Deus Ex Machina is an ancient theatre term. The literal translation is god from the machine and the machine refers to a device typically used in the last act of a play in order to have a god descend from the heavens and right all the wrongs that the humans had done in order to set the world back in order. It ended up being an easy way to solve impossible problems that a story had created. In modern times the term is still used, but as opposed to describing an actual theatrical rigging, it is used figuratively to describe the plot device that this rigging brought into play. Examples might be, a character having a previously unknown set of skills that are exactly what is required to save the day or a witness to a crime stepping forward at the last minute to offer an out for a falsely accused individual.
This story has a huge Deus Ex Machina, and while that is usually seen as a bad thing in modern writing, I think it works strongly in this story’s favor. Maybe it is my nostalgia for theatre, but the fact that the Deux Ex isn’t just a conveniently timed intervention, but the actual appearance of the vengeful hand of god showing up to lay the smack down on some overzealous soul, really made me happy. There is also a nice twist in the usual terminology as the appearance of the Spectre was all but guaranteed and hardly unexpected: the moment you saw Corrigan, you were just waiting for the payoff when he would turn into the Spectre. I liken it to the Hulk and waiting around for him to become angry so you can see some stuff get smashed. The Spectre doesn’t disappoint either! Makes you almost wonder why he didn’t clean up a couple other things while he was around. I am sure that some people will be let down by the finale of the Arkham portion of the Eternal storyline, but as soon as you include the Spectre as a character, there is no way this is going to be anything but easy when he comes out to play. It is debatable, but from my experience, the Spectre is one of the most powerful entities in the DC universe. You don’t mess with the Spectre!
Considering that the Spectre is essentially the hand of The Voice/The Presence/God, it got me wondering about DC’s choice to make all those demons, monsters from another dimension: Blackfire says that hell itself rises at his call, when in fact we know it isn’t the case. Perhaps he isn’t aware of the reality of the situation or he is just speaking figuratively. Either way, I initially thought DC didn’t want to acknowledge hell in order to not have the story tie in so closely to religion, which can be a major arguing point for some, but DC not shying away from a couple of other things made me reconsider my earlier justification of DC’s reason to go dimensional monster instead of demon. So, I’m not sure why they went that way instead of just Hell vs Heaven, since those are two of the words used to describe the forces at play. First, the origin story of the Spectre ties in pretty closely with religion, also when in a moment of despair, the religious Batwing begins to pray. The moment is quite moving, and even if you aren’t Catholic, I think you can still substitute whatever denomination it is you hold, in order to relate to an individual at the end of his rope, turning to faith when all else has failed him.
This week’s issue is penciled by Fernando Pasarin and let me tell you, man-o-man can that guy draw some seriously beautiful environments. One thing I never get tired of talking about is the level of detail that something has. Invariably, my enjoyment of something almost always comes down to how much detail something incorporates. Whether it be details in the art, paying attention to the details of a characters background, or the finer logical details of a plot. It is all about details with me. My wife can attest to this being my go to answer. “What did you like about the movie?” “The level of detail!” I’m working on being a little more broad in my responses, as simply using the word detailed wasn’t cutting it. So lets talk about the details! We have hordes of amorphous souls, falling debris and dust clouds everywhere, rubble and destruction as far as the eye can see. I usually like a page to have more panels on it so we can get more story, but when they are as well drawn as this, I am ok with fewer panels. In fact, most of the pages in this issue have one, three, or four panels. It really lets Pasarin have a wider canvas to display his work, and I greatly approve.
It’s one thing to take a picture after a tornado has swept through but he had to slowly, painstakingly, and in an orderly fashion create chaos. That has got to be hard. I have to imagine he watched footage of buildings being demolished, cause if all that came out of his head with no real world reference to help, then this guy is some kind of savant. Sometimes an artist will concentrate on the foreground and character models but leave the background a blank slate or a contrasting color to set off the characters profile. You won’t find any of that here. Nearly every panel is full of details galore. There is another great panel where you really get a sense of motion. As Batman is diving he is spinning. You can tell by the direction of his cape and the pattern of a smokescreen he is leaving behind himself. It is a really dynamic panel. I only had two very small complaints about the art. 1. What is with the piping on Batman’s cowl? 2. That position seems a little contorted to me. I get what he was going for, but it looks unnatural.
- “…Who?” says JD. That is my question exactly! Who was that person talking to JD?!?!? Seriously, what do you guys think? Hhmm…who gave her explosives and a crowbar? Now who do we know that is sometimes seen wielding a crowbar?
- I noticed that the Riddler’s riddle says, “OUR foe.” Meaning the Riddler isn’t one of the bad guys this time around, or at least he might want to work with Batman to take out whoever it is that he sees as his enemy as well.
- Haha! That crowbar of JD’s was about as dangerous to Batman as a nerf bat in the hands of a baby, and taken away just as easily. Exactly how little of a threat is JD? Well… she has explosives strapped over her entire body and Batman still doesn’t even bat an eye. That’s how little!
- Did Corrigan just get completely pulverized by that boulder?!?!?! I had to do a double take. Did they just do that?
- How did anybody survive that? Did you see that panel of the concrete pillar skewering that car? The level of destruction that place just underwent doesn’t bode well for the people that were inside.
- Spectre snatched up Blackfire’s soul like it was nothing! Awesome!
- Buried alive is not how I would want to go! I really feel for Batwing.
- The first Spectre story appeared in More Fun Comics #52 (1940). Jerry Siegel was the creator of the Spectre, but he is more commonly known for his contribution to the creation of Superman.
- For me at least, it is hard to think of the Spectre and not have Kingdom Come enter the mind. It was an Elseworld story from 1996 by Mark Waid and Alex Ross which depicted a future in which the increasing population of super humans was boiling over and the butting of heads over differing attitudes towards the appropriate way to govern/protect the world lead to a war between the various factions. The Spectre serves as a guide to us in a “Ghost of Christmas Future” kind of way. He takes with him a Minister by the name of Norman McKay, who is the audience identifier, in order to help him pass judgement and decide what to do about coming events. I don’t think it was an accident that this issue featured the prayer Our Father. This prayer is where the phrase kingdom come originates from and was what supplied the title of the 1996 miniseries.
- You love yourself some Spectre!
- You love when the artist puts in a dense amount of detailing. Fernando Pasarin killed it this week!
Leave it to Eternal to blindside you with a comeback. After last week I was dreading this issue because I was strongly fearful of getting a repeat performance (if you missed it, I didn’t like last week’s issue). Low and behold, Eternal comes out of the corner swinging with a jab cross uppercut combination. I belittled you last week, but you showed me who’s the boss this round. Bravo Eternal…Bravo!