How many times can these comics remind me that doing my homework and learning the characters’ histories will pay off in a big way? It seems every time I pick up a comic nowadays, I’m faced with numerous references that I never would have understood had I not read the dozens of earlier stories I did. Honestly at this point I’m not sure how people even read comics any other way; I can’t imagine diving right in without any prior knowledge of these characters, many of whom have had 50+ years to be established.
Having read as many comics as I have (especially in so short a time – this is trade number 225, and I still have a few weeks to go before I hit my one-year mark) I was pleased to see that I was able to jump right into this story with little confusion. Of course, there are always characters who pop up that, if you missed a storyline or two, you may not be familiar with, but all of the major players were familiar faces: Enchantress, Captain Marvel, The Spectre. So much goes on in these pages that it’s good to have a handle on who all these people are and what drives them, because without that you could easily get lost in the folds of the story.
Day of Vengeance focuses on the magical side of the meta-human world. Eclipso, escaped from his underwater prison, seeks out a new host body. Trying (and failing) to inhabit Superman’s body, Eclipso seeks out a troubled soul, and invades the body of Jean Loring (The Atom’s ex-wife and Sue Dibny’s killer). She seeks out The Spectre, already unstable due to his own lack of a human host, and convinces him that they must eradicate the world of magic in order to free it from its evil influence.
Hundreds of magical beings are killed by The Spectre, with the remaining fleeing to safety or going into hiding. A small few, though, band together and vow to do what they can to put an end to The Spectre’s destruction.
Calling themselves Shadowpact, this ragtag group of magical beings joins together in the hope that they can defeat Spectre, one of the most powerful beings in existence. No small feat to say the least, and Eclipso’s interference doesn’t help matters. While Spectre is busy fighting Captain Marvel, Enchantress realizes that she can channel power from any magical being into Captain Marvel, multiplying his power and giving him a fighting chance to defeat The Spectre.
It works, for a time, but Enchantress falls vicitim to the power, and Spectre escapes. They try once more, but ultimately Spectre is drawn away to battle the wizard Shazam. Shadowpact watches on, helpless to do anything, as The Spectre releases a maelstrom of unconstrained magic on the world.
Shazam is dead, and one can only wonder what that means for young Billy Batson and his powers. What is clear is that there will be massive repercussions to the release of so much uncontrollable magic, and the effects will likely be far reaching.
This story continues to build upon those that came before it, adding additional levels to the already rich storyline leading up to Infinite Crisis. There is a lot going on, but somehow none of it feels disjointed. Instead, I’m able to place this story in the larger context of the world, as it pertains to those I’ve read in previous trades. It’s no small feat to be able to seamlessly tie together this many titles into a single, cohesive narrative, and yet so far I haven’t found many missteps. Instead, the story is progressing smoothly, beginning to feel like a Tolkien-esque saga, featuring richly developed characters and plenty of action and heart to keep it moving.
Is this a bit over the top, comparing a comic to a Tolkien novel? Perhaps. But then, I’m really, really enjoying them.
Also, added nerd fact: Bill Willingham was writing Fables at the same time that these comics were released, and I’m convinced that this right here was a tongue in cheek reference to what he calls our realm, the Mundane, or “Mundy” world. You can’t tell me otherwise.