Standalone issues are rare today. It seems that every story has to be a six- or twelve-issue arc, filled with double-page spreads and overly long, wordless action scenes. So I find it very refreshing when a writer is able to tell a complete story in 22 pages or less, and fill each page with a good mix of dialogue and action.
David Hine demonstrates that he’s a sharp, efficient storyteller in SPIRIT #10, giving us a fast-paced, one-and-done story entitled “Crime and Punishment.” Hine’s story focuses on the life of Roscoe Kalashnikov, a small-time thief who suffers from paranoid hallucinations. As a child, Roscoe was locked in a dank, dark basement infested with cockroaches that would crawl all over his shivering body. Now, as an adult, Roscoe is convinced that certain people in New York are giant humanoid roaches that only he can see. When he stumbles upon a gun with a silencer, he decides that he must act as an exterminator and shoot down the oversized roach in his neighborhood, an old woman that runs a pawnshop. From there, the story only gets crazier.
I like this issue for a couple of reasons. First, I like the fact that, in a few short pages, Hine introduces us to Roscoe, gives us his backstory, and tells an entertaining, little crime yarn. Second, I like the retro feel that Hine gives this book. As I was flipping through the pages, I kept thinking about the old Cornell Woolrich and Jim Thompson stories that commonly featured demented psychopaths. Roscoe is the kind of freaky madman that you’d find in classic pulp fiction: Men who are unhinged and violent and yet somehow, on a certain level, sympathetic.
Moritat’s art is perfect for this story and book. He captures the spirit (pun intended) of Eisner’s work and, at the same time, produces some very stylized, original-looking illustrations. I love his heavy, rough line work. It makes everything look older, creepier, and more decrepit.
SPIRIT #10 is by no means a mind-blowing book. But it is a solid page-turner that captures and celebrates old-time storytelling in both comics and magazines.