Wednesday, May 04, 2005

SPOILER Review: DAY OF VENGEANCE #1

A NOTE TO MY LOYAL READERS (both of you): The practical realities of having a tiny person living in my house has led me to realize that I just don't have time to do both a First Look non-spoiler review of books and a spoiler version in any timely fashion. So, I am dispensing with the former to get the latter to you as quick as I can. First up, I'll be playing catch up with last week's INFINITE CRISIS tie-in mini-series: DAY OF VENEGANCE.

Second in the cycle of mini-series meant to lead in to this fall’s INFINITE CRISIS, DAY OF VENGEANCE is the story that focuses on the magical and mystical characters of the DCU. I must admit off the bat that this is an area with which I am only moderately familiar: DC’s mystical characters are best taken as part of larger heroic communities, like Dr. Fate in the JSA and Zatanna in the JLA for example, in my opinion. So, if I get some names wrong or some facts confused, don’t stick an angry Spirit of Internet Vengeance (also known as “The Flamre”) on me.

DAY OF VENGEANCE #1 is written by Bill Willingham, with art by Justiniano and Wong. The art is crisp and moody and while altogether different from the art in THE OMAC PROJECT, fits the story equally well. If VILLAINS UNITED and THE RANN/THANAGAR WAR are given the same treatment, I will have to guess that DC went through a great deal of trouble to get the right teams on these books. If not, we’ll call it a fluke. Willingham’s writing is better in the narrative captions than it is in the dialogue, but he does a decent job of bringing someone like me who doesn’t know most of these characters up to speed relatively painlessly. I think, though, that a book about the crumbling of the mystical center of the universe and a rampaging fist of god shouldn’t be as light and quirky as this book is. Not being particularly familiar with Willingham’s other work, I don’t know if this is a trademark of his style or something specific to DAY OF VENGEANCE. Don’t get me wrong -- it isn’t like we are in the hands of Giffen here. Nor am I suggesting that the book would benefit from the kind of overblown verbiage that has plagued most every mystical super-hero comic since Dr. Strange first invoked the Flaming Manacles of the Seventy Lords of the Pit.

DAY OF VENEGANCE #1 opens with Jean Loring -- ex-wife of the Atom and murderer of the beloved Sue Dibny -- getting possessed by Eclipso -- the Spirit of Vengeance before he went nuts and got replaced by the Spectre -- and breaking out of Arkham Asylum. We are then introduced (or reintroduced for those that even remember this character) to Ragman, yet another divine avenger. He has a pretty neat shtick, however -- his tattered clothes are made up of the souls of the wicked, from whom he draws strength to fight evil and punish the guilty, who are in turn made part of his clothing. Apparently, ragman is also regularly teleported to where he needs to be in order to exact retribution. In this case, he ends up in a bad place -- that is what I guess you would call an other dimensional battlefield where the Spectre is beating the life from one Blackbriar Thorn (a quick Google tells me he is an evil druid). There he meets up with the Enchantress, who takes him, of all places, to an one-dimensional bar in order to enlist his aid -- along with pretty much every third string mystical character in the DCU that you never heard of -- in fighting the Spectre.

Why a bunch of third stringers, you ask? Partly because the big guns like the Phantom Stranger have apparently been turned into mice, and partly because a talking chimp (a Detective Chimp to be exact) who has been on a bender for literally 50 years tells them to. Yeah, that’s what I said. There are more cameos by minor DCU mystical characters here than anyone can list off -- though I am sure some fan’s site has done just that -- and, as it is with the rest of the INFINITE CRISIS lead in mini-series, DAY OF VENGEANCE is set to focus on a few of them.

In the end, we see the mighty wizard Shazam, from who all of Captain Marvel’s immense power comes, asking his champion to go toe to toe with the Spectre to ‘slow him down’. I guess that means it is serious.

All in all, I give DAY OF VENGEANCE #1 a 6 out of 10. It is a little quirky for my tastes -- or, rather, I wasn’t expecting quirky, I was expecting big budget mystical kung fu fighting. Now that I know, I am sure that the series will grow on me, but only time will tell. If you like third stringers and/or the DCU’s mystical side, this is a must read for you. If not, and you are just trying to make it through this INFINITE CRISIS thing with your sanity and credit rating intact, you might want to give it a pass.

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