The Spirit #13 (February, 2008)
Full disclosure before we begin. I might be killing my “comics historian” cred here, but I know next to… er, make that absolutely nothing about The Spirit. Other than he was created by Will Eisner. I always thought he looked cool… but growing up in the 90’s, the only way (that I knew of) where I could read his stories would’ve been to cough up fifty-bones for an Archive Edition. That just wasn’t going to happen.
So, with that said… we’ll try and get through best we can. My apologies ahead of time if I miss any obvious connections or references.
A fight takes place in this tangle of trench coats… and in the struggle, the bag of diamonds falls into the tiger cage!
We rejoin The Spirit (should I refer to him as just “Spirit” or is it always “The Spirit”?) as he meets with Commissioner Dolan. He’s advised that there’s only one person capable of of nabbing the diamonds, and it’s a
girl grown woman named Felicia Stripe.
And so, we join the pair back at the zoo. Felicia greets the Tiger, Vida… and laments the fact that there are only ninety-eight of them left in the world. Suddenly a Spirit-dressed Argonaut arrives to confuse the proceedings… in the struggle, the tiger becomes agitated… and is ultimately shot.
Back at the office, Spirit and Dolan discuss what just went down. Spirit looks at the gun that shot the tiger… and learns, the hard way, that it wasn’t loaded with bullets… but a sleep agent.
Turns out Ms. Stripe just kayoed the big cat to take her back to her own wildlife preserve. One year later… we see that, thanks to her, there are now 100 tigers.
Our second story opens with an old woman being dragged into a car by a nogoodnik. Luckily, The Spirit was in the vicinity… and pops in for a rapid rescue. Spirit recognizes her as Sonia… an immigrant from East Klovonia that Dolan had told him about. Apparently she’s looking for a buried family treasure in the “Rowdy Forest”.
She and the Spirit hop into his car and head out to search. Along the way, The Spirit realizes that she might just be talking about the Wildwood Cemetery… get it? Rowdy Forest… Wild Wood. A half-hour later, they arrive… and our man proceeds to dig. While he works, a pair of baddies arrive.
The Spirit uses some shovel-fu to make short work of them.
With the geeks out of the way, the Spirit continues to dig… until he finds the buried treasure… a photograph of Sonia’s Aunt.
The Spirit notices that while the photograph is quite old… the frame looks brand new. He pulls the photo out… revealing a bearer bond (with plenty of zeroes) hidden behind it! Sonia nabs the loot and rushes away.
We wrap up some time later with the revelation that the riches have gone to Sonia’s head.
Our third and final story opens with “Ice” McQueen shaking down a local man who looks a bit like Alfred Pennyworth for “protection money”. The Spirit witnesses this go down, and attempts to intervene… only to have his lights knocked out by a blackjack. This story uses a pretty neat “dialogue” gimmick… we’ll talk more about it below.
“Ice” ponders her next move… and decides it might behoove her crew to dispose of The Spirit in the nearby frozen lake. And so, they tie a cinder block to his body and hurl his unconscious body from a bridge.
Luckily, the shock of cold is enough to wake our man up… and he pulls himself from the slushy drink. Not so lucky, he’s forgotten who or where he is!
He’s eventually taken in and given clothes by some hobos… and almost remembers who he is. He’s got all the letters, just doesn’t know the order. What happens next isn’t entirely clear. There’s a man (maybe Dolan?) crying at the bridge… who is approached by a police officer… who goes to beat him with his billy club… I think. I dunno… either way, The Spirit is there to save the day.
Another hobo fills The Spirit in on what’s gone down… and suddenly “Ice” McQueen and her gang strike again. Our man is able to win this round… and in so doing, remember who he is.
We wrap up with… The Spirit giving a hobo his hat… “Ice” behind bars… the bad cop being reamed out… and the Spirit lounging by the warmth of his fireplace. I guess that’s as “Christmassy” as we’re going to get this time around.
What we do have here is three fun stories. As mentioned, I have no frame of reference for anything Spirit-related. I don’t know his backstory… hell, I don’t even know his real name (if he even has one!). That said, I enjoyed this… for the most part.
Before going into detail… I wanna give it up for the art. All three stories look fantastic. I feel like this is the kind of style you want for a character/world such as this. Really… excellent stuff!
Now… let’s start with the first story. Never-ending Emily Blunt gag notwithstanding, this was pretty neat. Though, there is this odd dissonance here. The Spirit talks very much like a detective in a pot-boiler mystery… talking about “the two types of girls” out there… however, this story takes place during the present day. Was this fella frozen in ice like Captain America? I dunno… is he a relic from the 1940’s thrust into the present?
The play on the “100” was pretty clever. The whole time you assume that the title is referring to the azure diamonds… when really, it was about the endangered tigers. Thought that was a cool twist.
The second story was a cute little affair. Nice balance of humor and action… we get to see the Spirit doing some of the more unglamorous aspects of his work. Digging up graves is probably not on anybody’s short-list of fun things to do. At the end, it was all a gag… the poor immigrant woman turns into a hawty socialite. Silly fun.
The final story… well… I really wanted to like it. I think the gimmick employed was a great one… very creative work using symbols and “hieroglyphs” in lieu of actual dialogue. My only problem was… I couldn’t follow the damn thing!
It started out straightforward enough… however, gets muddled (at least for me) during the climax. Maybe if I had a better familiarity with the cast it would help… I just don’t get why an officer would attack the man on the bridge. Also… I couldn’t keep the hobos straight… how many were there? Was it the same guy all along? What about the dude from the beginning who looked like Alfred? Why was he running up with a shovel toward the end? Dunno… maybe I’m just too dense. That’s always a possibility.
Overall… if you’re looking for a good Christmas story… I’m sorry, but you’re not going to find it here. If you wanna have a little bit of noirish fun, however… give this a look. I think I’ll keep an eye out for Spirit books of this vintage should I come across ’em in the cheap-o bins. It doesn’t look like this one’s available digitally… I’m pretty sure DC no longer has the rights to the character. Shouldn’t be too hard to track down, though…
On the Eighth Day of Christmas on Infinite Earths, I give to you The Spirit #13, Justice League Unlimited #28, Shade the Changing Man (vol.2) #19, Action Comics #762! Young Justice #40, Superman: The Man of Steel #109, Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special, and a Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #2 Review.