Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Four Color Fiend: Day of Vengeance


I was much happier with this purchase than I was with the ‘Seven Soldiers: Silent Knight’ series I reviewed earlier. Of course, as those four issues set me back a dollar each and this trade paperback only cost me ten cents, I really could not’t go wrong could I?

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Day of Vengeance TPB - This collects not only the title mini-series but also three issues of various SUPERMAN comics that lead into it. Considering how important they were to the story I’m really glad that DC did it this way, rather than expecting the reader picking up the TPB to already have read the earlier books. This is going to be really hard to follow so if you aren’t already deeply into the DCU you might want to look away. This is also one of the series that lead into the INFINITE CRISIS mega-crossover event.

Bill Willingham wrote Day of Vengeance with art by Justiniano and Walden Wong. I’m not familiar with either artist, but think they did a good job with a huge cast of characters some of them only for a panel or two. I also want to thank the DC editors for putting a “Who’s who” type of thing at the end of the book naming some of the characters who appear in the bar scenes. Willingham introduces us to the group of magical heroes that will eventually be called The Shadowpact (who later go on to their own series) and who doesn’t love it when artists draw talking chimps?

Even though Willingham does a good job setting things up I think that new readers would be even more confused than I was. It seems that the SPECTRE (God’s “spirit of vengeance” and please don't ask me to explain DCU theology since I have trouble with what passes for that in the 'real world') no longer has a human host (this was initially the mission of murdered police officer Jim Corrigan and later Hal Jordan, the former Green Lantern) to keep him anchored to this world and is slowly going crazy. Eclipso (another immortal being now possessing the former Jean Loring, ex-wife of Ray “The Atom” Palmer and murderer of Sue Dibny) easily manipulates the Spectre. She convinces him that evil can only be ended if all magic is destroyed. In order to do this, naturally, the Spectre goes about killing all those who practice the arts, whether for good or evil, since he sees no difference. To stop this the wizard Shazam, summons his champion Captain Marvel, which leads to a confrontation between CM and an Eclipso-possessed Superman.

DoV picks up from this point, with the Enchantress (not to be confused with the Marvel Comics THOR villainess of the same name) summoning Ragman (who dresses in bits of cloth which contain the souls of murderers and other evil doers he has absorbed) to aid her after she witnessed the Spectre killing hundreds of her fellow magicians. Together they travel to the Oblivion Bar, which may or may not exist in this dimension, but can be entered by hidden doors in many cities. In this place, the magically powered put aside their differences to trade stories and spells. Enchantress (who has gone from villain to hero and then back, depending on the needs of the writer or series) warns those of what she has witnessed and asks for them to join her in going against the Spectre. The majority ignores her, but several do step forward for various reasons.

Besides Ragman, we have the clubs proprietor Jim “The Nightmaster” Rook who carries the mystical Sword of Night; Dan “the Blue Devil” Cassidy, a former Hollywood stuntman/FX wizard/actor, who bargained away his soul for stardom only to become trapped in the form of a demon he played in films, he now works as a bouncer in the club; Eve “Nightshade” Eden (believe it or not) is the daughter of the queen of another dimension who controls darkness & shadow, causing them to take physical form and to allow her to teleport via traveling back to the home of her late mother; and last but by no means least, Bobo “the Detective Chimp”, a trained carnival animal who drank from the Fountain of Youth and became able to speak to any creature, including humans, in their own language. It is Bobo who comes up with the name Shadowpact, which according to the Phantom Stranger (transformed into a small, black mouse for this entire adventure) reveals later that other groups over eons have taken this name, but all have come to bad ends.

Willingham does a good job with all the characters, some of whom I had already been familiar with, but it is Bobo who steals every scene. This is aided of course by Justiniano & Wong doing a great job visually with the chimp in almost every panel in which he appears. Willingham sets up the dynamics of the group and gives each a personality fitting with their past appearances, but allowing growth as they begin to cooperate and form a team. By the end of the story you want to see more of all of them.

It’s Bobo who comes up with a back-up plan that saves the day when the other heroes are quickly finding themselves outclassed by the Spectre. The chimp requests the aid of a teenage girl known as ‘Black Alice’, who has the power to temporarily absorb the magical powers of another. She uses this to weaken the Spectre, and then with Nightshade sends Eclipso into orbit around the sun that inhibits her from using her powers. Later with his powers restored the Spectre travels to the Rock of Eternity (home of Shazam) to continue their battle. Shazam seems to be defeated and the Rock explodes, sending the magical objects stored there falling to Earth along with a stunned Billy Batson (unable to recall his magic word). The story then picks up in INFINITE CRISIS #1, which I’ll review at some later point.

I really enjoyed this, despite being a tad confused by whom certain characters were. In fact, I liked it enough to pick up the latest three issues of the new SHADOWPACT title. I’ll review that later as well.


P.S. In case you were wondering Hal Jordan is back to being the Green Lantern again, at least one of them, but that's a whole other thing which I don't think you care about
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