Spectre #60 was one of the best comics that I’ve had the chance of reading. This comic was building for the past 59 issues. And I’m not kidding. John Ostrander (the writer) and Tom Mandrake (the artist) made something short of an absolute masterpiece. Ostrander, having a strong background in religious studies, was the perfect writer for the character that’s the wrath of God. Literally. His divine wrath.
His journey was a difficult one, exploring the past of Jim Corrigan, battling the forces of hell, other gods, the Earth, other mystical heroes, as well as the corrupted form of America. It was a spiritual journey, leading to the final storyarc. Spectre hurt an innocent man and went to heaven for judgment. He found the gates of heaven smashed open and heaven empty.
This was one of the most complex journeys that I’ve ever seen in comics, filled with spiritual complexities and moral relativism. I can’t do justice to the entire arc. It ended up questioning everything that makes humanity human as well as the purpose of God. And then there were small profound moments like this?
It ended with the Jim Corrigan and the Spectre entering into each other’s soul in order to try to find any trace of God. And what they found was…. it was profound. First, Jim Corrigan witnessed the origin of the Spectre.
The Spectre was originally a Prince of Hell named Aztar. He repented his rebellion against heaven and came back to ask for forgiveness. It was touching in a way, and made sense. There were hints of this throughout the series with demons taunting Spectre with this information. And then here it is.
There was no mercy given to him. Only justice. This was why the Spectre doesn’t show mercy. None was ever shown to him. Worse, heaven changed the rules on the Spectre, ending up punishing him for following his orders. What happened next…. wow…
Such a simple question. Who demands justice of God? It wasn’t just Jim Corrigan shouting this question though…
Spectre entered into Jim Corrigan’s soul and found a representation of Corrigan as a small child whimpering. So Spectre, being as caring and gentle as ever, demanded to know why.
To try to summarize what he learned… Corrigan’s best friend was actually his brother. His father had an affair with the house maid. You see, his father was hellfire and brimstone minister who had no problem abusing his son. Jim hated his father from a very young age. Jim walked in on his father having sex with his friend’s mother, which led to his father kicking out his maid and her son. His friend ended up running away. Jim knew exactly where his friend would run to. There’s a cave that they used to play in. Unfortunately, it was raining and the cave tended to flood easily…. leading to this…
Jim found his best friend in the entire world, a person he recently discovered was his own brother, dead. And his father gave the traditional answers. “It’s nobody’s fault” and “Rafe is with God now.” So what does Jim say in response?
If it was God’s will that the child died, then God is a murderer. It’s very basic and angry. And on some level, I suspect anyone who believes in God would have thought this when someone close to them died. But watching this play out was truly touching on many levels. Demanding justice of God isn’t something that I get to see in comic books anymore.
This is the wrath of God saying this. It comes down to a couple of central themes. Why do good people suffer? Why does evil flourish? If this truly is God’s will, then why does God will it? How in the world can you fight it? The Spectre and Jim Corrigan’s creation was an act of injustice and evil. They demanded justice. I’ve never seen anything like that before in a comic. Hell, I never seen anything like it since. And what happened next was nothing short of jaw dropping.
Michael the Archangel showed up missing his arm and his sword thrust through his chest. Michael was the 2nd most powerful being in the DC universe, with God being the most powerful. I mean this. Nobody is more powerful than Michael. He’s beaten the hell out of the Spectre on several occasions. And the Spectre is unimaginably powerful. Michael’s on a whole other level, and here is is… beaten.. and warning Spectre to beware asking that sort of question….
And that panel…. Spectre asking “My God, who could do this?” And that one word answer….”Precisely.”
Spectre is demanding justice. God’s there to answer. And to be honest….. and answer’s so brilliant that I’m still struggling understanding it.