Published on September 3rd, 2011 | by Cosmic Comix and Toys0
Spirit: Angel Smerti
Last week I read Arsenic Lullaby – The Devils Decade which was obscenely funny. After something like that, I needed something more basic, like a good crime noir or superheroes or maybe something a little bit of both. I found that in, Spirit: Angel Smerti written Mark Schultz and David Hine, illustrated Moitat, published by DC Comics.
The latest version of the Spirit was part of DC’s First Wave project. Unfortunately, the Wave never quite made it to shore but with the caliber of creators associated with the project, I couldn’t pass it up. This book collects the first seven issues of the series which was a three issue story arc by Mark Schultz and a four issue arc by David Hine. It was interesting to see how the two authors treated the same characters differently.
Schultz’s story addresses how the Spirit is perceived, and how he impacts those around him. In the arc, the Octopus, Spirit’s arch enemy, has had enough of him interfering with his crime syndicate and hires a European assassin to kill him. The characterization for this story is just top notch. Schultz introduces the Spirit, but also takes the time necessary to develop his supporting cast. There’s plenty of action, but there are also plenty of moments that build the ‘good man doing good deeds’ aspect of the character. Schultz builds upon each good deed so that they form a support to understand how the Spirit can be as effective as he is. I also appreciated that Schultz made the Spirit human and fallible. He was lucky as much as he was skilled but he certainly wasn’t Batman. That sense of humanity really made the action sequences tense and enjoyable.
David Hine story was more of an action packed romp through the Spirit’s world. In this case, a designer drug is loose on the streets and the Spirit starts stomping on all the dealers. When the gangsters try to kill his assistants, then it becomes a race to save those in need and defeat the crooks without getting killed. Whereas Schultz balanced the action with softer character moments, Hine is all about the action! Each issue presents on part of a long chase sequence that is a thrill ride into itself. The self contained aspects of each part of the chase provide a nice thrill, then a break before starting it all over again.
Both writers also did a great job of updating the Spirit for new readers. The premise is the same, along with the outfit, and supporting cast, but they all feel fresh. The biggest change is the setting. Central City is darker, grittier, and more crime ridden than before. There is a real sense of the pages that bad things are happening. Ebony, his ‘Robin,’ is now a slick inner city kid with lots of street smarts. The police commissioner is now strapped with a corrupt police force and can only help the Spirit part time. These subtle changes really modernize the character and make him accessible to today’s readers.
Finally, none of this would have worked without the stellar artwork of Moritat. He uses a thicker line than I have previously seen from him to great effect. It helps to darken the art and add weight to the various situations. The colors in the book are also fantastic and the muted palate is a great compliment to Moritat’s lines.
Spirit: Angel Smerti is a great update of a classic Golden Age character. It is a fun filled romp through a city on the edge with great characters and action throughout.
- David Lee