John Ostrander: Writer
Tom Mandrake: Artist
Dan Brereton: Painted Cover
Digital Chameleon: Colors
Todd Klein: Letterer
Issue's literary quote (seen on splash page): "Power is something of which I am convinced there is no innocence this side of the womb." - Nadine Gordimer From the action-packed splash page, Issue #7 hits the ground running in the meta-physical landscape of Madame Xanadu's world and never lets up on the accelerator. Within this issue, we will see Madame Xanadu co-opt the Spectre's godlike power for her own and learn a hard lesson about power into the bargain. Also, M. Xanadu, via her omniscient powers, will forecast the ultimate fate of Amy Beitermann; and this forecast will change the lives (and afterlives) of all concerned. At the end of last issue (last post's "The Bleeding Gun"), James Corrigan was just entering the Chinatown apartment of his friend, Amy Beitermann, not realizing that Madame Xanadu and her bag of sorceress's tricks was waiting for him along with Amy behind the door. Issue #7 begins with James Corrigan stepping through the door of Amy's apartment and plunging straight into the dark, dangerous forest kingdom of M. Xanadu's alternate, conjured universe.
Splash Page - "Vision and Power" issue #7
Madame Xanadu remembers
Madame Xanadu wields the Spectre's power
The "sendings" of Xanadu
Splash Page - "Vision and Power" issue #7
For the remainder of issue #7, James Corrigan will battle Madame Xanadu and her horrifying legion of "sendings;" i.e. metamorphosed elements of her own soul made physical. For the first few pages, these awful, shape shifting beings chase Corrigan over the dank swamps and valleys of Xanadu's meta-world, at times looking like wolfish hunting animals with semi-human vampire heads. They tear at him with their teeth, ripping off green ectoplasmic pieces of the Spectre within (these terrifying creatures are actually tearing at Corrigan/Spectre's power to bring back to Xanadu, like hunting dogs bringing back kills to the hunter). We learn much about the backstory of Madame Xanadu in this issue #7, as well as much about the nearly ancient relationship between James Corrigan/Spectre and Xanadu, which heretofore was only hinted at. As James Corrigan battles for his life in one part of Xanadu's forest kingdom (which is technically still Beitermann's one-bedroom apartment in Chinatown), Madame Xanadu and Amy walk through a more tranquil area - the manicured grounds of a castle. As the two stroll to the edge of a stone well, Xanadu instructs Amy to look into the well's waters. As Xanadu explains her purposes with Amy and James Corrigan, the waters bring forth visions: Xanadu tells Amy that the world she has conjured forth, and existing within her own apartemnt, is actually the world as it was when Madame was young - a world that predates Camelot. When Amy asks Xanadu how old she is, Madame explains that she is ageless and can never die, having cheated Death at a game of cards when she was a young sorceress. Since she has defeated Death, Xanadu explains, she has come to hate Destiny and Fate (both of which, apparently, are god-like physical entities in Xanadu's world, each controling a particular sphere of influence). Xanadu explains that the world of her youth was a much more feminine world, a matriarchal society which worked in harmony with nature. Over the years, Xanadu has been horrified by the mechanization of the world, one that has become much more reliant on science and machines - a much more masculine world wherein nature and "Mother" Earth, along with women in general, have been "raped and violated." As the world has turned more male-centric, Xanadu herself has become increasingly inconsequential. Madame Xanadu tells Amy that she wants to regain the base of power she once had, even increase it tremendously; so that she can remake the world into the feminine, gentle, natural place of her youth. Xanadu wants to co-opt the Spectre's power for her own, and for that she needs Amy Beitermann's help. The sorceress realizes that Amy has become the "focus and the key to the power the Spectre wields." Barely understanding what Xanadu means or desires of her, yet instinctively frightened by it, Amy demands to be taken back to her apartment. Amy tells Xanadu she wants no part of her plan and, further, the Spectre's power has nothing to do with her. In a profoundly thought provoking moment (very typical of the kind of depth John Ostrander brings to scripts through this 1993 series) Xanadu gently explains to Amy that she, in fact, has everything to do with the Spectre's power. "Amy, you're at the center of it," says Xanadu. "Corrigan - the Spectre - needs living people to act as his anchor to the mortal sphere. Without human contact, the Spectre drifts away, becomes less human." Xanadu explains that she, Amy, is that anchor for Spectre - that chain that binds him to the physical world. Because of this bond to her and the mortal realm, Amy is actually keeping Corrigan from reaching his final rest. The mortal part of the Spectre - Corrigan - remains earthbound only because of her and to her. As Amy and Madame Xanadu stroll and discuss the situation in polite terms, the terrifyingly bloody battle between Corrigan and Xanadu's monstrous disciples spill out from a nearby forest thicket. Amy screams in anger and rushes to fight by Corrigan's side. Eventually, following Xanadu's instructions; her small, repulsive army holds both Corrigan and Amy at bay - and at Xanadu's mercy. Her disciples begin to deliver all the power they have literally torn from Jim Corrigan to Madame Xanadu. As she begins to receive the Spectre's power in a river of dense protoplasm, she explains to Amy her own history with the Spectre:
Madame Xanadu remembers
The Spectre, in an ancient incarnation, came to the Madame Xanadu when she was a powerful sorceress, exhausted by his earthly mission and full of self-doubts; seeking solace and a safe haven to regain his strength. Xanadu agreed to help him but claimed to need a portion of Spectre's power to aid him. With this gained power, Xanadu created a separate, safe world for James Corrigan. It was during this time of co-opted power that Xanadu created her "sendings" - separate, physical extensions of her own soul (both male and female) to help reinforce the illusion of a separate, peopled world. Interestingly, it is suggested strongly that Madame Xanadu, and her "sending" self, "Kimmie," were both lovers to the Spectre (now there's an image) and James Corrigan during this period ("As Kimmie and as Madame Xanadu, both natures of the Spectre fed me the Tantric Power by which I maintained the spell," says Xanadu). As M. Xanadu tells her tale, Corrigan and Xanadu begin to rage at one another - Xanadu claiming the Corrigan has wasted the great power that was given him, battling small wars when he could be changing the world - ultimately freeing the world of all evil, all crime, all sickness and death. As she rages, Xanadu tells Amy that if he so desired, Corrigan/Spectre could cure her of the AIDS virus, make her healthy again - in short, save her from death. "There's millions of people dying of all kinds of sickness out there," answers Corrigan. "I don't fight death. I fight evil." "Then you condemn this woman!" howls Xanadu as though springing a trap. Xanadu waves her hand over the water well, wherein visions of the future can be seen. We see a reddish nightmare: A man with a huge knife standing over Amy's dead body. "You will not die of Aids!" Xanadu tells Amy. "Your fate is to be hacked by a madman in an alley - and nothing in this world can prevent it - unless the world itself is changed!" Amy screams at the horror of Xanadu's vision, Corrigan curses Xanadu, and Xanadu's terrible minions come to her - delivering the last bits of protoplasmic Spectre power they have literally ripped from Corrigan. Finally, Spectre's power is transferred to Madame Xanadu in full. In a bright, blossoming of power, Xanadu is transformed into a female Spectre, complete with green cape and marble-white body. She goes on a revenge-filled killing spree, her fury and punishments aimed exclusively at those who harm women (or harm Mother Earth). In the final analysis, however, Spectre is able to convince Madame Xanadu that the Spectre's power is not intended to change the world. Indeed, Spectre's power can never change the world because, as long as individuals have free will, evil will always walk the Earth. The power of the Spectre can only be used to punish the specific occurrence of evil in the world, not to change the world itself.
Madame Xanadu wields the Spectre's power
If Madame Xanadu is to remain the Spectre, Corrigan explains, she will be doomed for eternity to haunt the world for evil, case by case, never finding rest or respite from her mission. "Is that what you want?!" Corrigan demands. "To wind up just like me?!" After a moment, with her face hidden in shadow, Xanadu answers, "No," in a small voice. Xanadu decides to reject the power of the Spectre and in an act of compassion offers James Corrigan the chance to be free of his mission - to allow Corrigan's spirit to be free of the Spectre and his mission forever. Corrigan declines the offer. Though tempted to accept the eternal peace Xanadu has offered, he accepts the burden of Spectre's mission again only so he can protect Amy from the fate Xanadu has prophesied (death at the hands of a knife-wielding murderer, who we assume is the serial killer known as the Reaver). Corrigan finally calls for the Spectre's power, accepting it; and his deathless, host body is once again possessed by the nightmarish spirit of the wrath of God (interestingly, we see for a moment what the spirit of the Spectre really looks like, sans any mortal host; and it's a hideous demon's visage we see in the moments before Corrigan accepts it - a death-like skull grimacing in fury)! As Corrigan - now fully remerged with the Spectre, embraces Amy, Xanadu looks on sadly and thinks to herself, "You're a fool, Corrigan. This is a battle you know, deep down, that you cannot win. To fight on when there is not hope. To fight in spite of no hope. Foolish hero." The final pages of the issue are of panels of Danny Geller, the Reaver, breaking into the Siegel-Bailey hospital late at night and entering the medical records room (The Siegel-Bailey Hospital is the hospital where Amy Beitermann works and which, presemably, house her medical files). Madame Xanadu's thoughts regarding Corrigan and Amy, and the vision she has seen of Amy's death, offer narration to this dark scene: "Out there, somewhere, he is coming. He is coming for Amy and he's going to kill her. Perhaps he doesn't know her. Perhaps they've never met. Perhaps he doesn't even know her name. But he will find her. And when he does, he will kill her." In the last panel, the visage of the Spectre looms huge over the two small figures of Corrigan and Amy together, clinging to one another. "We're going to beat this, Amy. You'll see. I swear it. Ain't nothin' going to happen to you." Ah, what an incredible plot structure Ostrander has built! What a foundation for future stories wherein many themes may be explored. Speaking of which, let's get to the cool stuff about this issue: The Cool Stuff, Part I: Visions of Power The artistic team of Ostrander and Mandrake has many things to say about the nature of absolute power, all of it very pessimistic (or perhaps simply realistic). Xanadu's reasons for wanting to co-opt the Spectre's power are initially "good." She wishes to make the world a better place. She wants, in fact, to make the world over into the gentler, kinder world of her youth. That sounds very reasonable. In fact, who among us advancing passed "middle age" hasn't had the same desire? Yet, Corrigan warns her, the Spectre's power "doesn't work that way." Indeed, the lessons of this issue are that all power doesn't work that way; including the Spectre's. Corrigan knows that he was given the Spectre's power because his profound and fundamental anger would simply overpower any desire to "remake" the world. He would simply be an instrument of justice, made to punish evil. His emotional make up would keep the Spectre's power happily within its limits. Despite her proclamations of making the world better, Madame Xanadu uses her newfound, godlike power strictly as an instrument of petty vengeance and horrible punishment. She immediately sets off on a horrific, bloody rampage of very personal revenge and simple murder: She turns her fingers into an immense shear and castrates a pimp who has abused women in his employ; she casts an industrialist into a vat of toxic, acidic waste taken from one of his own factories - none of which changes the world one-iota. The message: We humans make the world - we can never re-make it. If given power, our inherent flaws - pettiness, selfishness, avarice - will only entrench the world as it is. The more power we are given, the deeper the trench. Pretty cool stuff to ponder in a 24 page comic, a 500 page novel, or a play by Shakespeare (Macbeth). The Cool Stuff, Part II: Madame Xanadu Madame Xanadu really steps up strongly as a series character in this issue. Her history with Spectre/Corrigan is explained within the pages of issue #7 - and it's a fascinating story telling of deep sexual (Tantric Power!) and emotional ties between the two.
The "sendings" of Xanadu
Also, and not for nothing, Xanadu's small army of repulsive minions, her "sendings," are incredible inventions; particularly when one considers that these terrifying, horrible creatures are, by Xanadu's own words, elements of her own soul "made palpable." Next: Issue #8 - Old characters and spirits from Hell are coming in "Righteous Anger." See you soon.