"The Ninth Age of Magic"
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Justiniano, Walden Wong, Wayne Faucher (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: Nabu, the Phantom Stranger, Zatanna and Madame Xanadu come together to form a plan to stop the Spectre. While Nabu deals with the Spectre directly, the Phantom Stranger gathers the Shadowpact and nearly every other magic based hero to recapture the Seven Deadly Sins and reform the Rock of Eternity.
Commentary: If Infinite Crisis is truly meant to bring the DC Universe forward as a fictional reality, then Day of Vengeance, both the mini-series and this special, has done a wonderful job of reestablishing the more magical side of that world. While the original mini-series was mostly set-up as far as the Shadowpact is concerned (with a punch in the gut ending) it gave readers the chance to reacquaint themselves with characters that haven’t gotten a whole lot of screen time in the past few years. I mean the last time DC really made a push to get their magic characters going again was Day of Judgment, and that didn’t really go anywhere.
Bill Willingham wrote a really entertaining comic, and the changes made in this book will hopefully be felt through the DCU for some time. The Ninth Age of Magic has ended, and it speaks to Willingham’s writing that he made me feel like I was a witness to something truly important. The heroes involved in this book were part of a paradigm shift, and so was the audience. It is possible that at some point in the future, editorial policy can decree that everything that happened here could be undone, and I am not naïve enough to believe that what transpired in this special will be bible law, but with how this book was written, I wanted it to be.
The shift comes not only from the ushering in of a new magical age, but the fact that the only way to stop the Spectre was to embrace an act that would change everything. I really liked that. Usually these characters would be fighting to reestablish the status quo and return their reality to "normal". With what the Spectre did, though, it was too far gone. The only way to salvage the situation was to give in to the change and make the best of it. From a dramatic standpoint, this is amazing and compelling at the same time.
The story itself was great. I enjoyed the different members of the Shadowpact leading other magic users around to recapture the Sins. Willingham’s sometimes masterful skill with humorous dialogue came into play in these scenes and served as a balance to the heavy events that were unfolding. Nabu’s battle with the Spectre was another high point as was the rebuilding of the Rock of Eternity. Willingham tied up all of the loose ends left at the end of the mini-series and did so in a manner that didn’t feel like it was forced.
My only real problem with the story was Captain Marvel’s fate. I’m uncomfortable with the thought of Captain Marvel being taken out of action to serve as the Rock’s permanent occupant. I’m selfish, but I really like Captain Marvel and was looking forward to seeing more done with him after Infinite Crisis. Outside of his JSA appearances and his role in Day of Vengeance, Captain Marvel hasn’t had much of a role in the DCU. I could be wrong, though. Maybe Captain Marvel won’t be the Rock’s guardian and someone else will fill that role, leaving Billy to get another shot at an ongoing series. I don't know. I realize it seems a little silly to write that I love the fact that things are changing and then complain that they’re changing Captain Marvel, but I can't help how I feel.
In The End: I really enjoyed this special. The writing was sound and Justiniano's (aided and abetted by Wong and Faucher) art was phenomenal. That vertical, two page spread of the magic users assembled was worth the price of admission. As much as I loved the story the sight of that magical ass whooping lynch mob was just awesome.
Things come to a head as the Shadow Pact is gathered together with all of the other DC magic users to collect the Seven Deadly Sins and end the Spectre’s deadly rampage. Sacrifices are made by many, and a new age of magic begins.
This special really saved the Day of Vengeance mini series for me. The mini itself just wasn’t very exciting or eventful, but this special was both of those in spades. It comes right out of the gate with the deaths of the gods that power Hawk and Dove, and doesn’t let up one bit.
It was great seeing characters that I haven’t seen in years, like the Janissary, who I’d thought would’ve been forgotten after their special event annual first appearance. It was rather macabre to see Nabu planning his own death throughout the entire issue, after he’d spent so long in the past trying to gain control of Dr. Fate. It was heartbreaking to see Billy Batson come to terms with the fact that he would have to stay within the Rock of Eternity forever.
The art was just fantastic. The dark colors properly reflected the mood throughout the comic, and made the brighter spots that much more intense. The use of color to provide three dimensional shading of faces is something I always love to see. That two page splash image was really terrific, showing characters that, as I mentioned above, I hadn’t seen in years. It would make a great poster. The pages featuring the Nabu/Spectre fight were amazing, especially the close-up of the Spectre’s face with glowing eyes and gritted teeth.
Overall, this was a great wrap-up to the Day of Vengeance mini series. It provided closure to the various plot points, while keeping the door open for the eventual ongoing Shadowpact series. I can only hope that the other specials are have this good of a showing.
The Spectre is nearing the completion of his quest to destroy all magic in the universe. Nabu, the last surviving Lord of Order, offers a solution: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Meanwhile, the Shadowpact fights to contain the Seven Deadly Sins, and Zatanna leads a crew to reconstruct the Rock of Eternity.
Day of Vengeance Special has a lot going on—more, in fact, than the entire DoV miniseries proper. This causes for a frantic-paced story, full of excitement and peril and weighty decisions. Zatanna proves herself a winner, and the standoff between Nabu (formerly Dr. Fate) and the Spectre crackles with power.
Justiniano speeds the story along with a frenetic panel structure and dynamic characters. Nabu and Spectre are superbly creepy, with the disembodied golden helmet emitting a mysterious and sinister vibe while the Spirit of Vengeance rages across the cosmos. Very nice visuals throughout.
The issue also raises questions about the future of several characters, including Captain Marvel, Hawk and Dove, Nightshade, Dr. Fate, and the Spectre. Marvel and Spectre will probably be addressed sooner rather than later, and Nightshade's story seems to tie in with Infinite Crisis so she should be meeting her doom presently, as well. As to the others…, who knows? Hawk and Dove were just restored to the spotlight after years of death/obscurity, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe, as Hector and Lyta Hall learned over in JSA.
Basically, this issue rocked, and now anything can happen.
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