The Phantom Stranger #0 – Comic Review
The major comic companies put out enough comics that sometimes it can leave your head spinning and eyes bleeding as you search the new titles each week for something worth reading. To aid in your Geeky endeavors, Speak Geeky To Me on occasion reviews new titles from the major companies to spotlight the best and worst of what’s available at your local comic shop. So sit back, relax, and enjoy a new Comic Review.
Title: The Phantom Stranger vol.4 #0
Writer: Dan Didio (O.M.A.C., The Outsiders)
Penciler: Brent Anderson (Astro City, Rising Stars)
Inker: Scott Hanna (Avengers Vs. X-men, Green Lantern Corps)
Colorist: Jeromy Cox (Danger Girl: Revolver, Resurrection Man)
Number of Issues: 1 (on-going)
Page Count: 20
The Review Bit
The first new series of DC’s New 52 third wave just happens to also be a zero issue that directly follows the events of DC’s Free Comic Book Day: The New 52 #1, or at least one of its characters. Yes, The Phantom Stranger is back, with a brand new origin. Now The Phantom Stranger is no stranger (pardon the pun) to origin stories, with several possible origins to his existence having floated around well before the New 52. Most of these origins of the Stranger were in someway related to the Bible or Abrahamic religions. In the New 52, author Dan Didio hasn’t strayed far from this idea, but certainly has brought a new twist to it.
As was hinted at in Free Comic Book Day: The New 52 #1, and strongly suggested (but never clearly stated), the Phantom Stranger of the New 52 is in fact Judas. We see this in so many ways, from the time he was alive, the language he spoke, the manner of his suicide, constant references to betrayal and sin, and, most blatantly, the 30 pieces of silver. Much of the zero issue works on showing you this fact, rather than telling you, as we are shown the same scene of judgment before the council of wizards we read in the Free Comic Book Day issue, though now narrated from the Stranger’s perspective. We learn that the Wizards and/or some higher power (presumably God) has cursed the Stranger to walk amongst the earth, wearing his 30 silver pieces around his neck, ‘until his debt is paid’. It is roughly 2,000 years until he is first called upon to ‘pay his debt’, and by this time the Stranger is cold and numb, having not likely involved himself in the world the way he had prior to the New 52. His first mission is to help a young Gotham police detective find his kidnapped girlfriend, Gwendolyn Sterling (perhaps a descendant of the Jonah Hex character, Adrian Sterling? Or perhaps the New 52 just likes the name Gwendolyn, as seen in Catwoman). Of course, the twist is that the police detective is Jim Corrigan. Fans of Corrigan likely already know where this is going, but for those who don’t, Jim Corrigan was DC’s original Spectre. So not only does this zero issue offer us the New 52 origin of Phantom Stranger, but the new Spectre as well. However, this time Jim Corrigan’s death lays party due to Phantom Stranger unwittingly leading him to the mob that will kill him, thus turning him into the Spectre. The origin isn’t the same as we once read in 1940’s More Fun Comics #52, but it is close (though almost offensively abridged). From the rise of Corrigan as the Spectre we witness the first of Phantom Stranger’s 30 silver pieces fade away, showing him on the path to redemption with only 29 good deeds left to complete.
I must say first off that I don’t know how I feel about the retelling of these two classic, super natural characters’ origins. Phantom Stranger always seemed to work better as a completely mysterious entity to me, and giving such as strong definition of character by claiming Phantom Stranger is Judas just seems off putting when the character is celebrating his 50th anniversary as something rather different. This issue also has me wondering if the council of wizards is supposed to be the New 52’s answer to The Quintessence. As for giving the new origin of the Spectre in just half an issue? It seems like a real slap in the face to Spectre fans. Finally, I hate countdown related plots. You’ve probably seen your fair share of TV shows that use this premise, where a character has to do so many good deeds or find so many items to complete their mission (Card Captor Sakura, 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd, Inuyasha, etc). The problem with these are that the series usually gets canceled before the protagonist hits that high number, they drop the countdown for something more plot sustaining, or the number is too low (like, say, 30?) and you have to fear the character reaching his life long goal far too quickly. Oddly, Phantom Stranger is likely to be both too high and too low a number, as I doubt the series will last 30 issues, but I also would hate to see the Stranger clearing up his 2000 year old debt in just 30 comics set in modern times.
Dan Didio writes a decent script here, but fails to provide a truly interesting plot. This could be Didio’s greatest flaw as a comic writer, in that his scripts are often strong, with decent dialogue, but his plots are generally weak and don’t hold the reader’s attention. It is hard to say if this is entirely Dan’s fault or if it is just that he always assigns himself to characters that would need a lot more creativity to make interesting again (such as Omac and The Outsiders). Never-the-less, beyond a frail plot and rushed story to fit two origins in just 20-pages, Dan at least give some interesting dialogue and narrative. But even interesting is not necessarily great, with word bubbles like “you’ve just become what I call a person of interest. Except I don’t have time to be interested” and the horribly redundant caption of “I knew the moment of our judgment was at hand” after 4-pages of dialogue emphasizing the Stranger was before the council of wizards to face judgment. While Dan is an incredibly nice and enthusiastic DC representative to meet at a convention, perhaps he should step away from scripting and focus on publishing.
On the art end, Brent Anderson and Scott Hanna put together some really nice interiors. Their depiction of the wizard council’s members, the backdrop of a biblical era Middle-East, and the entire look of 1940’s Gotham and fashion all show off their fine talent. While their work is nothing extraordinary, it is all quality comic art and good sequential art storytelling. Even Jeromy Cox does a nice job with colors that are bright, yet still give off the dark and haunting mood of The Phantom Stranger title. But while Phantom Stranger #0 has good art, it is not enough to sell the book on its own.
The Rating Bit
The Phantom Stranger #0 is acceptable as a quick origin story for The Phantom Stranger and Spectre in the New 52, but does little beyond that. The art is good, but the story is weak and is not likely to hold readers, let alone draw them back for future issues. Likely the greatest selling point for this series will be the possibility that Phantom Stranger might have a large role in the New 52 or at least re-introduce many of DC’s old supernatural characters, as we know issue #1 will bring us the demon, Trigon. So with a bit of expected disappointment, The Phantom Stranger #0 earns a saddening 4 out of 10.
No comments yet.
No trackbacks yet.
about 1 day ago - No comments
Years ago, the Killjoys fought against the tyrannical megacorporation Better Living Industries, costing them their lives, save for one—the mysterious Girl. Today, the followers of the original Killjoys languish in the Desert while BLI systematically strips citizens of their individuality. As the fight for freedom fades, it’s left to the Girl to take up the More >
about 2 days ago - No comments
The newest game in the Batman: Arkham line from DC Comics, Warner Bros Interactive, and Rocksteady Studios is set for release this Fall. Well, that is except for the fact that Rocksteady Studios will not be involved in this round of Arkham fun, as Warner Bros has decided to bring the game to their in-house studio More >
about 3 days ago - No comments
Eaglemoss Collections has long been known for their awesome subscription based comic paraphernalia. Whether it is chess pieces or model cars, the company puts out some high quality and awesome comic products at very reasonable prices. But now the company seems to be dealing in facts and secrets as if they were a real life More >
about 4 days ago - No comments
ABC and Marvel are just pushing out the incredible new content to promote their upcoming TV series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Today they updated their brand new youtube account with 2 videos. One is a 7 second clip that performed as a small teaser 2 hours before this full trailer giving us a proper look at More >
about 5 days ago - No comments
DC has some final issues set to come out this August along with some special one-shots. Continuing DC’s big summer event of the Trinity War, there is a Trinity War Directors Cut special which features Geoff John’s script and Ivan Reis’ penciles. You can also look forward to the huge Batman Inc Special with its More >
about 5 days ago - No comments
Conan the barbarian is one of those legendary characters who rises and falls in popularity over and over again throughout his existence, but always returns. In the 80+ years he’s been around he’s seen popularity in prose, video games, movies, and comics. His last movie appearance in 2011, with actor Jason Momoa portraying him, was More >
about 6 days ago - No comments
If you were watching Once Upon A Time on ABC tonight, you probably saw this trailer first. But now, thanks to Marvel, the trailer for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is online! Yes, the new TV series set in the Marvel Movie-verse has a full teaser trailer now, even though we are still awaiting the show’s premiere More >
about 1 week ago - No comments
After an intense fourth issue, Soulfire volume 4 continues to roll out with an amazing story. Malikai and his friends are continuing to attempt to survive and defeat the onslaught of a deadly horde of destructive dragons. Meanwhile, the magical races of the Everlands might have to resort to the unthinkable in order to defeat More >
about 1 week ago - 2 comments
It was announced almost a year ago that Joss Whedon was working on a SHIELD TV series for ABC that would be part of Marvel’s movie-verse that included Avengers, Iron Man, etc. At the time we knew Joss Whedon would co-write the pilot with his brother, Jed Whedon, and sister-in-law, Maurissa Tancharoen. We also knew these More >
about 1 week ago - No comments
There’s very little like a one day comic convention, where you can just escape away into the comic world without the high cost or commitment of a full weekend con. But most 1-day comic cons tend to be really tiny events, with a handful of guests at best. Long Beach Comic Expo is different. While More >