic customers. And I am always one for having comics being aimed at adults. But doesn’t having a porn actress create a book for the teen and up demographic seem a bit—tacky?

Christina Z. (W), Mukesh Singh (A), Virgin Comics, $2.99.  Ongoing Series.

The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite #6:

Now here is a famous person slumming in comics done right. I’m sure many of you didn’t give this book, written by My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way, all that much of a chance. But it turns out that Way has what it takes to be a good comic book writer. As a matter of fact, I think it’s safe to say that this is one of the best books on the market today!

Well, the first miniseries comes to a rousing finale. The family that puts fun into dysfunctional must put aside their differences and learn to once again work together. Why? Because if they can’t get their act together, the world faces total annihilation! Not that there’s any pressure or anything.

Gerard Way (W), Gabriel Bá (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Last Issue.

Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Green Mist of Death:

If you haven’t been reading Immortal Iron Fist, you have really been missing something special. Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction have taken a B-list Marvel character and treated it like he was A-list. It is a fun, action-packed book that is a must read each and every month.

Fraction is on his own here, as the Golden Age Iron Fist, Orson Randall, gets his time in the spotlight. The recent addition to the Iron Fist mythos stars in a tale that fits his pulpy roots, as he faces off against the deadly Prince of the Orphans. If you are enjoying the current arc in the regular book, this one will add a dimension to it that you just have to see!

  Matt Fraction (W), Various (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99.  One-Shot.

Loaded Bible 3: Communion:

Just in time for Easter, we get a new volume of the Loaded Bible series, the series that’s not afraid to ask, “What would Jesus’ clone do if he had to fight vampires?” The answer is fight them, and fight them well.

This time around, Jesus is on the run, being hunted by a cyborg mercenary with ties to his past (the worst kind of cyborg mercenary). If he can find the time, he has to save Lilith, the Mother of All Vampires, from execution.

If you are interested in reading what has to be Mike Huckabee’s least favorite comic, look no further than inside these pages.

Tim Seely (W), Mike Norton (A), Image Comics, $4.99. One-Shot.

Aspen Showcase: Grace #1:

I am a big fan of just about any comic with the word “Showcase” in the title. That usually means new or little used characters will be getting their time in the spotlight. This is where we find the stars of tomorrow, or at least the comics versions of them.

This is the first of a ongoing series of one-shot specials that focus on popular characters from the various Aspen titles. First up is Grace, the heroine featured previously in the pages of Soulfire. We span the centuries as we follow her on her struggle to find her way back home. Fans of Soulfire will have to pick this one up, because this one-shot will flesh out the series they love so much.

Vince Hernandez (W), Sana Takeda (A), Aspen Comics, $2.99. One-Shot.

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters, is a weekly contributor to Film Buff Online and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

 

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