Random Retrospective #10 – The Spectre #20

When Hal Jordan was revealed as the new Spectre in DAY OF JUDGMENT, I was both intrigued and a little cautious. I’d been a fan of both characters for years and it seemed like this was an interesting take, using Jordan’s experience as Green Lantern to fuel the Spectre’s thirst for vengeance. The series that eventually spun out of that idea, though, took things in a different direction, and Hal ended up becoming the Spirit of Redemption, which sort of made sense for his character, but was wildly different for the Spectre.

Issue #20 of THE SPECTRE finds Hal visiting (I don’t want to say haunting) someone who believes he has the perfect life.

We get little snippets of that perfect life as Robert enjoys a great marriage, a lovely young son, a good job, all he could ever wish for. Bit by bit, though, the facade falls away as the Spectre intrudes on his world, forcing him to face up to the fact that things aren’t what they seem, though Robert fights against him.

Eventually, though, the Spectre has no choice but to step in and confront Robert with the truth that his life was not perfect, although he had made the best of himself. Born poor, his mother dying when he was young, leaving him with an abusive, alcoholic father, Robert had grown and done well, getting the wife and son, the loving family he dreamed of. Unfortunately, he fell.

And then he died. And kept living his perfect life over and over again in some form of limbo state which prevented him from “moving on” which is where the Spectre came in.

With the Spectre’s help, Robert’s able to move to the next phase of his existence – the next deep dream – in Heaven, while the Spectre returns to Earth to continue his mission.

It’s a nicely done in one story, with lovely art from Norm Breyfogle, Denis Janke, and Guy Major, but for me it suffers from the same things this series did: the recasting of the Spirit of Vengeance as one of Redemption; and the slightly trite “everything’s going to work out as we all go to heaven” message. It’s a nice comforting thought, but it’s not one I agree with, and that tempered my enjoyment of the series.

5 thoughts on “Random Retrospective #10 – The Spectre #20

  1. I’ve only ever seen this version of the Spectre pop up in other titles. Peter David used him in Young Justice, he seems to show up a fair amount in Kyle Rayner’s GL run (for obvious reasons). I know Ostrander had Jim Corrigan struggle with whether he could change the nature of the Spectre as his own perspectives on things changed and were not so compatible with black-and-white morality, so it’s interesting to think maybe Hal had a little more luck. Like you say, I don’t know if this title is doing a great job of that, though.


    1. The Ostrander stories worked, I think, because they challenged Corrigan’s black and white view of the world, forcing him to accept some things weren’t so easy to judge which, of course, led to his growth and eventual relinquishing of the Spectre.

      This run just didn’t seem to gel for me.


  2. Nice twist though. Poor guy. I can definitely see your point about being disappointed that they changed the Spectre that much, especially into a spirit of redemption rather than vengeance, and keep the hook of the series being that Hal was trying to temper the Spectre’s wraith rather than just change him altogether to suit Hal better, not the other way around. I never picked up the series when it was out, but maybe I should go back and give it a try to see what I think. DeMatteis is definitely one of the better comic writers out there when it comes to dealing with psychology and all. I remember reading some of Hal as Spectre’s earliest appearances in the new JSA series and JLA respectively. He seemed ok, but us fans always knew DC would eventually roll this back & reinstate Hal as GL again, and they did in 2004.


    1. Oh yeah, it was only a matter of time before Hal returned to the GL role. The series had its ups and downs but, for me, Hal just didn’t turn out to be an interesting enough fit and, having read and enjoyed Ostrander’s run, I’d rather have seen Hal try to rein in the spirit of vengeance as opposed to working with the spirit of redemption.

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      1. Very true. I mean they could’ve had both, where Hal has to fight to tame & learn to work with the Spirit of Vengeance over a long arc, and due to his willpower & a little nudge by God, he does this & helps transform (for now) it into a spirit of redemption as well when the situation calls for it.


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