Her headless ghost screamed foul prophecies for thirteen minutes before it faded.

Twenty years after DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, both major comic-book companies are engaging in major housecleaning and renovations. DC began theirs with Identity Crisis, and will finish (for the time being) with Infinite Crisis, the first issue of which will appear on shelves in October of 2005.

DC’s mystic heroes appear (and in many cases, disappear) in the six-issue series Day of Vengeance.


Title: Day of Vengeance #1-6

Writer: Bill Willingham

Artists: Justiniano, Walden Wong, Chris Chuckay, Livesay (#2), Dexter Vines (#3)

Premise:

The Spectre, unanchored without a human host, and under the influence of Eclipso (fused with Jean Loring), goes on a murderous rampage, under the belief that destroying all magic and magical beings will end evil. When DC’s other magical heavy-hitters, the Phantom Stranger and Dr. Fate, get removed from the battle, a team of second-strong DC mystic heroes—Enchantress, Ragman, Blue Devil, Nightshade, Nightmaster, Black Alice, and Bobo the Chimp–
join forces to stop the superpowerful being. Shazam, meanwhile, directs Captain Marvel to stop the Spectre: if necessary, at the cost of his own life.

High Points

–Oh my–! Dad, did you know there’s a frozen monkey on the couch? And a hooker?
–She’s not a hooker.
–She’s dressed like one.
–I think that’s supposed to be some sort of superhero costume.
–Dad, I’m speechless.
–Good, because we need to have the kind of talk where you listen… They seem to think you were like them. Honey, are you some kind of superhero?(#4)

The bits involving Dark Alice work very well as comic relief and intensification. I almost wished their hadn’t been an explanation for why the suburbanites didn’t take much notice of Nightshade and Detective Chimp walking by; these things must happen reasonably often in the DC Universe.

Save for the planned ambiguity surrounding the Spectre—which leaves the story incomplete—I liked the ending. The side effects of the Rock of Eternity’s destruction read like something out of China Miéville. Quite grim, really, for DC.

Low Point

They put Jean Loring in Arkham Asylum? Right. Yeah, we’ll just put the insane woman who knows the secret identity of most major superheroes in an institute which holds several major supervillains—but never for long.

The Scores

Originality: 3/6. We have another DC “event series.” The idea of Bobo as the team’s Batman/Tactician character has a certain originality. The final panels reek of cliché as they establish that a new supergroup comic will be with us, post-Infinite Crisis.

Artwork: 4/6 Some issues feature excellent layout and imagery, but I found the artwork across the six issues uneven. The opening sequence, for example, is fairly strong. The cartooniness of the final Rock of Eternity sequence strikes exactly the wrong note.

Story: 4/6. As with Identity Crisis, we get consequences that feel like they’ll matter, at least for a few years. It tells a better story than many, but it still features a number of loose ends.

I had a number of questions about the Spectre. He has been the agent of God’s vengeance, with access to almost limitless power. At other times, DC has fudged on this, and suggested that the Spectre works for, you know, some other really powerful being but not, you know, that really powerful being. He had already started to go awry without a human host, and Eclipso draws him completely over the edge. I have to wonder why God or Some Other Unbelievably Powerful Being would let his Wrath wander free, knowing the damage it could cause, and especially given that the Spectre has operated under restrictions in the past. I also had to wonder why he didn’t just wipe out certain weaker beings that were creating trouble for him when he had the opportunity.

Characterization: 4/6 We get the usual broad strokes, and a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Spectre.

Emotional response: 4/6 As multi-character crossover event comics go, this one isn’t bad. DC’s learning to focus on the characters and the story in these things.

Flow 5/6.

Overall: 5/6

In total, Justice #1 receives a score of 29/42.

Additional Comments

This series clears a lot of magic and magical characters out of the DCU, suggests that major changes are in the works for the Marvel Family, and sets the stage for the next version of Blue Beetle.

A dying wizard and a Golden Age hero, a grim soul-gatherer and a goth babe, histrionic heroics and self-referential humor, the horrifying death of a grade-schooler and the tactical leadership of a drunken simian: the ability to combine implausible, disparate elements and have them somehow fit is a defining element of the traditional comic book. Day of Vengeance may not be literature for the ages, but it’s a fair example of why I enjoy the genre.

In November, DC will release a trade paperback featuring all six issues and three crossover adventures from Superman titles.

The Timeshredder’s reviews can be found here.