Will Eisner's "The Spirit" is one of the classic works of the Golden Age of Comics, famed for the legendary artist's use of interesting angles, inventive plots, and a vast array of classy and dangerous women for the main character to deal with. The hero himself, a blue-hatted fellow who wears a domino mask as a token nod to superhero conventions, was mainly a vehicle for telling these stories, as opposed to a really exceptional character in his own right. This made the act of reviving "The Spirit" somewhat more challenging than it might have otherwise been, since it isn't mainly a matter of getting a grasp of the character's detailed personality; to resurrect this property, you need to resurrect a style of storytelling. The Spirit is a nondescript figure whose success or failure depends on how clever the stories he appears in are.
Darwyn Cooke, as a writer and artist, is one of the clear choices to have a go at reviving the Spirit, being perhaps the preeminent retro-ist in the current comics world. His "DC: New Frontier", which I personally found ot be more then a bit overrated, is regarded as a classic, and his art style borrows much from the Golden/early Silver Age art look. He is a well-known advocate for a light-hearted approach to stories, which suits the Spirit well. This strong colletion contains seven stories by Cooke: six issues of the regular title, and the "Batman/The Spirit" specia that he collaborated on with Jeph Loeb. The main series mixes standalone detective plots with an ongoing mystery that is just getting going at this volume's end. Briefly, the stories are:
#1, "Ice Ginger Coffee", introducing us to the Spirit's wrold, and reassuring audiences that Cooke can do silly puns on female characters' names just like Eisner (the titular reporter, 'Ginger Coffee').
#2, introducing the roguish and likeable Hussein Hussein, and revamping the classic Eisner femme fatale P'Gell. Cooke supplies her with a sympathetic backstory in order to explain her black-widowing ways, which you can debate the merits of.
#3, wherin Cooke revisits the origin of the Spirit for this series, telling it from different points of view, encompassing virtually every character involved. This is probably the most effectiv dramatic piece of the lot.
#4, with the return of Hussein Hussein and the updating of another of the Spirit's gals, Silk Satin, now a tough CIA agent out to prove she isn't an affirmative action case. We also get the return of the Octopus, the Spirit's Blofeld-esque arch-foe whose face is never seen.
#5, an oddball semi-satire of the consumer food industry that also contains some of the more violent moments in the series so far.
#6, probably the weakest story of the lot, about a group of musicians who get dyed blue by a meteorite. The Spirit himself is mainly an observer here.
Finally, there is the "Batman/The Spirit" special, which is almost entirely about two groups of villains teaming up, as well as the interactions between Police Commissioners Gordon and Dolan. This makes a lot of sense, since the supporting cast in "The Spirit" was always the life of the party. The result is a great deal of fun, and Cooke draws some very nice Bat-villains, in particular adding Harley and Ivy to his list of femme fatales.
Overall, Cooke is to be commended for his quality reimagining of Eisner's work; he expertly smoothes over the great embarassment of the classic stories (Ebony White), and touches up other characters in ways that make them a bit modern without losing their classic charm.
I must, however, join in with another reviewer here in noting the poor design of the dust jacket on this hardcover; in particular, the pieces that help define the "s" in Spirit seem destined to become bent or rip off.