Combining a return of the Spectre with the mythology of Wonder Woman, writer Robert Venditti is finishing up his run on Justice League with “Vengeance is Thine,” while also welcoming Aquaman back onto the team.
Venditti told Newsarama in January that his run would focus on team dynamics, and the Spectre story is no different, as grudges and disagreements among League members come to the surface after the Spectre is separated from his human host, Jim Corrigan.
“Vengeance is Thine” begins in April 1's Justice League #44 (with art by Xermanico), then continues into April 15's Eddy Barrow-drawn #45 - whose pages we have here.
Venditti, who just started on Justice League with February’s #40, is moving on to what he calls a “dream” project for DC after the Spectre story concludes in issue #47. The team of writer Simon Spurrier and artist Aaron Lopresti then take over with June's #48.
Newsarama talked to Venditti to find out more about his Spectre story, the reason the team is fighting each other in the preview art, and why the writer is leaving the Justice League title only a few months after starting his run.
Newsarama: Rob, from the preview art, it looks like the appearance of the Spectre leads to some conflict between members of the Justice League?
Robert Venditti: Yeah, one of the things I wanted to do with the Justice League title is deal with the team mechanics aspect of all these characters.
You know, you have this group of characters that are some of the biggest characters in all of comics. These are the most powerful characters in the entire DCU pantheon. But you put them all on the same team, they’re not always going to get along exactly. They’re going to have different approaches to things, different thoughts about things. And we definitely seeded some of those conflicts and interactions in the first story arc with the Eradicator, which just ended.
So in this story arc, we have a problem with the Spectre, who had become separated from Corrigan and now sort of unfettered and doesn’t have that human soul to guide God’s divine justice, and so it’s becoming twisted and perverted. And the vengeance is affecting first the heroes of the Justice League, bringing up deep-seeded grudges and resentments and having them act on those grudges and resentments.
But it’s a larger threat because, you know, the power of the Spectre is something that can’t be contained within just those heroes, and so it’s a threat because it can spread across the entire planet.
And as it goes to different places, it has the same effect on pretty much everyone.
Nrama: So just to clarify, the grudges are tied into the idea of vengeance? That’s why they are sort of heightened?
Venditti: Yes, but the vengeance has become corrupted and is manifesting itself in ways that would not normally be the case with the Spectre.
There’s no human soul to guide it, as Corrigan usually does. He’s been separated from the Spectre now. So the Spectre doesn’t have that guide.
So that feeling of vengeance, becoming corrupted, is becoming more sinister and is leading toward revenge and is causing people to act on grudges that they otherwise wouldn’t.
We all have these things in our daily lives, with the people we interact with - maybe there’s some slight that we kind of bury, some misgiving that we have, but we hold it to ourselves. It’s kind of the way society operates.
It would operate the same within the team mechanics of the Justice League and these heroes as well. They’re all friends and they all fight together, but there are going to be conflicts between them. There’s going to be perceived slights and misgivings and all these sorts of things.
So with the Spectre at that ground zero moment, bleeding out all this corrupted vengeance, and the Justice League is there in the heart of it, taking the full force of what that means, it’s compelling them to act in ways that they normally would not because they’ve lost the ability to keep those things suppressed and operate the way we all do in our daily lives by not acting on those things.
Nrama: We have seen in solicitations that the Pit of Tartarus kicks off this story. How does it play a part in the story?
Venditti: In Justice League #44, the Justice League gets a call from Aquaman, who’s to rejoin the team for this story arc. There’s been an event in Antarctica that he needs help investigating. When they get there, they find that the Pit of Tartarus, which is the pit from Greek mythology where the worst monsters were jailed - deeper even than the underworld, so it’s at the bottom of the world, which we’re putting down in Antarctica - it has cracked open and all the monsters have spilled out.
The reason why it’s cracked open and what has led to this are revealed as we go through that issue, but it connects back to the Spectre and how the Spectre’s vengeance has become corrupted, and what Corrigan’s role has been in that.
And even though his intentions might have been good, how he has actually uncorked the bottle on something that’s far worse than anybody could have imagined.
Nrama: The art we’re seeing for issue #45 features Eddy Barrows, who will be drawing the “Vengeance is Thine” storyline with another artist, Xermanico. Can you talk about what these two artists bring to the Spectre story?
Venditti: Eddy Barrows is on #45 and #47, and Xermanico is on #44 and #46.
Eddy Barrows and I worked together on the Freedom Fighters story, the 12-issue maxi-series that finished up earlier this year. It was also a team book, and also sort of a large-scale story with a lot of big, bombastic action - huge enemies, global events and all those kinds of things.
It was a real treat to be able to work with him again so quickly. You know, it’s always sad when a series ends. You don’t just miss the characters, but you miss the collaborators who you enjoyed working with. And you never know if you will work with them again.
So to have this opportunity to work with Eddy again on another team book, and now to have it be something as high-profile as the Justice League, and all of the great heroes that are on that team, it’s just such a joy to see him dive into those pages.
His ability to handle not just a team book, which is difficult enough, but to handle the amount of figure work that he’s asked to handle in this arc as well as the different locations - the Pit of Tartarus, Themyscira, Antarctica, and all of the details and all of the world-building that goes into each stroke of the pencil - it’s great to have him on board to be a part of that arc.
And to be working with Xermanico, who introduces the arc - he as well as so much story and so much weight put on him in what we do in those two issues. You’ll get to see in #44 with the Pit of Tartarus, and we have all these great mythological creatures of old, like the Chimera and the Manticore and the Hydra and the Stymphalian birds - it goes on and on and on.
Again, the amount of design work and the sheer number of figures he has to draw - these different beasts and creatures from myth - to put that all on the page while having all six members of the Justice League fighting them at the same time, it’s not a simple thing to do.
This is my first time working with Xermanico. But seeing the pages come in, I couldn’t be more happy with them. His Aquaman, I think, might be my favorite of the whole bunch - the way he draws Aquaman’s hair. But it’s all just fantastic stuff.
It’s only a four-issue story, but I would definitely love the chance to work with him again at some point.
Nrama: We’ve seen solicitations indicating that Simon Spurrier is coming onto Justice League for at least three issues following the conclusion of this “Vengeance is Thine” storyline in issue #47. So is this your final story on Justice League?
Venditti: It is my last arc. I may return to the characters at some point, but when I originally took on the series, it was going to be for an open-ended assignment — 24 issues or however long.
But sometimes circumstances change. Around the time my first issue of Justice League was on the stands, I was given another opportunity by DC that was just an absolute dream project. And that’s not to say that the Justice League isn’t a dream project as well, but this other project is a dream to the extent that you wouldn’t even think a project like this would ever exist.
When they described it to me, I just knew I had to do it.
And with Justice League being a double-ship book, and me already being on Hawkman, now adding this other new project into the mix … you know, double-ship books are a very demanding schedule. I did it for 51 issues on Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, but I wasn’t writing anything else.
I never want to be the writer who overbooks themselves and then can’t hand the work load or has to start skipping issues or miss deadlines or not be able to deliver a script on time to the artist. I try to avoid those scenarios.
So it just came down to a decision where something had to come off my schedule. And talking with DC, Justice League made the most sense because it was a double-ship book, and freeing that up would give me much more maneuverability to do these other projects.
It is sad, because I did have ideas of what I was going to do and how I was going to handle the team mechanics, and what we were going to do with future threats throughout the storyline. And it’s the Justice League - it’s one of the biggest books in all of comics.
But this other opportunity is one that will never, ever come around again. It’s a one-time deal. So I wanted to go ahead and take that opportunity. I’m sad to leave Justice League, but also feel immensely fortunate that I would even be in a position to get to pick and choose between dream projects like this.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell people about the Spectre story or about what’s coming up in Justice League?
Venditti: I’ll just add that what we’ve tried to do throughout the series - in the first arc and now in the second one - is combine multiple mythologies in the DCU to create an adversary that’s larger than any one mythology would be on its own - and therein comes the urgency that would require a team as powerful as the Justice League to come and combat it.
In the first arc, we had the Eradicator with the Superman mythology, and we blended it with the Daxamites and the Green Lantern mythology and kind of made something larger than either of those things on their own.
Here again in this story, we’re taking Greek mythology and Wonder Woman and Tartarus and those creatures and combining that with the mythology of the Spectre to make a threat that’s more powerful and requires the entire Justice League.
The Spectre is a character that I’ve always been very interested in, and as my career at DC has gone on and I’ve gone back and read a lot of the runs - and I read Ostrander’s Spectre, you know - I’ve just been really floored by the character and the potential of it. It was very intriguing to me.
But I have never written the character, so it was great to have an opportunity to finally write the Spectre and Jim Corrigan, and even to do it with something as large as the Justice League. It’s just been wonderful. It’s another one of those DC characters I can check off and be able to say that I wrote, even if it was briefly.