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Tuesday, 16 July 2019

The Spectre 1 - the Spectre gets a demotion

The Spectre moves into an ongoing series for the first time since his run in Adventure Comics in the mid 70s. Helmed by Doug Moench and Gene Colan, with inks by Steve Mitchell and a Mike Kaluta cover, the Spectre's story picks up from his failures in Crisis on Infinite Earths and Swamp Thing. I enjoyed the series well enough at the time. For the most part. I'm not quite so impressed now, looking back on it. The series debuted with the April 1987 issue.

As the story begins, the Spectre is being judged by the Voice that created him. We see colliding planets, representing the Crisis, and Swamp Thing and Deadman, representing the war between Heaven and Hell in Swamp Thing. Though the Spectre did not prevent either situation, the Voice concedes that no matter how much power the entity had, the tasks were virtually impossible. Still, the Spectre is about to get a severe demotion.

Intercut with all that is the introduction of Kim Liang, a relentlessly cheery secretary who abruptly quits her job and comes to pay a visit to Madame Xanadu. More than anything else, it's Xanadu who is handled the best in this series. She always seems to know more about what is going on than she reveals, something Ostrander would exploit in his later Spectre book. Xanadu sends Kim Liang to retrieve a large, ornate vessel from a locker, and she brings it back to Xanadu's home.

We also meet Lou Petrocci, a cop who used to work with Jim Corrigan, and who is wondering what happened to his friend. He heads over to Corrigan's apartment, where he gets possessed by a bottle of ketchup. OK, fine, by a demonic entity within a bottle of ketchup, if you want to get all technical about it.

The Voice decrees that the Spectre will now be limited to the ability to inhabit inanimate objects, and has to use that power to bring vengeance to murderers. He will also need to rely on his human host body to sustain himself. Conveniently, it's Jim Corrigan's body that is inside the vessel, which Madame Xanadu shatters. Kim Liang's job is to be Jim's secretary, but also to keep watch on him, ensure that nothing bad happens to him while the Spectre is out doing his thing. Jim is given an office and apartment just upstairs from Xanadu's place.

As Lou Petrocci lies in a bathtub full of cardboard, and the demonic entity takes over his mind, we also see the Cult of the Blood Red Moon, former enemies of Andrew Bennett (I...Vampire) learning about the Spectre's resurrection, and planning to counter it with their own demon.

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