Title: Die, Spectre! Again--and Again--and Again!
Writer: Gardner Fox
Penciller: Neal Adams
Inker: Murphy Anderson
Letterer: Ira Schnapp
Cover Artist: Neal Adams
Editor: Julius Shwartz
Characters: Jim Corrigan, Spectre,
Villain: Dirk Rawley
Synopsis: Jim and The Spectre really have their work cut out for them after a series of robberies can't be explained. The man responsible? A mad magician with an Ethirial double! Can the boys work as a team to bring in the crook and his Ethirial, other self both physically and spiritually???
We open up with the worst robber ever. He is holding up a man on a dark, still and deserted street in Gateway City. The robber has no gun at first but "Presto!" he makes one appear in his hand like a magician. The man being held up quickly punches the armed robber faster than he can fire knocking the gun into the air and into the hands of the civilian. The robber immediately changes his tune and sheepishly asks if the man is going to kill him. Suddenly a gloved hand clobbers the gunman. At first, the robber's savior has no face but slowly he is revealed to be the robber's doppelganger. The doppelganger knows the robber's name is Dirk Rawley and explains that he is Dirk's Etheric Self (emotional state brought about by the intense fear of being killed). He goes on to tell Dirk that he will travel to the ancient and demon-haunted city of Arkham to bathe in evil emanations which form some kind of vortex that will give him strength. He promises Dirk they will meet again.
Some nights later the Gateway City Bank and Soames Gem Collection are looted. The robberies have one thing in common, the valuables were stolen from sealed vaults without the integrity of either of the seals being compromised. With the seals intact, there is no way these crimes should be possible. Jim Corrigan chats with his colleagues about the case but ultimately hits a wall. Jim is the chairman of the annual ball that night and has a date lined up with wealthy, society woman, Mona Marcy. He is glad to have something to pull him away from this case so he can come back in the morning with a clear mind. The Spectre returns early from a JSA case and requires Jim to recuperate.
At the ball, Jim meets with Mona and introduces her to the star performer of the evening. Dirk Rawley (the lame, gun dropping nobody from the first page) as it turns out is a magician. Go figure! The Spectre, now rested heads out of Jim's body to go investigate the crime scenes of the robberies. Spectre shows up to the first crime scene totally briefed by Jim's mind. Spectre suspects a spirit committed the crime and shines psychic light to uncover where the spirit made contact. He quickly realizes that it was an Etheric being who filled the vault with sinister energies and these energies start to tear Spectre apart.
The Spectre just barely escapes the vault and his trail has run cold. He heads to the second crime scene where he senses an extension of the same force. The force that The Spectre feels is the same thief being sinister elsewhere in Gateway City. The Etheric force leads him to a museum where a man in a magicians outfit is stealing a painting. The Spectre attacks!
It's Dirk Rawley's doppelganger returned from Arkham and stronger with Ethiric Energy than ever! During their fight, Dirk pulls an Etheric Energy infused rabbit out of his hat and throws it at The Spectre's head. It grows extremely large mid throw. Great panel of the Spectre getting hit in the face like Rocky. Spectre is swinging it by the ears with all his might while the magician doppelganger pulls a bouquet of flowers from his sleeve.
Spectre hurls the rabbit at Dirk. Dirk counters with an uncoventional version of 52 pickup. As the cards scatter from the magician's hands around The Spectre, They grow into some Alice in Wonderland looking giant, sentient, playing cards wielding weapons.
The Spectre, treating the giant cards like giant sails, blows air at them with all his might knocking them...unconscious? Whatever giant card things do. The Spectre staggers toward his foe with "Psychic Weakness" which is totally just a fancy way of saying he was light headed. Spectre gives Dirk a hell of a right!
The punch sends Dirk to the ground but he quickly retaliates with... magical, multicolored, sash twines. It's almost painful to watch the vengeful hand of god struggle against rainbow colored cloth. The Spectre's one loose limb (his left leg) stamps the floor which causes Astral Flames to ignite and burn away the silly cloths that ale him. Too late! Dirk has fled the seen with the loot and yet again, the trail has run cold.
When you first turn to this page, you can almost hear Spectre in the first panel "It was awful man! The rainbow sash twines were everywhere!" Alas, he is actually telling Jim that Dirk Rawley (the magician from the ball) is the man responsible for the "impossible crimes." Jim can't believe it as he was with Dirk all night. Next panel has got to be my favorite. The Spectre kicks back looking like he would be saying "Nah man, It's cool. Etheric out of body stuff..." Laying back with his legs crossed and his hands behind his head, I just love this panel so much. It seems like Spectre is so over it while Jim appears frantic like he is coming unglued. The Spectre raises his open hand dramatically to break it all down. Dirk commands a spirit counterpart which resembles him. This double can change his density to pass through solid walls while staying solid enough to pick up tangible objects. By passing his aura to the object he can transport them through walls. Spectre sites numerous cases where this was recorded by "respected" researchers. Duh! Don't you know anything? I can explain all of that in two words. "because comics." The solution is clearly for both Jim and Spectre to punch both forms of Dirk at the same time knocking both Dirk's unconscious simultaneously.
Spectre tells Jim he better hold up his end of the plan as he tucks him in and says goodnight. The Spectre and Jim Corrigan have their own version of The Odd Couple going on. Cut to commercial.
Jim scores another date with Mona at a charity union dinner. It's almost as if these people don't eat or go out unless it's some ritzy public event! Dirk Rawley will be performing at the event and Spectre has already chased Dirk's double to a jewel store. Spectre seems extremely enthusiastic to punch this guy. Knockout Punch! Woooo!
Jim doesn't even get the soup to his mouth before Spectre is ready to punch Dirk. Jim politely excuses himself from the table, heads up on stage and swings on Dirk mid-magic trick....and MISSES!!! Security escorts Jim away while Dirk threatens to press charges.
Cut to Spectre punching Dirk's double who is down but not out. Spectre knows he is in for it because Jim sucks at punching magicians. Dirk's double throws his magic carpet at Spectre and the rolled up carpet administers a beat down. Let me type that again in all caps. A ROLLED UP CARPET IS KICKING THE HELL OUT OF THE GHOSTLY GUARDIAN. That is until Spectre b!$*h slaps the rug into a lamp. This issue is really heating up!
Dirk's double says (and I quote) "With this ruby of mighty Thulthoom, wonder wizard of dark demonolatries, which I obtained in Arkham Town...Shall I bring about your final doom, Spectre." The Spectre shrinks as he is pulled into the ruby where he will be trapped for all time." The Spectre is helplessly trapped in the ruby as Dirk's double leaves for Arkham where he will drink in demons and recharge.
Spectre rolls the ruby around the floor by doing cartwheels. He crashes into a diamond Dirk's double left behind creating a crack in the ruby and weakening the crystalline structure. This page is riveting...
Spectre escapes the ruby and immediately seeks out Jim who is being suspended from the police force (probably for that crummy punch!) Jim and Spectre discuss their next move in Jim's car on his way home. This whole scene reminds me of Walt and Jesse from Breaking Bad.
Jim tails Dirk to an amusement park while Spectre goes after his double. An airplane ride may prove enough to foil their plan again as Jim misses his chance to ride.
Spectre starts a twenty second countdown to sync their punches. Dirk is completely out of Jim's reach. Luckily, Jim calls in a favor with an old friend at the human cannonball.
Jim is fired from the cannon and into the plane themed ride Dirk is on and simultaneously the two Dirk's are punched. Neal Adams art is amazing here. The panel where Spectre and Jim land their punches is so full of motion.
Their plan worked and both Dirk's are down. After many rites and rituals are performed, Spectre seals off Dirk's Etheric body. Jim is struggling to prove Dirk is guilty when The Spectre appears producing all the stolen goods and the guy Dirk tried to rob on the first page. He has been in the hospital the whole issue but has been released, healed and is ready to testify.
The robbery victim from the first page points out that Dirk is wearing his watch and when they open it up his name is inscribed proving Dirk is guilty. Jim's rank is restored and both him and Spectre are glad that most of their cases aren't this challenging.
I actually really enjoyed this issue. It is riddled with flaws but is also a lot of fun and Spectre and Jim are a hoot here. It's going to be hard when I revisit Crisis On Infinite Earths knowing that years prior, Spectre was beat up by a rabbit, playing cards, a rug and multicolored fabric... I laughed so hard through this issue it actually has me digging it. The page with Jim and Spectre chatting together in bed wins M.V.P. (most valuable page) hands down. That page is what ultimately turned my feelings about this comic around. It's creepy in all the wrong ways and funny for all the wrong reasons. Fantastic. I want to point out that Neal Adams is on fire this issue. There are subtleties in every panel that make even the silliest scene look great! This is my first read through of The Spectre's silver age series. Issue #01 of this volume had me concerned however here I am at issue #02 having a blast! Looking forward to the next review!
Stay spooky folks!
James von Boldt