Dark Crisis: War Zone restores DC's the Spectre to his old glory

art from Dark Crisis: War Zone #1
art from Dark Crisis: War Zone #1 (Image credit: DC)

In the opening pages of Dark Crisis: War Zone, an anthology one-shot special set during the battle at the center of Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths, we see Linda Park embrace a new role: superhero. She's not the only newbie: martial artist Red Canary joins the fray as a new face. But for one DC staple, War Zone is all about heading back… toward a past and identity very familiar to fans.

Jim Corrigan reunites with the classic Golden Age superhero the Spectre.

Dark Crisis: War Zone #1 cover (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Jim Corrigan has been a character in DC comic books since 1940's More Fun Comics #52, in which he was introduced by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and artist Bernard Baily. But far more memorable than ex-NYPD officer Corrigan was his other half, the Spirit of Divine Vengeance that bonded with him after his murder: The Spectre.

Since 1940, the spirit form of The Spectre has hopped hosts across the DC Multiverse. Crispus Allen, Hal Jordan (yes, that Hal Jordan), and a litany of others have all played vessel of the Embodiment of Wrath (in fact, 2015 saw the Spectre possessing Scooby-Doo*), but the Host with the Most Ghost has always been the OG. And now, Corrigan's about to step back into the role.

Before we get there, though; a quick recap. The Spectre hasn't exactly been itself in recent DC history. All the way back in February, we learned that Dark Crisis villain Pariah would be recruiting it into the Dark Army, supervillains controlled and powered by the Great Darkness. Now, the Dark Army has made landfall on Earth-0/Prime, and the corrupted Spectre is with them.

In 'Just When I Thought I was Out,' one of the stories in December 8's anthology-style Dark Crisis: War Zone written by Frank Tieri, drawn by Serg Acuña, colored by Matt Herms, and lettered by Troy Peteri, as the battle between heroes and villains of various power levels rages in front of the Hall of Justice, the skies are filled with the warring shapes of two of DC's most powerful magic users. Clashing with the Spectre is the Titans' own Raven, and though she's managed to become gigantic and max out her powers, the depowered Spirit of Divine Wrath still threatens victory.

Enter Corrigan.

art from Dark Crisis: War Zone #1 (Image credit: DC)

Armed with nothing but a history with the spirit and a car, Corrigan charges into the scene with a mad idea. If he can connect with the Spectre, and reestablish their bond, then maybe the psychic chains of the Dark Army could break. The plan is anything but sure; not only does Corrigan not understand the Great Darkness, but he notices something different about the Spectre.

The Spectre has always been a violent agent of Divine Wrath (check out the DC Animated Spectre short), but in Corrigan's view, that violence has always been directed toward the deserving. Or if it hasn't been directed at outright evildoers, it's always been understandable - the Spectre causes pain to people it can convincingly argue have caused pain themselves.

But now, it appears to Corrigan that the Spectre is enjoying causing pain just to cause pain. Its sense of righteous anger has warped, transformed into a gleeful urge to hurt. And though we know the Spectre's mind has been altered slightly by the Great Darkness, the comic doesn't make it clear that it's entirely the Darkness's influence that causes this shift. 

art from Dark Crisis: War Zone #1 (Image credit: DC)

Whatever the reason for the Spectre's change, Corrigan's plan appears to work. Throwing his own (currently mortal) body into the spirit's giant form, Corrigan reestablishes his bond with the spirit even though it resists. The move is enough to weaken the Spectre's will to fight, allowing Raven to bind him in chains of her own making. Once again, Jim Corrigan seems to be the Spectre.

However, things aren't going back to exactly how they used to be. "Whatever Pariah's done to him," remarks Corrigan as he rebonds with the spirit, "It's deep." As the Spectre opens its eyes, a green skull taking the place of its pupil tells us that all is not well between Ghost and Host and that their fight has only "just begun" suggesting their story will continue in the future.

art from Dark Crisis: War Zone #1 (Image credit: DC)

What's going to happen after the events of Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths? Read Newsarama's piece about the Dawn of the DCU to find out.

*Scooby became the Spirit of Vengeance in Scooby-Doo! Team-Up #13 by Sholly Fisch and Dario Brizuela.

Grant DeArmitt
Freelance writer

Grant DeArmitt is a NYC-based writer and editor who regularly contributes bylines to Newsarama. Grant is a horror aficionado, writing about the genre for Nightmare on Film Street, and has written features, reviews, and interviews for the likes of PanelxPanel and Monkeys Fighting Robots. Grant says he probably isn't a werewolf… but you can never be too careful.