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Spirit World Hardcover – May 8, 2012
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About the Author
Jack "King" Kirby's comics career began in 1937 and continued for nearly six decades. After his fruitful collaboration with Joe Simon ended in the late 1950s, Kirby joined Marvel Comics, where the first issue of Fantastic Four cemented his reputation as comics' preeminent creator. A slew of famous titles followed that elevated Kirby to legendary status, including Incredible Hulk, Avengers and X-Men. Kirby returned to DC in 1971 with his classic "Fourth World Trilogy," which was followed by THE DEMON, KAMANDI and OMAC. Kirby continued working and innovating in comics until his death in 1994.
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The first half of the book is a reproduction of Spirit World #1, originally printed in indigo blue. While this version looks indigo blue, it's actually printed using a 3-color process (CMK). The reproduction is good, though slightly digital and soft. Also included is a reproduction of the ‘Souls’ poster, as a two-page spread, in light purple. Following a mid-book introduction by Mark Evanier come four stories originally intended for Spirit World #2 that eventually saw print elsewhere: "Horoscope Phenomenon or Witch Queen of Ancient Sumeria?", "Toxl, the World Killer", "The Burners", and "The Psychic Bloodhound". These are presented in B&W line art form. By and large, the reproduction of these latter stories is excellent, with some pages possibly from original sources (except the final story). Their inclusion makes this book something special, in my opinion.
Some readers seem to object to the use of indigo blue, while others lament that the fumetti were not rephotographed in full-color, as Kirby had originally composed them. The latter seems unrealistic. What's offered here is really quite nice in both concept and execution. The slight softness of reproduction of Spirit World #1 is offset by the inclusion of another magazine's worth of material in high-quality B&W.
Could DC have made an effort to recreate the original magazine's artwork more sharply, scanning the pages to a single color and printing the result in actual indigo blue ink? I wonder. I'd love to see the result of such an effort. Regardless, they could have let oddball titles like this one or its companion ‘In the Days of the Mob’ languish in obscurity, but they didn't, and that's to their credit. Also, by keeping the titles separate, each to their own book, they were able to repackage them with their original covers, keeping true to the spirit of the magazines, while adding further material that fans might otherwise have missed.
This book is a small gem—a little flawed, a little weird, but worth admiring. Admittedly, the writing is rather tawdry—especially in the first issue—but the subject matter is novel, and the art seems to be among Kirby's finest of the era. The tonal painting style is also unique and attractive. (And then there's the fumetti… Well, personally, I'm not a big fan, though some of it is interesting.) The first section was inked by Vince Colletta; the second, by Mike Royer. So there's a nice balance and contrast, in that regard.
BTW, I agree with another reviewer that, at $40, it's far overpriced, for two magazines' worth of republished content. But the quality of this publication is indeed very nice. If you can find it for around half-price, I'd certainly give it a try.
P.S. This volume also includes the aborted second issue of Spirit World,of which these stories were to appear at a later date scattered among various 1970s era DC horror comics of the time. Also the paper quality in this volume is of a stronger and sturdier sort than found in the regular Kirby omnibuses. Again, enjoy.