The Spirit #10
The hardest books for me to review are the books I liked, but didn't love. Books where I appreciate the craft, but it didn't quite leave me wanting more. I really enjoy writing reviews for books I thought were fantastic, or that took me by surprise. I take a different sort of pleasure from writing even just a scathing paragraph about a book I absolutely despise. But a book I thought was pretty good? Is a lot more difficult.
But hey, I liked The Spirit #10!
I just didn't love it.
So I will borrow a quote here from the real-life Mikhail Kalashnikov, from whom the unfortunate protagonist in the story is named probably and inventor of the AK-47: "Before attempting to create something new, it is vital to have a good appreciation of everything that already exists in this field."
It's clear David Hine has an excellent appreciation of what makes for classic Eisner-era Spirit: the self-contained and tidy story without a single sub-plot or loose end, the mix of genre elements using a crime, some wry humor, and even a little horror. But the story of this Kalashnikov,a mentally-ill burglar who hallucinates the crooked old fence he unloads his ill-gotten goods on is a giant bug and kills her then is haunted to suicide by an oath she makes before dying, first makes the reader empathize for the criminal by showing the horrific abuse he was subjected to as a child. The true villain here is the father, shown only in the beginning flashback. Even the old woman he kills--and no, "Mary Jane" doesn't do that--is crooked, herself a criminal and pretty despicable on top of that. So when he shoots her, I give a big ol' shrug of the shoulders, but poor Kalashnikov here totally fucking loses it and, in a classic "eaten alive by their own guilt" scene, sees reminders of The Spirit everywhere until he turns the gun on himself. Speaking of that gun, how exactly did Kalashnikov remember to ditch the used silencer, but not the gun itself? Or not notice the gun in his coat pocket before then, guns being sorta heavy? But then Roscoe K sets himself up for an episode of World's Dumbest Criminals and leaves his wallet on the table? I'm not sure this guy was cut out for the crime world, really.
Real-life Kalashnikov again: "Anything that is complex is not useful and anything that is useful is simple."
Ok fair enough, I won't ask any more questions. He has time for just one more dumb move, hiding in the basement instead of just tossing his rod like a sensible guy. Poor old Roscoe Kalashnikov. It seems very familiar somehow, like I've seen or read a very similar story before,and The Spirit himself is barely in the book at all, so it seems unfair to judge it as a Spirit book at all really--more like one of those archetypal morality tales we tell ourselves over and over.
The art is at times reminiscent of Eisner as well, but only at times. Oh, and if your gunman is left-handed in real life, he's also liable to be left-handed in his imagination--a minor quibble for sure. A bigger gripe would be that even as little as he appears, The Spirit's face looks actually swiped from Eisner in some panels and more like a weird pseudo-anime version of himself in others. It's not consistent, and in some panels I did not like how he looked at all. It definitely felt like there were two styles at war here, the artist's style, and the artist-doing-Eisner's style and you can't merely look like you're imitating a writer/artist creator of that calibur some of the time. Especially with coloring this bad. Seriously, I am not going to look for the colorist's name in case I remember it. Work on that level should be forgotten anyway. It was abysmal.
So, I would give this an 8, but the truly shit-bad peas 'n' vomit coloring drops me to a
"Being offended is not to be confused with a state of grace; it’s the occasional price we all pay for living in an open society." -- Ian McEwan