First off, to clarify: I am not reviewing the content of Eisner's classic comic strip. "The Spirit" (flaws notwithstanding) stands on its own merits as a virtuoso piece of graphic storytelling, and one of the most influential comics of the century.
This review concerns the actual DC Archives hardcovers, which are starting to attract big bucks as they slip out of print.
Bottom line: Eisner's masterpiece deserves a *much* better archival presentation than this.
If you ever get a chance to compare these volumes (or DC's cheaper paperback Spirit volumes) to the Warren black & white reprints from the 70s, you will immediately notice the following:
1) DC's reproductions are tiny. The page size is much smaller than the Warren magazines to begin with (I think the originals were even larger), and the fact that the DC volumes are narrow (like a modern-day comic book) means that the wide Spirit pages are crammed into the middle of the page with lots of blank space on the top and bottom of each page. That right there is less-than-ideal, but combine it with:
2) The quality of the reproduction is terrible. Whether that's solely due to the small size, or whether DC could not get clean copies to work with, I don't know, but comparing the same panel in the DC version vs. the Warren version inevitably reveals a significant amount of lost detail in the DC edition.
3) The coloring in the DC versions is absolutely terrible. The Spirit is often described as a "noir" comic strip, and it was clearly influenced by the crime movies of its day. So why did DC decide to color it with garish primary colors throughout? Worse yet, the coloring in many panels is literally nonsensical, e.g. if a character is walking into a room, and his face is in shadow, then -- call me crazy -- maybe the interior of the room should be colored in dark color? Not bright red or yellow?
There are countless examples of this sort of careless, nonsensical coloring choices in any volume of the DC Spirit Archives Series, and taken together, they tend to destroy the careful composition of Eisner's pages. I find my attention wandering as I attempt to read these volumes, since I have to fight to figure out what's going on from panel to panel.
Seriously, as great as the Spirit strip is, it is extremely ill-served by these careless, sloppy editions.
The volume does get one extra star (two instead of one) for having a real sewn binding instead of DC's currently preferred method (gluing a paperback book inside a hardcover and selling it at the hardcover price).