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I Loved the Spirit #2 (except for one part I kind of hated)

by  in Comic News Comment
I Loved the Spirit #2 (except for one part I kind of hated)

 I thought the second issue of Darwyn Cooke, Dave Stewart, and J. Bone’s Spirit relaunch was excellent. A huge improvement over the first issue, which underwhelmed me despite being perfectly well done.

This issue was pretty much a pitch perfect Spirit and P’Gell story. The modern touches and the use of the supporting cast was good, he nailed the dynamic between the Spirit and P’Gell, integrated humor much better than the first issue; I even liked the double page title page better than last issue. This read like a pitch perfect Spirit story; except for one part at the end that bugged the hell out of me. So, needless to say, spoilers 

So, it turns out that P’Gell’s latest conquest is Prince Farouk Kafiristan, one of those wacky analogue foreign countries that comics creators love. It also turns out that he happened to have murdered her first husband during a “secular cleansing”. So P’Gell seduces and then murders him for revenge. And this bugged the hell out of me.

It didn’t ruin the issue for me, mind you. Hell, I could even laugh at the two gags at the end of the issue (one of which being a call back to pretty much every P’Gell story ever). But I was bemused by Cooke giving P’Gell a tragic origin and the fact that she murdered the guy in cold blood.

The former strikes me as the kind of thing that people like Brad Meltzer and J. Michael Straczynski get yelled at for, and deservedly so; I mean, it’s not as if it’s as bad as Identity Crisis or Norman Osborn’s O-Face, but it’s still retroactively (and needlessly) darkening a character’s past. Also, I kind of liked that P’Gell didn’t have any motivation for the way she was; she was just like that. I don’t see what giving her a tragic past adds to the character.

The second is a totally fanboy thing, but… P’Gell wouldn’t do that! I don’t usually get bent out of shape over the whole “character x is being written out of character” jazz that a lot of fans tie themselves in knots over, but in this case, I just couldn’t see the P’Gell of the Eisner stories hacking a dude to death with a sword. She’s pretty much amoral, sure, but P’Gell was almost always above that sort of thing in the Eisner stories. She never got her hands dirty, she let the men duke it out and took the spoils for herself; that’s why I find her to be such a fun character (she’s my favorite Eisner femme fatale, and the femme fatales are my favorite part of the Spirit. Next to Eisner’s mastery of craft. Maybe).

Of course, in the context of the story, it makes sense, but I wasn’t real fond of that context. I guess I can understand Cooke wanting to add some pathos to her backstory (if nothing else, it’s violation of expectations with people familiar with P’Gell’s routine, thus making it a fresh take on her interaction with the Spirit), but I think she’s more interesting without that past trauma.
I also find at odd that Cooke did this because, well, it doesn’t seem like his sort of thing. He strikes me as the  polar opposite of the kind of creator who gives long running characters shocking pasts and what not. That’s part of his appeal as a creator, and why he was (and is, mind you) a great choice to revive the Spirit.
I’ll probably get over my problems with this issue, since I enjoyed the rest of it so much, and despite my bitching, that outweighs my problems with Cooke’s take on P’Gell. In the grand scheme of things, I will take an excellent comic that does something I disagree with on a fanboy level over a dull one that doesn’t invalidate my preconceived notions of the characters.

I’m also be interested in seeing what people who don’t own the All About P’Gell collection Kitchen Sink put out years ago and haven’t read all of her appearences thought of this issue. I may be one of the only non-AARP members who has any attachment to the Spirit characters (there was a point where the only comics I was reading were old Kitchen Sink/Warren reprint magazines; those are an excellent, affordable way to read the Spirit if you’re like me and too cheap for the Archives; look for ’em on E-Bay), so I’d like to see what the folks on board solely for Cooke thought of this issue. I’d also like to know if anyone else was bugged by this at all.

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