Tag Archives: Darwyn Cooke

Before Watchmen: Minutemen/Silk Spectre

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Before Watchmen: Minutemen/Silk Spectre by Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner.

Cooke Conner Before Watchmen Minutemen Silk Spectre

This volume collects two of the Before Watchmen series that DC commissioned and published against the wishes of Watchmen author Alan Moore. The first series is the six-issue Minutemen, chronicling the WWII-era predecessors to the Watchmen, and the second is four numbers of Silk Spectre, with a story about Laurie Jupiter in the 1960s. Darwyn Cooke serves as auteur for Minutemen, both writing and drawing throughout, and he gets a co-writer credit on the Silk Spectre issues by Amanda Conner. I wasn’t interested in the individual issues when they were on comic shop shelves about five years ago, but curiosity got the better of me when I saw this book at the public library.

The opening of Minutemen is clever and effective. Cooke imitates Moore’s portentous voice and the panel designs from Watchmen (i.e. stacked full-width panels, with a repeating geometric motif–in this case the centered circle that turns out to be a clock), only to pull the perspective back and reveal Hollis Mason (the original Nite Owl) frustrated with his own prose style as he composes his memoirs. That breaks the tension and assuages the anxiety of influence so that Cooke can get down to work telling a story that really does share the ethos of Watchmen in exploring the interactions of deeply flawed costumed vigilantes and their efforts to work together as a team. Cooke’s visual characterizations are very different than those of Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, but still suited to the material.

I was not as pleased with the shorter Silk Spectre story. It has Laurie running away from home and going to San Francisco to fall in with the sixties counterculture. It cast Owsley Stanley as a villain, collaborating to use hallucinogenic mind-control to re-instill materialistic consumerism in hippies. Neither Laurie nor her mother Sally were especially likable characters–the general approach of highlighting their personal flaws seemed to backfire here. I did enjoy Amanda Conner’s art, though. It has a polished 21st-century comics ambiance, and she did excellent work depicting the retro-psychedelic subject matter.

Superman: Kryptonite

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Superman: Kryptonite by Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale.

Kryptonite is a six-issue revision of Superman #61, the original story in which Superman discovers his Kryptonian origins and his vulnerability to kryptonite. It’s a quick and enjoyable read, but hardly flawless. The early parts of the story play up the young Superman’s uncertainty about how impervious to physical harm he might be, which actually works against the psychological shock of his first kryptonite poisoning. The emotional subplots center on Lois Lane (of course) as well as Ma & Pa Kent.

Tim Sale’s art is has an idiosyncratic cartoonishness that works well with Superman. [via]

Will Eisner’s The Spirit, Vol. 1

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Will Eisner’s The Spirit, Vol. 1 by Darwyn Cooke and Jeph Loeb.

Will Eisner is a comic book artist’s artist, and I’m a mere comic book reader. So I haven’t much explored his ouvre, though I did once read A Contract with God. I hadn’t read Eisner’s own Spirit comics (much-reprinted in the 1990s), but I was intrigued by the trailer for the recent film that Frank Miller based on them. I had also noticed that the 21st-century DC “reboot” of the character had received some critical praise. This reprint volume containing the first six issues of the latter I borrowed from the public library on a lark.

So I don’t know how “faithful” it is to Eisner’s character, but it sure is fun. Darwyn Cooke’s art is vivid and accessible, and his stories are wide-ranging. The Spirit is a vigilante of the amazing-but-not-quite-super hero type, like earlier pulp protagonists such as the Shadow and the Phantom Detective. He’s more fallible than his archetype, especially when it comes to women. Both Cooke and his Spirit have a sense of humor.

Appended to the initial run of the DC series, this volume includes a reprint of the Batman/Spirit crossover story that served as a prequel to it. This piece, a collaboration by Cooke with writer Jeph Loeb, highlights the parallels between the two heroes to an almost painful degree. A telling exception is the omission of the Spirit’s counterpart to Robin the Boy Wonder. In the 1940s Spirit comics, a sidekick named Ebony White was largely a blackface stereotype that could only be read as racist if rendered that way today. Evidently, Cooke hadn’t yet come up with his solution to the Ebony dilemma, although the later Spirit issues introduce the character as an updated stereotype: a streetwise black kid with plenty of criminal experience but a good heart.

Cooke’s willingness to trade in today’s stereotypes may leave him open to certain types of criticism, but it is one of the features that make the comic fast-paced and diverting. No one will be particularly enlightened by this fare, but anyone with a fondness for the fantasy detective story will be entertained by it. [via]

Spirit Vol 1

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Spirit Vol. 1 by Darwyn Cooke and Jeph Loeb, art by Darwyn Cooke and J Bone.

Darwyn Cooke J Bone Dave Sewart The Spirit

Will Eisner is a comic book artist’s artist, and I’m a mere comic book reader. So I haven’t much explored his oeuvre, though I did once read A Contract with God. I hadn’t read Eisner’s own Spirit comics (much-reprinted in the 1990s), but I was intrigued by the trailer for the recent film that Frank Miller based on them. I had also noticed that the 21st-century DC “reboot” of the character had received some critical praise. This reprint volume containing the first six issues of the latter I borrowed from the public library on a lark.

So I don’t know how “faithful” it is to Eisner’s character, but it sure is fun. Darwyn Cooke’s art is vivid and accessible, and his stories are wide-ranging. The Spirit is a vigilante of the amazing-but-not-quite-super hero type, like earlier pulp protagonists such as the Shadow and the Phantom Detective. He’s more fallible than his archetype, especially when it comes to women. Both Cooke and his Spirit have a sense of humor.

Appended to the initial run of the DC series, this volume includes a reprint of the Batman/Spirit crossover story that served as a prequel to it. This piece, a collaboration by Cooke with writer Jeph Loeb, highlights the parallels between the two heroes to an almost painful degree. A telling exception is the omission of the Spirit’s counterpart to Robin the Boy Wonder. In the 1940s Spirit comics, a sidekick named Ebony White was largely a blackface stereotype that could only be read as racist if rendered that way today. Evidently, Cooke hadn’t yet come up with his solution to the Ebony dilemma, although the later Spirit issues introduce the character as an updated stereotype: a streetwise black kid with plenty of criminal experience but a good heart.

Cooke’s willingness to trade in today’s stereotypes may leave him open to certain types of criticism, but it is one of the features that make the comic fast-paced and diverting. No one will be particularly enlightened by this fare, but anyone with a fondness for the fantasy detective story will be entertained by it. [via]