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Batman/The Spirit #1
posted December 11, 2006
Jeph Loeb, Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone, Dave Stewart
DC Comics, comic book, 48 pages, January 2007, $4.99
As one might guess from the cartoonist Darwyn Cooke's involvement, DC's Batman/The Spirit
#1 is an enjoyable, old-fashioned sort of comic book. The plot, told in unnecessary flashback, gives us Commissioners Dolan and Gordon attending a convention in Hawaii where they become the target of a plot by the combined Batman/Spirit rogue galleries. Our heroes work together to foil said plot, including the final twist thrown in near the end. Throw in a cameo by another icon of the early 1940s, and that's pretty much it.
It kind of has to work on the enjoyable pulp level because there's certainly no character to be done even if this were the place for it. The Spirit is largely unfamiliar to comics readers, and operated in a time with much simpler demands as to the insight we expected into our four-color heroes. Batman's longevity can be traced, in great part, to his ability to hold any number of characterizations to suit the time and individual creator's whims. The characters mesh oddly, too -- The Spirit has no secret identity so Bruce Wayne's out, while the Batman rogue's gallery very much overpowers The Spirit's in the weird department, the danger department and certainly in terms of visual recognition.
In fact, The Spirit in general has slightly less to do than Batman does, which is an odd choice given the forthcoming Cooke-helmed Spirit
series. In another sense, though, The Spirit as a character is less about overwhelming ass-kicking effectiveness and more about pluck and commitment and charm; certainly those are on display here. It makes sense that Batman might dominate a bit. Cooke gives us a clever, resourceful and PG-rated Batman, so that's not such a bad thing. Best of all, there's a real ease to the narrative, water at room temperature, that makes me think the upcoming series might be more pleasure than homage. One thing that's nice about a laidback approach likely to send no one running to this particular comic: I'm not exactly sad to see the partnership dissolve.