Monday, May 14, 2007

Murder on the Gotham Express (Tales of the Unexpected #8, Cover Date July, 2007)

The Spectre Characters: The Spectre, Nathan Munie, the Gotham P.D., all of the tenants of Leonard Krieger's building


Nathan Munie, saved from a suicide attempt by the Spectre, proceeds to spill the beans about who, exactly, killed slumlord Leonard Krieger. The answer, apparently, was everybody. Johnny Sachmann tied him up, Isaac Harrison bloodied him for taking sexual favors instead of rent, Ralph Sachmann spat on him, someone else threw a rat on him, etc., etc. As Munie's confession proceeds, the Spectre goes floor to floor killing off all of the people who participated -- actively or passively -- in the killing of the Leonard Krieger. Crispus Allen tries to show compassion, but he is not strong enough to stop the Spectre's wrath.


Ew. Certainly gruesome, but not "Unexpected." It was pretty obvious that everyone had participated. The Unexpected part of the Tale, I guess, was that they all suffered the same punishment. When I studied criminal law, there was always a lot of discussion between active commission of a crime, and passively permitting a bad thing to happen. Despite what you may have seen in the final episode of "Seinfeld," there is generally no legal obligation to take any affirmative steps to stop the commission of a crime, even when there is no personal harm to yourself in doing so.

The students always find this surprising, and it is often the first distinction students draw between law and morality. Not acting to stop a crime may be immoral, but that -- in itself -- doesn't make it illegal. Of course, the Spectre is a Vengeance, not Legal Justice, so he isn't bound by legal process. The problem here, though, is that the punishments do not all fit the crimes. The residents with legitimate beefs against Krieger -- lot Munie -- who did not actively assault the man certainly did not deserve the death penalty.

The problem is that the Spectre here is taking a particularly Christian view of morality -- we are all sinners, and as such are worthy of punishment. That has never been my view of the Spectre, outside of the Day of Judgment series where he did not have a host to "ground" him. At his best, the Spectre is wrestling with moral conundra, not going all Original Sin on everybody. This story, as a whole, gets a C-.

Dr. 13 Characters:

Heroes: Dr. 13, Traci 13, Pryemaul, I Vampire, Infectious Lass, Anthro, Genius Jones
Villains: The Architects

Our heroes are attacked by the DCU wardrobe, before the Architects tell the team that only Traci 13 can be saved because she's "hot" and "Half-Asian." Dr. 13 monologues how there is no "future of the universe," only a past, and after remembering that these architects were themselves temporary, walks through flames to proclaim that he doesn't believe in them either. The Architects are whirled away into a "Showcase Presents" issue from 1968, and the team is saved to fight again. The set off to rescue Captain Fear from aliens.


The Dr. 13 backup issues have been, by far, the best comic book story I have read all year. Funny, witty, self-mocking, pointing out both the silliness of the current editorial directly, and the obvious fact that editorial decisions made today can be easily undone by future "architects," so no change is really permanent.

It is a credit to DC that they published this self-satire, and a shame that it was hidden behind such a pedestrian lead story. And, of course, my favorite reaction shot ever -- "Batman" looking curiously intrigued by I, Vampire coming out in #7.

We're all here for you, Batman!


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