Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre

I’m not sure what it is, but the comics I’m reading this week are just not quite up to snuff. Maybe I’m just being too critical. After the brilliance of some of the recent comics I’ve read, maybe it’s inevitable that those that follow would fall short.

Or maybe these stories just aren’t that good.

I was really excited to read this trade. The Spectre has always been present in DC, but I admit to not really knowing all that much about him.  I know he’s the spirit of vengeance blah blah and all that, but I really didn’t know too many details, nor had I ever read a comic dedicated solely to Spectre.  Given that the new Spectre was none other than Crispus Allen, the street-wise Gotham cop who was killed off in Gotham Central: Vol. 4, I was eager to see how this story would unfold. Having read this trade, I’ve started to lose interest in the elusive character that is the Spectre.

The trade opens with Crispus Allen refusing to become the Spectre.  Spectre says Allen needs to reconsider, and gives him one year to do so. In that time Allen changes his tune, and what proceeds is a training of sorts.  Allen accompanies Spectre as he doles out his brand of justice, watching and observing what is done, learning for his future role as an avenging spirit.

Intriguing, no? I thought so too. That is, I thought so until I started to see exactly how Spectre views justice and vengeance.

His entire philosophy can essentially be boiled down to, “An eye for an eye.”

Kill someone? He’s going to kill you. And not just kill, he’s going to torture you and kill you in the most ironic, inventive way he can come up with.

Time and time again Spectre doles out punishment to sinners, and with the exception of one case, every receiver of “justice” is guilty of murder.  Spectre apparently doesn’t deal with lesser sins, at least not that we’ve seen.

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This guy? He murdered two people.  The story takes its time to explain that he’s a cowardly, insignificant person, but at the same time shows that he cares about his wife and family, at least in his own way.  None of this matters though, because the Spectre shows up and ends his life.

I could have still found enjoyment in this comic, even if I didn’t fully support the Spectre’s version of justice.  The “eye for an eye” mentality doesn’t really hold up for me, but I could accept it as being the primary belief of the character. The comic completely lost me though, when Crispus Allen is faced with his final test before assuming the role of Spectre.

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Allen’s young son Mal is distraught over his father’s death.  He takes a gun that his older brother had bought (an act the older brother openly regretted), tracked down Jim Corrigan, his father’s known killer, and shot him dead.  Watching, Allen embraces his son, saying he must answer for his sins, and ends his life.  It’s quick and painless, and ends with little dwelling on the event.

No. No. No.

I was so incredibly angered by this scene that I couldn’t get it out of my head while reading the rest of the trade.  A young boy, distraught with grief, makes a mistake, and the only solution is to end his short life??  What’s more, his life is ended by his own father, with little sign of remorse or regret?  I get that the Spectre is supposed to serve as executioner, but the whole point of his having a human host is to help him maintain his grasp on humanity.  What about this is humane or right?  Even more disturbing is the fact that we’re reminded throughout the comic that the Spectre works for God, and is doling out justice in his name, so that he may pass final judgement on these sinners.  This is a disturbing connection to make, and the fact that the comic presents it as indisputable fact with little questioning of why all of this is being done is truly frightening.

This comic was dark and bleak, with very little going for it in my mind.  The stories are self-contained and feel rather repetitive; someone commits a crime, Spectre kills him.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  It’s an incredibly dreary read, as the comic reminds you that with every killer brought to justice, there will invariably be another to take his place.  Having finally completed my first Spectre trade, it’s safe to say that I prefer the character as a cameo in other titles.  Reading a story where he’s the main focus is just too damn depressing.

-Jess