In 1997, after years of refusals, Will Eisner granted permission for other writers and artists to create new stories for his legendary creation, The Spirit. The response to the opportunity was tremendous, as some of the finest talents in comics rose to the challenge. Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Neil Gaiman, Eddie Campbell and others eagerly embraced the opportunity to add new adventures to The Spirit mythos. Now, two decades later, Dark Horse has collected that run of new The Spirit stories into a hardcover [note: this is a second edition, the original was published in 2009]. It includes not only the issues published by Kitchen Sink Press, but a previously unpublished story by Gary Chaloner and a gallery of images, including Will Eisner sketches of the character.
The stories in The New Adventures act as a tribute to both Will Eisner and the Golden Age of comics, capturing the essence of The Spirit in a way that provides a coda to the earlier stories and an introduction to the character for new generations of comics readers. The stories encompass a range of genres and techniques, from slapstick misadventures to mysteries to be solved and lives to be saved. An origin story tells us how criminologist Denny Colt becomes The Spirit after he’s killed and his body left in a puddle of eternal life serum made by his nemesis Dr. Cobra, while another story features a possible future for the immortal and ageless crimefighter generations after Central City is no more. Scott Hampton and Mark Kneece offer a take on the kidnapping of the Lindberg baby in Baby Eichbergh, while Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson showcase The Spirit as the white knight seeking to save his lost childhood love from a life of crime in The Samovar of Shooshnipoor.
Readers familiar with The Spirit will recognize other characters within these pages: Commissioner Dolan, the man who knows The Spirit’s identify and manages his relationship with the law; Ellen Dolan, the Commissioner’s fierce daughter who loves both The Spirit and Denny Colt; Sand Seref, international thief and espionage player; Ebony, The Spirit’s young sidekick and guide to parts of the city Denny Colt doesn’t know; and The Octopus, the criminal mastermind who seeks to defeat The Spirit’s attempts to curb crime in Central City.
Any collection involving multiple creators has the potential to be uneven in quality, and while some stories in The New Adventures certainly stand out as excellent, it would be difficult to label any of them as inferior. Each work provides a new perception of the character and world of The Spirit, and each has its own appeal and potential fans. The artistic styles are as diverse as the stories they help tell, each artist capturing The Spirit in ways that are both unique and yet still immediately recognizable. Frequently harkening back to earlier years of comics illustrations, the art of The New Adventures parallels the homage to the Eisner age that the stories themselves offer.
Dark Horse rates The Spirit: The New Adventures for ages 14+, and the title is likely appropriate for most teen collections, though it’s primary audience might be found in adult readers who are fans of Eisner or of the all-star creators included here. The collection does contain occasional profanity, though it is very mild and infrequent overall. There are a few instances of scantily clad women, including one story which features sexual situations. Violence, including several on-screen deaths, abounds, but it is not graphic or gratuitous. These stories are adventurous, frequently hilarious, and often thought-provoking, exactly what the reader might expect from works by these comics masters and works that invoke the spirit of Will Eisner. Intended to complement the multi-volume The Spirit Archives which reprinted the original stories, The Spirit: The New Adventures is a brilliant addition to modern comics collections.
Will Eisner’s The Spirit: The New Adventures
Art by Various
Dark Horse, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 14