"The Medical Murders"
I don't like to compare or contrast writers and artists who have different styles, but Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier's story with Mike Ploog's artwork seems so ordinary by contrast to Cooke's amazing dynamism.
Somebody has been murdering doctors. It's up to The Spirit to find the culprit and beat the Commissioner to the punch.
The best thing about The Spirit is that Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones come up with a well-plotted fairplay mystery. The murders stem from an innocent girl's death years ago. From there the Spirit roots out the answers from a puzzle that includes such factors as murder weapons having different octogenarian fingerprints.
The second best thing in The Spirit is a remarkably brutal Eisneresque fight scene that Ploog handles with the greatest aplomb. In general I like how Ploog draws the Spirit. It's his handle on the rest of the cast that I'm not so crazy about.
Whereas Cooke's Ebony White represented the culmination of evolution from the protean stereotype, Ploog's version of Ebony unfortunately wavers in the middle. Ploog's Ellen Dolan is simply ugly. There's just no nice way of putting that.
Ploog excels at caricature. Commissioner Dolan earns the award for the most expressive character, and the geriatric guest-stars look a lot of fun even if they really just take up space when delivering their flat comedy.
Ploog's sense of space differs strongly from Cooke's sensibilities. All of the scenes are crowded with people, and each extra bears distinction. However, I'm not sure if that's the smart way to go. Cooke created a smoother visual by keeping people in the background and blending extras, such as the Central City police department, by homogenizing their features. Ploog's technique distracts the reader from the star's actions, but perhaps that's the point. Often the Spirit fades into the background, and I can see how he might be mistaken for just another detective. Such a trick might benefit a vigilante, but I'm not exactly sure whether or not the Spirit wants to be considered an urban legend like Batman.
The new era of The Spirit begins. I'm sorry to say that I miss Darwyn Cooke already. While there's nothing bad in this issue of The Spirit, the foundation just didn't wow me as much as so many of the Cooke issues did.
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