Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Review: The Best of The Spirit by Will Eisner

The Best of The Spirit written and illustrated by Will Eisner

After enjoying the Contract With God Trilogy, I sought out some more of Will Eisner's work. His most popular hero is The Spirit, whose stories appeared as a Sunday edition insert in many newspapers from 1940 to 1952. In subsequent decades, stories would appear here and there in comic book format. The character has a long history and is an early comic book hero. He's not quite a superhero, though. Police Detective Denny Colt is presumed dead and buried but he was really in a sort of coma. He came out of the grave and decided to become a crime fighter who could work just outside the law. He informed Police Commissioner Dolan of his secret identity, then put on his dark blue suit, hat, and mask and began fighting crime as The Spirit. This collection of stories is from the 1940s and 1950s.

The stories run a wide range of themes and styles. Some are straight up crime or noir dramas. Some are comedies, horrors, and romances (with one science fiction story!). Occasionally, the stories don't even have The Spirit in them or he is an extremely peripheral character. The style is often experimental. One story has two parallel narratives each in its own column. Another story is told through the eyes of one character with each panel showing the outline of his eyes as he sees the scene.

They are all interesting to read. My favorites were "The Christmas Spirit" where Santa sneaks into jail and gives a con one wish that turns out surprisingly well for the con and the reader; "Two Lives" where an escaped convict gets to swap lives with a harried husband with wistfully comic results; and "The Story of Rat-Tat, the Toy Machine Gun" where a department store heist brings a toy tommy gun into the lives of a gang and a child who wants to join the gang.

I highly recommend this book for comic fans and action fans and those who love good storytelling.

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