Holy hippos, talk about a pretty major change in continuity.
I wasn’t expecting all that much out of Day of Judgment. The cover doesn’t really hint at any sort of major theme and I didn’t read the summary on the back of the trade (I’ve learned to avoid those as they tend to give away major plot points, assuming the reader has already read the story in the individual trades. Seeing as how I haven’t, it’s best to just not even turn the book over.) Being me, I noticed The Spectre on the cover but didn’t bother to make the connection between that and the “Judgment” title. (I’m sort of dumb sometimes, whatever.) I figured this would be just another run-of-the-mill “omg the world’s ending” story, with our heroes emerging triumphant in the final pages.
While I wasn’t completely off, there’s so much more going on in this story.
The concept is laid out clearly in the first few pages: Jim Corrigan has finally relinquished his role as The Spectre, leaving that immortal entity without a soul to guide it. Enter Asmodel, a hateful angel who becomes The Spectre and unleashes all of hell’s demons on an unsuspecting Earth.
Basically every superhero in the current continuity joins forces to try to put a stop to this (quite literal) hell on earth, but Asmodel is simply too powerful. Even Superman and Mister Marvel can’t put a stop to him.
Knowing there must be hope, the heroes split up into three groups: one remains on Earth, fighting the demons there; one travels to the very bowels of hell to reignite its fires and summon back the escaped demons; the last travels to the gates of heaven, seeking aid.
This last group’s mission is perhaps most critical. Turned away from entering heaven itself, this group is sent to purgatory instead, where they seek a volunteer to aid in their quest. The foremost candidate ends up being a bit of a surprise.
Hal Jordan, apparently stuck in limbo since he sacrificed himself to save the world, seeks redemption for his past wrongs. Although slightly weary of trusting someone with such a troubled history, Hal is welcomed and allowed to return to Earth to help defeat Azmodel.
The central battle rages on Earth. As the team in hell is successful in igniting its fires, the demons are summoned back to their rightful place. Azmodel is a bit more difficult to defeat. However, Hal is ultimately successful, casting Azmodel out of The Spectre and entering the spirit himself.
Yep, Hal Jordan is now The Spectre.
With his vast power, Hal sends Azmodel back to heaven, to be dealt with by the powers there.
For a smaller trade, this is a pretty big change to the continuity. Jim Corrigan was Spectre for literally decades, yet if anyone was to take over the role, it feels only fitting that it would be Hal Jordan. Some trust him implicitly (such as Alan Scott) while others are far more leery of giving someone like Jordan so much power (Batman, big surprise). The title suits what Jordan has become though, and I particularly enjoyed the scene in which he was chosen for the role explicitly because he believed he deserved to have vengeance brought down on him, rather than be the bringer of such a fate. It ties nicely into the classic, “You’re only worthy when you don’t think you’re worthy” trope without feeling stilted or fake. It’s as though Jordan’s choices in life were leading him to this moment. He’s been on both sides of the line where vengeance is concerned; he, more than most, would have a clear understanding of how to judge it in others.
If, six months ago, someone had told me this was what ultimately became of Hal Jordan, I would have sighed in exasperation. Why must these characters constantly be adopting new personas/titles? Why can’t anything stay the same? Having read the events that lead to this moment, however, it feels like the perfect ending/beginning for Jordan. After everything he’s done, everything he’s been through, it’s about time he’s able to embark on a path to redemption, even if he must judge others to do so. He has a clear path before him, and I’ll be curious to see what role this new Spectre plays in other trades.
Hal Jordan is back. It may not be in the exact way I would have guessed, but it’s ultimately the perfect role for his tortured, polarizing soul.