As I’ve mentioned before, one of the strangest metamorphoses a superhero has ever undergone involves Hal Jordan starting off as Green Lantern, and then becoming the villain Parallax, and then spending time as the Spectre before becoming Green Lantern again.
As the villain Parallax, Hal died saving the earth by reigniting the sun, in the mini-series Final Night (1996). You'd think he would've stayed dead, but as is often the case with deceased comic book characters, DC Comics (and Hal’s fans) wouldn’t leave him be. After his official death, Hal made a few sporadic appearances in various comics, either via flashback or (in the Emerald Knights storyline) via time-travel mishaps.
Then, in 1999, in one of the earliest storylines that writer Geoff Johns produced for DC, the five-issue Day of Judgment comic was released -– a mini series that went a long way toward tying up some then-loose ends in the DC Universe, and toward reminding readers just how dangerous a character like the Spectre, that jolly ol' Spirit of Vengeance, could be. Day of Judgment was a crossover event that involved darned near everyone in the DC Universe at the time. However, for the purposes of this article, we're focusing mainly on the Green Lantern-related details.
Prior to Day of Judgment, Jim Corrigan finally redeems himself after years of serving as the Spectre’s host. His soul is at last allowed to separate from the Spectre and reside in Heaven (see JLA #31). This leaves the Spectre without a human soul to serve as host -– which proves to be a very dangerous position in which to leave the all-powerful, vengeful Spectre.
For his own purposes, the Demon, Etrigan, causes the renegade angel Asmodel to become the Spectre’s host, and to put it bluntly, all hell breaks loose. Demon hordes become unleashed upon the earth, and hell itself literally freezes over. Needless to say, this creates a great deal of trouble for the heroes of earth. Because the magic-based heroes are better able to combat the Spectre and the demons of hell, they band together to form the Sentinels of Magic (sort of a precursor to Shadowpact). One member of the Sentinels of Magic is Alan Scott, the Golden-Age Green Lantern (called Sentinel in this story). He's blaming himself for all the trouble involving the Spectre, and he desperately wants to set things right.
Everyone is eager to help, of course. Well … ALMOST everyone. One of the results of all the chaos is that the sometimes-hero/sometimes-villain Enchantress is released from June Moone. She’s unwillingly drafted onto the side of the good guys, but not before running into Kyle Rayner. She’s VERY confused by this (to her) unknown kid claiming to be Green Lantern. After all, the only Green Lantern she's ever known is Hal Jordan.
Poor Kyle. He never gets any respect.
After initial attempts to stop the Spectre fail, magic and non-magic heroes split into three groups, with the intention of achieving three things:
1. Reigniting the flames of hell.
2. Finding Jim Corrigan’s soul in heaven and have him re-bond with the Spectre.
3. Holding the Spectre and the demons at bay until the first two goals are reached.
Alan Scott, Wonder Woman, Mr. Miracle, Supergirl, Raven (briefly), and the angel Zauriel form the team that travels up to heaven to find Jim Corrigan. After meeting up with some old, deceased friends from the Justice Society, they find Jim (or, rather, he finds them). But when Alan asks Jim to please come back and rebond with the Spectre, Jim’s response is essentially “Uh, uh!”
The angel Michael then suggests that the heroes try purgatory (“The Hall of Those Unjudged”) for finding help in controlling the Spectre. In purgatory, the group encounters the lost souls of several deceased heroes, including Vigilante, Rick Flagg, and Sargon the Sorcerer. When Wonder Woman tells the lost souls their help is needed, the living heroes are all but rushed by the dead:
Then, a familiar figures emerges from the darkness:
It’s Hal! Oh boy, oh boy, Alan thinks this is GREAT …
… but Wonder Woman thinks Alan is NUTS for wanting to bring Hal back with them:
Hal, for his part, is tired of everyone thinking of him as Parallax. He decides to go back to earth in a different form:
After a bit of a scuffle to get out of purgatory (some of the angels in charge don’t want Hal to leave), the heroes make their way back to earth to rejoin those that are fighting the Spectre. Among those heroes is Batman -- who also thinks Alan is NUTS for bringing Hal back.
Batman has good reason for being more than a little ticked off. Parallax or no Parallax, Hal Jordan is still Hal Jordan -- Captain Reckless himself. And, true to form, one of the first things Hal does is try to attack the Spectre all by his lonesome.
Oh, crud. Now Alan feels REALLY bad. And Batman feels absolutely no sympathy for him.
Not to worry, though. Alan’s ol’ pal, Dr. Fate, shows up with a bunch of heroes in tow, and he puts Hal back together again.
After Alan very gently reads Hal the Riot Act, the magical heroes all reband together (including Ragman, in spite of himself …)
(Oh, SHUT UP, Ragman.)
Dr. Occult channels all of the powers of the magical heroes in order to give Hal all the power HE needs to challenge Asmodel’s hold on the Spectre. Hal then uses that power to conjure up the Green Lantern Corps, much to the Spectre’s surprise:
Meanwhile, the heroes who traveled to hell to reignite the flames succeed in doing so. Also, Captain Marvel gets ahold of the Spear of Destiny, and uses it to literally slice open the Spectre.
While all this is going on, Hal is having an argument with the imaginary Kilowog that he’s conjured up (“Save it, Poozer! I got nuttin’ to say.”), and Batman and Alan Scott are still arguing about Hal:
Finally, Hal enters the gap that Captain Marvel has torn in the Spectre’s form:
Inside the Spectre, Hal has fun fighting a nasty ol’ amalgam of Asmodel and the Spectre …
… while, outside the Spectre, the other heroes have fun fighting Superman, who’s been possessed by a demon named Neron:
Don'tcha hate it when that happens?
Superman manages to rid himself of Neron, who then grabs the Spear of Destiny and enters the Spectre. Let the party begin!
Asmodel loses control of the Spectre. The freed Spectre, needless to say, is just a wee bit ticked off. It grabs Hal, Asmodel and Neron and demands to know why it should accept ANY of them as a host.
Asmodel and Neron both boast about power and glory, blah, blah, blah … Hal tries to boast, but just can’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he breaks down sobbing and says he deserves punishment, not power.
“You believe you deserve punishment?” says the Spectre. “THEN FACE YOUR PENANCE!”
Suddenly, Asmodel and Neron are evicted from the Spectre – PTUI!
… and the other heroes are treated to an odd sight indeed.
Once a Green Lantern, always a Green Lantern -- especially where the dress code is concerned.
After Asmodel and Neron are dealt with, Hal takes off to have the Spectre do some mystical repair work, to undo the damage done by the Spectre and the demons.
Almost everyone seems happy with the outcome – except Batman, of course.
After Day of Judgment (and after howls of disbelief by both Green Lantern AND Spectre fans), Hal Jordan goes on his merry way, doing his best to wrestle the Spirit of Vengeance under control and turn it, instead, into a Spirit of Redemption. For a time, he succeeds. He makes notable appearances in Legends of the DC Universe, Flash, JLA, and JSA comics, and in his own Spectre series. Most importantly, he helps bring about the resurrection of Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen in the storyline Quiver. Hal as the Spectre doesn't last long, however. After an incident involving the JSA and the Spirit King, Hal loses control of the Spectre and it reverts back to the Spirit of Vengeance. Soon afterward, Hal is brought back to life as a Green Lantern, sans both Parallax and the Spectre, in the storyline Green Lantern: Rebirth.
As for the Spectre, once it's free of Hal's soul, it's once again without a host and goes on a rampage, the details of which are covered in the storyline Day of Vengeance. Evidently, the heroes of earth didn't learn from the previous time the Spectre didn't have a host.
Day of Judgment, issues 1-5, 1999, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Matt Smith.