16 April 2014

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part XVII: Day of Vengenace

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2005
Borrowed from the library
Read March 2014
Day of Vengeance

Writers: Judd Winick, Bill Willingham
Pencillers: Ian Churchill, Justiniano, Ron Wagner
Inkers: Norm Rapmund, Walden Wong, Livesay, Dexter Vines
Colorists: Beth Sotelo, Chris Chuckry
Letterers: Richard Starkings, Pat Brosseau

This is the first of the "Countdown to Infinite Crisis" collections, chronologically speaking, collecting two storylines, "Lightning Strikes Twice" and the eponymous "Day of Vengeance." It opens with a two-page overview of "The Nature of Magic," which tries to organize what is known about DC's magical universe, from sources as disparate as Green Lantern, the Fourth World, Neil Gaiman's Sandman, Captain Marvel, Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, and even Lucifer. I'm not sure it needs to be done, nor that this all actually adds up to anything, but I guess I applaud them for trying.

"Lightning Strikes Twice" is a Superman story, involving the attempt of Eclipso (who I recall from 1992's crossover event Eclipso: The Darkness Within, of which I read the Justice League Europe and Green Arrow chapters) to possess a new host, ideally Superman-- meanwhile Captain Marvel tries to help out despite the increasing difficulties of his mentor, the wizard Shazam. There's probably a good story to be written about Superman's struggle with anger, but this isn't it. It's a perfunctory, typical superhero possession story, and I didn't find that writer Judd Winick nor artists Ian Churchill and Norm Rapmund did anything interesting with it.

Part of this story picks up ramifications from Green Lantern: Rebirth, which I haven't read, but I know that Hal Jordan ceases to be the host of the Spectre; the Spectre turns up at the end of "Lightning Strikes Twice" without a host, aimless and guideless. This causes Eclipso to get an idea, and in "Day of Vengeance," it has persuaded the Spectre that all magic is contrary to God's Law and must be destroyed. With the Spectre on a rampage, it's up to an impromptu team of magic users to stop it, most of which I had never heard of: Blue Devil (I remember him from Crisis on Infinite Earths), Enchantress (nope), Nightmaster (nope again), Nightshade (still nope), Detective Chimp (I know the name, but nothing else), and Ragman (certainly not).

It makes for a decent superhero story: group of disparate heroes have to work together, discovering they have purpose in the process. It's not very interesting (an ongoing about this team picked up from Day of Vengeance, but I won't be reading it), but it's interesting enough. Each character narrates a different issue in turn, and some of these were more successful than others; obviously Detective Chimp is the best narrator, whereas many of the other characters could have been anyone. Captain Marvel plays a big role again, but I was very surprised to see Birds of Prey's Black Alice pop up here; I hadn't known she'd had any impact outside of her own book.

When this story does succeed (aside from all scenes featuring Detective Chimp), it's when it gives you the feeling of scale of what it would mean for the Spectre to be on a rampage against magic through every dimension. When Ragman and Enchantress are in a mystical forest early on, there's this great, unexpected page turn when you see the Spectre fighting Blackbrian Thorn, and the combatants just tower over our heroes. It's moments like this that make a magic-based story distinct from every other superhero story (seriously, most magic blasts could be heat rays for all it matters), and there's not quite enough of them in "Day of Vengeance," but where do they turn up (there's another good one where the Enchantress taps the universe's magic users for power to help Captain Marvel) they really sell this as something different, something bigger.

Now, what does all this have to do with the brewing Infinite Crisis? To be honest, I have little idea and I'm not hooked enough to care yet, either. But ever onwards we plunge.

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