The Spectre is in many ways the elephant in the room that’s hard to ignore. It’s hard to justify having a character that is the actual vengeance of God wandering around in a shared universe without starting to wonder, “Why are all of these really horrible super-villains still at large? Why isn’t the Spectre just vaporizing them left and right?” With “Final Crisis: Revelations” I can’t help but feel like Greg Rucka and DC Comics are both trying to better answer that question as well.
Never one to shy away from controversy, it’s hard to say how to take the issue’s early scene starring one of the more polarizing villains form DC Comics of the past few years, Doctor Light. Just the presence of the character would certainly push some readers’ hot-buttons, but here Rucka really boils him down to every exaggerated bad aspect of the character that we’ve seen since “Identity Crisis.” Does it get your attention? Certainly. Does it work? I can’t really decide. On the one hand, it certainly gives the scene some extra punch and makes its ending that much more justified. On the other hand, it seems almost designed to see how many people will throw the book across the room and not read any more.
Once you get past that scene, though, the rest of the issue is actually fairly standard and by the book. Rucka is taking Crispus Allen as the new host for the Spectre and not only examining what Allen’s reaction to being the supposed moral compass for the being, but what the Spectre’s role really is in the DC Universe. There’s something both satisfying yet oddly anti-climactic about the Spectre destroying super-villains left and right; you can imagine it happening, but the act of doing so takes away a lot of the punch you’d expect from such a sequence of events.
Still, it is nice to see Rucka not only writing his creation Allen again, but also in a book co-starring Renee Montoya. If you didn’t read his “Five Books of Blood” mini-series, Rucka keeps things fairly easy to understand with the latest changes in her status, even as Rucka goes way back into the well to pull out a Spectre-related story element that logically fits into both his and Renee’s narratives. I don’t remember seeing this particular item since the John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake run on “The Spectre” back in the 1990s, so its return was a nice surprise.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Philip Tan’s art in “Final Crisis: Revelations.” It’s my first exposure to his pencils, and I feel almost like my eyeballs had artistic whiplash. I like how Tan draws some scenes, with numerous folds and wrinkles on the surface of just about everything. It’s a neat textured look, and coupled with little touches like the skulls in the Spectre’s eyes it makes me really appreciate Tan when he’s at his best. On the other hand, most of Tan’s action scenes actually left me confused as to what’s going on. They’re very muddled and dark, both in terms of coloring as well as a lack of detail. Perhaps with larger panels and less-cluttered backgrounds things would work better on that front. (Also, with three inkers credited, I’m hoping those issues were also born out of the dreaded deadline doom and will be fixed next month.)
I’m curious to see where the rest of “Final Crisis: Revelations” is heading. My hope is that by the end we’ve got a stronger sense of how the new Spectre will operate, and exactly what his place in the DC Universe is. For now, at least I can enjoy seeing Crispus and Renee together again for a bit. It’s a good, if slightly shaky start.