Writer/Artist/Letterer Francesco Francavilla continues to deliver the goods with The Spirit – The Corpse-Makers #2, proving that Will Eisner‘s most famous creation packs his boldest punch when there’s a singular creative vision at the helm.
The issue opens with what is probably Raymond Chandler’s definitive quote, “The streets were dark with something more than night…” and utilizing that quote and that writer should tell you the kind of Spirit story Francavilla is telling. After last issue saw the Spirit dive into what initially appears to be a routine case only to find it reveal more sinister aspects, this second issue doesn’t let up at all. Francavilla advances the plot without bogging down the issue in too much exposition, resulting in an issue that enlarges the sense of dread and heightens the stakes without dispensing with the mystery.
Francavilla’s art is one of the major draws of the issue, of course, and he doesn’t disappoint at all. He’s chosen a blue palette for the issue, which is the perfect color to choose for a pulpy noir tale. But what keeps this singular color choice from feeling boring are the accents he utilizes to make the issue pop. The blue tones are broken up by pops of yellows and oranges to delineate the sources of light, which has always been a key aspect of noir visual style. Similarly, as is customary in Spirit stories, the pop of the character’s red necktie serves to break up what could otherwise be a visually dull silhouette. Francavilla uses all of this masterfully to create an effectively bleak and mysterious atmosphere throughout the issue, compounded by the torrential downpour and nighttime shenanigans the characters get up to.
But The Spirit – The Corpse-Makers #2 isn’t all subtle color choices and tonal deftness. Francavilla packs energy and action into the issue as well, whether it’s an artfully constructed fight scene between the Spirit and two thugs, or the suspenseful scenes of an intrepid PI following their target through the rain on a motorcycle, the issue isn’t lacking in kinetic action, skillfully depicted.
The dialogue of the issue straddles the line nicely between hard-boiled patois and golden-age inspired slightly cheesy overblown quipping. It’s certainly not naturalistic, but this approach of combining an homage to both crime pulps and Eisner’s golden-age brashness works much better in this issue than I found it did in the previous one.
I do think that, for subsequent issues, the plot needs to begin to come together beyond sinister shadiness into a narrative that has more to latch onto. If the schemes and conspiracies don’t start to resolve into focus soon, the mystery may wind up being too diffuse to hold onto reader engagement. But two issues of more atmosphere and set-up than payoff is hardly too long to wait, and when the result are issues that look as good as these ones do, you don’t mind if the plot elements are doled out sparingly, you’re too busy enjoying the artistic merits of the issue.
With The Spirit – The Corpse-Makers #2, Francesco Francavilla continues to prove that he’s a worthy successor to both Will Eisner and the other creative minds that have worked on this property. As long as he can keep unravelling his mystery with the same style and verve he’s shown already, and provided it’s leading to an effective resolution, this series will stand tall in the franchise. 9/10
The Spirit – The Corpse-Makers #2 will be released March 22, 2017