Day of Judgment (1999)
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Matt Smith
The Spectre has been present in the DC Universe since the 1940s, the wrath of God bound to a human soul in the form of Jim Corrigan. Corrigan has died, and the Spectre is loose giving into the rage without a human check. Etrigan the Demon sees an opportunity and frees fallen angel Asmodel to help him claim the Spectre. They are successful, and Asmodel begins to use this new power to inflict his anger on Earth. The Justice League find themselves up against a force they may not be able to stop. Cue the Sentinels of Magic, a team of the DC Universe’s top sorcerers, witches, and magic users. Their goal is to find a human spirit that could provide the needed constraints on the Spectre, and they will find it in the most unlikely of people.
DC Comics ends the millennium with a relatively quiet crossover event. In a decade that saw lots of time twisting (Armageddon 2001, Zero Hour, DC One Million, The Kingdom), Day of Judgment is a very tightly focused mini-series. Johns had not yet become the master of continuity of reincorporation, but he was sowing the seeds here. He smartly picks up world building done by Mark Waid and Grant Morrison in Neron and Asmodel and overlays them with other established supernatural elements of the DCU. Blue Devil, who underwent a significant transformation at the hands of Neron in Waid’s Underworld Unleashed, is resurrected. Even the Justice Society of America, whom Geoff Johns would end up writing very soon after show up midway to save the day.
The core of Day of Judgment is the deceased Hal Jordan who is picked as the vessel for the Spectre. I was excited going into this crossover to see how Jordan was fleshed out further. Of this entire series, I ended up loving The Final Night most because of the way it humanized the former Green Lantern after his terrible handling in Zero Hour. Jordan isn’t awful here; he doesn’t have any of those great character moments from The Final Night. Because there are so many other characters being given moments, the ones who should have the spotlight feel lost in the mix.
Blue Devil returns in a scene that plays with an epic nature and then he fades into the background. None of the Sentinels of Magic ever get enough attention, and they need it because none of them are A-tier characters that had their ongoing series around this time. In the aftermath of Day of Judgment, they receive a short-lived series, but they should be showcase through every issue of this event. The arrival of the JSA is another anti-climatic moment because, like Blue Devil, there is an epic reveal and then dissolve into generic crowd scenes.
I am an unashamed fan of Geoff Johns, and many people dislike his work. I enjoy his deep dives into DC continuity and the way he makes minor, forgotten characters feel vitally important to the DC Universe. His work with Black Adam in JSA completely revitalized that villain into one of the best characters of the early 2000s. Johns would later do a much better job with Hal Jordan in the pages of Green Lantern, but Day of Judgment like many other crossovers feel like a writer hitting bullet points on a list of editorial demands.
This brings my look at the crossovers of the 1980s and 1990s to an end. Next summer, I will return to the DC crossover blockbusters by taking on a hefty challenge: reading every DC event from Identity Crisis to Flashpoint (Yes this includes all of 52 and Countdown and the accompanying mini-series).