By Michael Climek

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Long time readers are aware that I try not to do comic reviews here at Foot2mouth as I believe in only mentioning positive things about comics I’ve read. If I don’t like a book I just try to forget about it. Super-Hero Comics is a small enough market that the market overall really does not benefit from any negativity. However, a few weeks ago I read a trade that so disturbed me that I feel I must address it in hopes of creating a cathartic response, and as a warning to others.

I’m telling you right now to steer very clear of The Spectre – Infinite Crisis Aftermath. I’ll get to why soon enough, but before I do we must cover some long winded basics about this current incarnations of The Spectre.

The Spectre first appeared in More Fun Comics # 52 way back in 1940. The character must have been somewhat popular as he started showing up regularly on the covers of More Fun. But just what is The Spectre? The Spectre is connected to basic Christian Ideology in that The Spectre is supposed to be the living embodiment of god’s vengeance and wrath. The Spectre’s job is to kill ‘bad’ people such as murders and thieves, and the like. The Spectre is functionally omnipotent so he likes to kill bad guys in ironic ways, a greedy corrupt politician might be killed by literally drowning in money, or a murder might be ripped to shreds by the reanimated corpses/ghosts of his victims. The Spectre is a vicious dude basically, with a really dark sense of humor.

But here’s the thing about The Spectre, he needs to be ‘bonded’ to a human host or soul. The Spectre is the living embodiment of god’s wrath, and in order to ‘ground’ himself and properly judge humanity he needs to be connected to a human. It’s a little fuzzy on whether this human needs to be alive or dead, as in a ghost. Recently The Spectre has bonded with two ghosts, the ghost of former Green Lantern Hal Jordon, and currently he’s bonded with the ghost of former Gotham City Homicide Detective Crispus Allen.

Now let’s get into Crispus. You see Crispus is why I picked up this trade, as I read most of Greg Rucka’s Batman/Detective Run, and then also the very under-appreciated Gotham Central series, I quite enjoy Crispus Allen’s character. So I thought I would buy the book because of that. It’s important to note this, Crispus is a family man, married with two sons. Crispus was killed during the Gotham Central series by a dirty cop named Jim Corrigan.

When The Spectre – Infinite Crisis Aftermath opens Crispus is a ghost, wandering around Gotham and keeping an eye on his family; his wife, and two sons. Crispus has been approached by The Spectre at this point, and the Spectre is essentially insisting that they permanently ‘bond’ so that they can do a better job of dispensing god’s vengeful wrath on criminals and ne’er do wells. They ‘team-up’ a bit, and eliminate many ne’er do wells. But they don’t bond permanently yet, as Crispus is still ‘weighing his options’.

It is very important to note the kind of people that Crispus and The Spectre dispatch with god’s vengeance. They kill a dark arts magician who has been butchering people for years in Gotham. They kill a child molester/murder who has preyed on seemingly hundreds of children in Gotham, notably he’s killed by being eaten alive by living dolls. They kill a serial killer who has at least 4 dozen severed heads in jars in his apartment. They also kill a fat-cat business man who ruined his own investment firm through scandals and shady dealings, when the firm closed employee lives were ruined, his was not. And lastly they take out a bank robber who shot a woman. While the business man example is a bit questionable, and the bank robber only had a body count of one, the rest of the people the Spectre kills have body counts in the dozens. DOZENS.

The point of those details is this: The Spectre only takes out really really bad people. I mean child molesters and people with dozens of severed heads. Really the worst of the worst.

Now let’s get to just what’s so disturbing and frankly disgusting about this story. And no, it is most definitely not the vengeance I’ve just related.

Let’s recap Crispus Allen, a former cop, was killed by crooked cop and all around evil murder and a-hole Jim Corrigan. Crispus was a family man while alive with a wife and two sons, for reference he eldest son seems to be in high school and the youngest is appears more middle school.

During the story Crispus’ oldest son Jake obtains a hand-gun with the intent of killing Jim Corrigan, the man who killed Jake’s father. Just so we’re clear the cops know that dirty cop Jim Corrigan killed Crispus they just can’t bring charges for evidence reasons.

What eventually happens is Jake has second thoughts and he decided he doesn’t want to kill a man as it won’t bring his Dad back. He relates his change of heart to his younger brother Mal. Mal, the one in middle school, decides he thinks revenge is a good idea, and he takes the gun and goes to kill Jim Corrigan.

The Spectre, still not fully bonded with Crispus at this point, decides somebody needs to die/be punished, in the general vicinity of Jim Corrigan. Crispus of course is excited as he’s been wanting to kill Corrigan, his own murderer, for some time. Instead, The Spectre and Crispus witness Crispus’ son Mal kill Corrigan, at which point The Spectre says “you know what must be done” or something silly like that. Crispus pulls Mal close to him, and then after a few seconds he appears to lay on the ground, eyes closed. Mal even gets a moment of recognition and says “Dad?” before his father embraces him.

If you are anything like me, you may have thought Crispus was giving his son a hug, and then letting the little bastard pass out because… I dunno seeing your father’s ghost after he’s been dead a year or so may be traumatic. While the scene seemed odd, and something didn’t quite add up, I just ignored it.

Later on at the end of the book when Crispus checks in with his family they are at a cemetery with a freshly filled grave, and only the wife and the oldest son are there. Then I put two and two together and realized why the scene from earlier seemed weird.

Crispus Allen murdered his own son. WTF?!

Holy crap in a hat! That’s just not possible! He murdered his own son because his son took vengeance on the man who killed his father. If you’ve been following along you’ll noted that The Spectre appears to be a very old-testament version of God’s Wrath. Cruel and evil and what not. The Spectre takes vengeance upon those who have harmed others, eye for an eye type stuff. The Spectre’s MO seems to be ‘you kill someone else or generally act rude and I’ll kill you’.

Essentially The Spectre’s existence is handing out eye-for-an-eye punishment. So when Mal, Crispus’ 13 year old son, kills the man who killed his father, it seems to me like that’s eye-for-an-eye. End of story. If anything The Spectre should be giving him a high-five as that’s the exact sort of activity and murdering of evil-doers that The Spectre practices himself. But Mal is then killed for taking vengeance? Something that The Spectre does on a regular basis. I’m really confused.

Also, frankly this is comic books. People are supposed to be heroic in comics. I cannot accept that Crispus Allen would murder his own son. Especially not for committing an act that Crispus thought was a good idea. It’s so wrong it makes me sick to my stomach and frankly I don’t even want this comic book in my house. It makes me ill.

Crispus should have saved his son. Even if the very wrath-of-God itself wanted him to kill his son, I would suspect that Crispus could fight God-himself in order to save his own child. Or, a better solution, upon realizing that Mal was going to kill Corrigan why didn’t Crispus himself, acting as the Spectre, kill Corrigan first. That way Mal would not have done anything ‘wrong’ that would cause the Spectre’s wrath. There were other solutions available.

Or The Spectre could just not act like a god-damn hypocrite and therefore not kill Mal. There were many other options available and frankly I think a father trying to protect his own son would have taken those god-damn options. This comic is just disgusting.

And one final note, this is a bit ‘fan-boyish’ of me, but this story is taking place in Gotham. A city that houses mass murderers such as The Scarecrow, Two-Face, Killer Croc, Zsasz, and the freaking Joker, these are all people very deserving of death and god’s wrath. Instead The Spectre kills a 13-year-old boy who was merely operating under rules that The Spectre also operates under, namely eye-for-an-eye vengeance.

For reference this truly disturbing and out-right reprehensible story was written by Will Pfeifer. I sort of enjoy Pfeifer’s work, at least on Catwoman, and haven’t read much else by him. And the series was edited by Matt Idleson and Bob Schrek. I wonder if maybe these 3 dudes don’t have kids (neither do I) or maybe they’ve never stopped to think what fatherly responsibility might seem like. But I’m not going to disparage them personally, I’m just pointing out that this particularl story is so abhorrent that I would prefer it not continue to reside in my home and I recommend everyone avoid it like the plague. Their other work may be top notch, I do very much enjoy Pfeifer’s run on Catwoman.

Apparently in the upcoming Final Crisis Revelations series Greg Rucka will deal with Crispus expressing hatred toward God as basically God forced him to kill his son, and Crispus logically isn’t pleased about that. Notably Crispus didn’t seem to mind the idea in the original series, and totally ignores the fact that he did it in two follow up mini’s, one by David Lapham, and other as a back up strip in that recent Dr. Fate mini. Greg Rucka, who created Crispus, is going to deal with it. And while that doesn’t change the act, it at least is someone recognizing how intensely f-ed up the act was. I like Rucka’s writing a lot, so I may check out that series, but I’m going to try to steer clear of Spectre stories for a while, as this one has really turned me off the character.

That’s all I got, if you disagree and think that there was no way Crispus could have saved Mal, or that the story didn’t disturb you, feel free to drop a line in the comments.