On any given day, the Spectre is usually the most powerful superhero in the DC Universe. As the physical embodiment of God’s wrath, the Spectre has faced down cosmic forces like the Anti-Monitor, Parallax and lived to tell the tale. But even if he’s technically on the side of the angels, the Spectre has not always done the right thing, and the line between justice and vengeance can be very hard to determine.
Despite that moral uncertainty, the Spectre crosses that line in one of his most horrifying actions in 1993’s The Spectre #13, by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake. In the lead-up to this issue, the Spectre’s human host, Jim Corrigan, had met and fallen in love with Amy Beitermann, an HIV-positive woman who reminded him of someone he was to marry before he was killed in the 1930s. A serial killer called the Reaver was targeting HIV-positive women, and Jim made it his mission to protect her. But due to forces outside of his control, he could not prevent Amy’s death. Jim, and as a result, The Spectre, went through the immense emotional turmoil that would be redirected into a revaluation of his mission.
The Spectre was sent to Earth by Heaven to confront evil and understand it. But in Jim and the Spectre’s mutual grieving, all they felt was the evil and guilt of the world, especially when the Spectre travels to Vlatava which was in the middle of a civil war. In that nation, Count Vertigo was leading a largely Christian faction that was attempting to take back their country from a group that had overtaken it several years prior. Meanwhile, General Hafza led a largely Muslim faction against Count Vertigo as he tried to defend the territory they claimed.
At first, the Spectre stops atrocities being done on innocent civilians by the military, but he knows this won’t stop the bloodshed. So, he goes to acquire the two leaders of the factions and attempts to understand the plight of Vlatava. Count Vertigo is simply attempting to take back what he believes was rightfully his, and General Hafza is simply defending what he believes is rightfully his. They each hide behind religion and dogma to get what they want, it’s a cycle of violence that just keeps turning over and over again.
When the Spectre realizes he won’t get a straight answer out of them, he attempts to raise the dead to find out the true answer. However, war and strife have plagued Vlatava for generations. The ghosts begin to attack each other for their own factions of their time. Realizing that Vlatava is stuck in a constant cycle of bloodshed that will never end, The Spectre declares that the entire country is guilty and evil. Accordingly, he summons his almighty powers and eradicates the entire population of Vlatava. He keeps General Hafza and Count Vertigo alive, to teach them a lesson about how violence can only beget more violence.
As a result of the decimation of Vlatava, the Spectre decides that the entire population of Earth deserves the same fate. Ultimately, it takes the combined powers of the Phantom Stranger, Zatanna, Etrigan, Doctor Fate, and Madame Xanadu to reach the human side of the Spectre and get him to calm down before he destroyed the world. But still, the fate of the entire world rests on Jim Corrigan coming to terms with the death of one innocent woman.
The Spectre is one of the DC Universe's most powerful figures, and he turned his almighty wrath on the entire population of one unlucky nation.