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COMIC REVIEW: FTN reviews The Phantom Stranger Vol. 1, A Stranger Among Us TPB

March 19th, 2013 by Michael Leonard 1 Comment

Dan Didio – Writer issues 0 – 3, plot issues 4 and 5 and J.M. DeMatteis – Script issues 4 and 5.

Brent Anderson – Penciller , Philip Tan and Rob Hunter – Embellishments  and Scott Hanna- Inker (Issue 0)

This isn’t really too spoilery since its revealed very early on in the first issue but if you want to approach the book totally fresh then skip this first paragraph.

I’m half convinced they don’t name him for fear of a back-lash from Fox News. Mind you news reports good or bad would probably not hurt sales. We all know he’s Judas, its not hidden in subtext or simply alluded to, they practically scream it and yet they still don’t write his name down. Not a complaint really, just an observation.

The Phantom Stranger was one of DC’s Third Wave launches and debuted with a zero issue during the month all of the New 52 DC titles took that numbering. From that issue 0 we lose some of what always made The Stranger interesting to me when he appeared in a book; the mystery of who he is. Finding out his true identity and learning about his life and the humanity in this usually cryptic and otherworldly character is a step that could really ruin The Phantom Stranger. However if the New 52 has done anything its tried something new with some of its characters and I for one have been happy with the results. If you want more of the same just read old issues and trades, let the current books try new things and see what works.

This first arch sets up The Phantom Stranger’s story nicely. It’s a new reader friendly book that is not expecting any prior knowledge. Our hero is a man atoning for a sin by being forced to commit the same sin over and over, its a great high concept idea that could lend itself to many different tales as the book goes on. Some of the issues in this first trade are episodic but like a good TV show we begin to see an over arching story that is just set up in this first trade so don’t expect a complete tale here. We also get hints of The Stranger’s possible future role in the Trinity War whenever that finally hots up as well as seeing more of the horror and supernatural characters of the DCU making appearances, and sometimes their first New 52 appearances, which helps widen the supernatural end of the New 52.

As a read The Phantom Stranger is for the most part good but unspectacular. DC co-head honcho Dan Didio has skill with plotting and unlike many writers today is able to tell a story, or at least a good bit of it, in one issue but his dialogue is excessively exposition filled. No one would ever say some of the dialogue Didio writes and it proved distracting to me particularly in issue 0. In issues 4 and 5 Didio is joined by J.M. DeMatteis who uses Didio’s plot but provides the script himself. DeMatteis, a prolific DC writer since the 80s onwards, has a vastly superior skill with dialogue and it gives the book a more natural feel which allows us to get to warm to The Stranger. With issue 9 DeMatteis takes over as sole writer on the book and what his plotting is like and how DC hope to tie the book into their Trinity War is yet to be seen, but with a title change to Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger, I’d say they see the book as tied in very tightly to the event.

The art by Brent Anderson and company looks old school in the best possible sense. It has a sketchy quality and veers more down the path of illustration than cartoony. Having art that looks more grounded in reality only helps the fantasy and horror elements to seem as otherworldly and abnormal as they should.

A solid read that fits nicely into DC’s Dark range of books The Phantom Stranger could be one to watch particularly as DC’s Trinity War event approaches.  On sale May 29


   3 out of 5 Nerds

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A combined fandom of comics, movies, TV shows and novels have led to Michael having a very unproductive life so far. But he has decided to put these loves to some use by actually writing about them. Hailing from the distant and enchanted land of Northern Ireland, few things in life make him as happy as reading a good comic, or watching a good show, or complaining about bad ones. When not doing that Michael spends his time traveling the world seeking the means to fight injustice, or just sleeping.

  • Siddif

    Another great review as always Michael.

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