Issue #3 of Will Eisner’s The Spirit: The Corpse-Makers, by Francesco Francavilla, doesn’t do much to move the mystery forward. Luckily, the script is charming and the art is fantastic.
Writer: Francesco Francavilla
Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
This installment can be split into thirds: the Spirit following up with his lead from last issue, Lisa Marlowe’s run in with the creepy crematorium truck seen in previous issues, and the Spirit investigating said crematorium. Except for a horror-ish twist at the end, this issue is a continuation of the straightforward detective mystery.
I’m not terribly familiar with Francavilla’s work as an author, but I do know he writes a pulp-inspired book The Black Beetle. His pulp chops here are very evident. There are very clear good guys and bad guys, some kind of mysterious villain, a car chase, and plenty of moody atmosphere. If you want deep characterization with a lot of introspection, this probably isn’t your book. For everyone else, it is hard not to read this book with a smile on your face. Sure, the plot isn’t super mysterious, and I was hoping for a bit more forward progress on what seems to be the big secret scheme, but it’s just really damn charming. I don’t have much familiarity with the Spirit, but Francavilla’s take on him is surprisingly light and humorous. He seems to enjoy the sense of adventure and cracks a few jokes along the way. I thought the character was darker and more of a hard-boiled PI. Lisa Marlowe actually fits that trope much closer. It is a nice twist on gender roles for the genre, and she counter balances the Spirit’s buoyancy, even though they have yet to share a scene. Story-wise this book doesn’t revolutionize the genre, but it is still a great read.
What really elevates this book to be more than just okay is the art. Francavilla’s art in the first two issues was really awesome, and he continues the trend. His use of dark, cool, colors go a really long way to establish the pulp detective atmosphere. Thin white lines of rain cover almost every panel, lending even static panels a sense of energy. There are some really great bits of layout work as well, especially during Lisa’s chase scene. For example, Francavilla renders one of the chase pages from a bird’s-eye view, where the buildings themselves are closeup panels. Perhaps my favorite artistic choice of Francavilla’s is to use brighter colors as stark contrast. He has done this in some of his other work as well. Here, where almost everything is dark blue, the Spirit’s red tie or the yellow lights of the cars really stands out. He uses the effect here more than in previous issues, but that might be because this issue had the most action to date, and it really helps clarify and punctuate those scenes.
In Francavilla’s third installment, the mystery progresses just slightly. That is a bit concerning, as there are only five issues in this mini-series. In the end, though, a fun script and excellent, atmospheric art make this a great pulpy read that contains a few small surprises.