By Tim Daniel, Michael Kennedy, and Lauren Norby
Although the wraparound cover of Spiritus depicts a woman running side by side with a humanoid robot, I can’t help but be reminded of that feeling you get when looking at the black and red-figure pottery of the ancient Greeks. That feeling of connection to a different time and place. A connection made possible by a team of craftsmen and women working together to take something of function and use it’s form as a foundation to tell their stories. Intentionally, the grace and poise of the figures is mirrored in the sharp, kinetic title design. Before we’ve spun the pot or turned to page one, we are transported to an unfamiliar world by this familiar vessel.
Vault Comics makes sure the threats of this world are made real to us on page one. Whether writer Tim Daniel and artist Michael Kennedy are using symbolism or foreshadowing here is unclear, but the two able craftsmen use the opening scene to cast a shadow of doom and demise on anyone that may be caught in the path of our main character, Kinju Dayal. The narration working as a warning to both character and reader about her fierce and tenacious nature.
We step into the story with Kinju after she has been caged, locked up and labeled. Battered and bruised. Even after revealing she took three men down in a transfer between cells, her true threat or potential seem invalid at this point. Convicted of a crime she may or may not have committed, while she maintains her innocence, her punishment is a utilitarian styled automated detainment. Your soul is stripped from it’s body and placed into a machine. A machine used for government labor. And as the ancient pots of Greece were used to transport water, the essence of life, from one to another, her spirit will be poured from the clay of her body to that of one designed to work for the betterment of country.
In a chilling scene of exposition our introduction to their world is told in a beautiful double page spread. Carrying through the celestial motif of the book and breaking from the established grid system we get a cold, direct look at a world not unlike our own. A world that very well could be built on the foundation of our current social and political systems. A world where the run amok for-profit prison system mirrors slave trades stretching all the way back to the days of Greek or Roman power.
As with many tales from that era, in Spiritus we find the shadowy owners of the hands that pull invisible strings will often make themselves visible in order to appear helpful, but tricksters always have a price. When one of the powers that be presents themselves as a smuggler with the need of Kinju’s talents, she must decide if the price is worth the offer. The trade off being a life of state servitude for a life private service with a promise based on hope. Hope of seeing a long lost loved one. Can Kinju trust this man? Can she escape Federal Marshal Rueben Reveles?
After reading Spiritus one can’t help but feel a little relieved that it takes place on some future Earth. Somewhere far from here. But we live amongst the building blocks for their world. On the ruins of the world before us. With stories left on artifacts as warnings to us of the trials and tribulations of an industrialized nations and the need for labor, automated or not.
And like those pots and paintings of ancient days past, this comic book was crafted for more than art’s sake, it serves a purpose. It carries accurate social commentary with Ted Daniel’s words. It holds all the proper emotion thanks to the art and colors of Michael Kennedy. And the message is clear thanks to Lauren Norby’s lettering and balloon styling. Let’s see if editor Bess Pallares can lead this team of artistic craftsmen and women to a happy ending or if it all just keeps getting worse for Kinju.