Reading the first issue of DC's new "The Spirit" series, it was hard to keep from thinking that this was a comic series based more on the recent film adaptation (directed by Frank Miller) than Will Eisner's original comics. So with that in mind, here's the good news: "The Spirit" #2 feels more in line with Eisner's creation than Miller's re-imagining.
This issue has less in the way of exploding buildings and overly grim situations, and more on the Spirit's slightly jovial nature and crime-solving abilities. It's not perfect, but one does feel that Mark Schultz is more in line with Eisner this time through. The story itself is just all right, though; it requires the Spirit to be a bit of an idiot on more than one occasion for everything to proceed, and at the end of the day it's not too exciting for what's the middle installment of a three-part story. Still, it's not bad, and Schultz comes up with some fun-looking scenes for Moritat to draw.
Moritat is the big star of "The Spirit," with his lush figures and dramatic cityscapes. But while Schultz's script feels improved this month, Moritat's art isn't up to the dizzying heights of his first issue's creations. It's good, don't get me wrong; I love the final page of Angel swinging in for the attack, and those views we get of Central City (both above and within) are just amazing. Some of the later pages, though, feel a little rushed and not full of the same detail and general slickness that I've already come to expect from Moritat. If I'd not seen his work last month on "The Spirit" I'd probably be gaga over this issue, but in comparison it's just good instead of great.
There's also a back-up black and white story by Harlan Ellison and Kyle Baker, but at the end of the day it's just all right. Ellison's strength and weakness is his scripting; the way he uses language is always fun, but at the same time he also starts falling back on his old clichés ("These two were as dumb as a soup sandwich") that have peppered his works over the years. More importantly, while the script is the highlight, the plot itself is a non-entity. Ellison's normally a much better plotter than this, so to find such a thin story was a bit of a surprise. Baker's art doesn't seem to fit the script that well at all, with its overly-reliant use of computer effects and shapes. It's when there's a bit of lens flare upon using a cigarette lighter that you start to feel like Baker's on autopilot, turning a grim and technologically low scene into something unnecessarily glossy.
After two issues of the new series of "The Spirit," the only thing that is standing out so far is Moritat's snazzy art. This is a series you want to like more, but it's yet to start firing on all cylinders. Maybe when David Hine takes over the writing position with #4 (plus upcoming back-ups involving creators like Michael Wm. Kaluta, Phil Winslade, and David Lapham), it'll all come together. For now, it's not quite there.