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Thursday, January 5, 2017

What the Spear of Destiny means for Legends of Tomorrow

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If you’re watching Legends of Tomorrow, the mid-season finale this year revealed a pretty significant plot point for both the show and the CWniverse as a whole.  It was shown that this season’s villains, the Legion of Doom, are in search of the Spear of Destiny, an incredibly powerful mystic artifact.  They explain in the episode that the Spear, more commonly known as the Spear of Longinus, is the same Spear that the Roman soldier used to pierce the side of Christ during the crucifixion. 

That fact has afforded it tremendous power, though Legends of Tomorrow was a little unclear what that power was.  Though the Spear of Longinus is a real world artifact of note, it also has a long and storied history in DC comics that hints at some major shake-ups and new additions to the Legends’ roster. 

So, in DC Comics the Spear of Destiny first entered into things during World War 2.  See, where Marvel has always been fine with its heroes serving in WW2 because none of them were powerful, DC had to contrive a reason for its heroes in the Justice Society not to intervene in the War.  For context, the JSA includes people like Green Lantern, the Flash, Dr. Fate, and the Spectre, all of whom could’ve ended the war in an afternoon if they’d been allowed to engage. 

So, to explain their absence DC invented the Spear of Destiny, which afforded Hitler the ability to nullify powers or possess the minds of super powered beings.  This did allow a few of the non-powered JSA members like Wildcat or Mr. Terrific to go behind enemy lines while still keeping the heavy hitters at arm’s length.  Incidentally, some fans might recognize the idea of “Hitler gaining the spear of Longinus” as a plot point from the first Hellboy movie- this is where it comes from. 

Eventually, the war ended, though not before the spear became irreparably tainted after Captain Nazi (think Superman powers with Nazi ideology) tried to use it to kill the embodiment of God’s wrath- the Spectre.  That fact’s going to end up crucial as we go forward as the Spectre is pretty much key to the entire history of the Spear.  Speaking of which, I might as well explain him given how intertwined these two are. 

The Spectre’s most common iteration is that of the spirit of vengeance, a terrifying ghostly being bound to a mortal soul and charged to enact righteous vengeance upon the wicked.  His powers are basically limitless though he often uses them to commit warped, ironic punishments against the sadistic and the guilty.  However, his reality warping, ghostly power also allows him to act as God’s will on Earth, standing against great evil at times of crisis. 

Given that Spectre is literally the power of God on Earth there’s not a ton of ways one could stop him, so the Spear of Destiny became a critical artifact that way, to the point the US government kept it in storage for just such an occurrence.  That might seem a bit harsh but given that the Spectre has gone crazy 3 different times and wiped out whole civilizations during these rampages it’s a bit justified.  

The Spear came in handy during an event known as the Day of Judgment, when the Spectre went too long without a host and was taken over by a fallen angel.  The heroes were able to use the Spear to bind the Spectre to the human soul of the fallen hero and former Green Lantern Hal Jordan- that’s also important going forward. 

The last time the Spear showed up in current continuity was in the very cool but very hard to explain Final Crisis.  Thankfully, the Spear only factored into a spin-off of the main series, so we don't need to get too far into the details.  In that book, it was revealed that Vandal Savage, the villain of Legends of Tomorrow season 1, was actually Cain of Cain and Abel.  

Once revealed as Cain, Vandal took control of the Spectre using the Spear and forced him to break the world basically.  Eventually, things got fixed but it was still a cool event steeped in weird Judeo-Christian mythology about the Spectre, Cain and Abel, and the spirit of God’s mercy called the Radiant. 

So, you’re probably wondering what any of that has to do with anything or why you should care.  Well, the answer is that you can see across the CW universe the threads that could be pulled tight by the Spear of Destiny.  Firstly, bringing up the Spear of Destiny in the wake of Vandal Savage’s death, coupled with the seeds planted for his resurrection in the 2nd Flash/Arrow crossover seems like an obvious invitation for a return building off his identity as Cain.  Secondly, the Spectre technically already exists in the CWniverse.

He appeared sporadically in the short-lived Constantine show from 2014 that also crossed over with Arrow.  Given that CW has already used crossover bridges to integrate Supergirl into their world I would not at all be surprised if they chose to follow up on Constantine’s threads, such as the Spectre.  Finally, even if they didn’t want to get the same actor back for the role the character of the Spectre is designed for multiple iterations.  His whole thing is that he’s an entity that possesses a host, which leads me to the crux of my thesis. 

The big reason Constantine couldn’t continue on CW when it was canceled from NBC was that it was too expensive a show to move over, so I doubt CW would want to bring actor Emmett Scanlan back to become a permanent Spectre on Legends of Tomorrow.  However, he could return for an episode as the Spectre to be killed off via the Spear of Destiny, thus forcing the Spectre to choose a new host. 

That might seem like a leaving the frying pan for the fire but there’s already a character in the CWniverse who has canonically served as the Spectre’s host- Hal Jordan.  Yeah, people forget this now, but Hal had a brief, faceless cameo on Arrow so if CW wanted to finally pay that off without needing to make him Green Lantern- this is how you do it. 

Now I admit, that might be a bit of a stretch given how many hoops Legends of Tomorrow would have to jump through to pull this off.  What’s more, such a major shake-up of the universe would generate a lot of fallout to be dealt with, especially since a character like the Spectre is hard to just ignore.  He’s basically a Superman level force so suddenly his absence at any given situation becomes all that more conspicuous. 

However, I’m not really sure what other reason there would be for the Legion of Doom to go after the Spear of Destiny.  Even accepting that it can control beings with super powers there just aren’t enough meta-humans floating around the CWniverse to form a viable army that way.  What’s more, it’d be nice for someone to finally get some use out of all the Constantine world building and Easter eggs. 

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