Friday, October 18, 2013

Finally The Last Phantom!

A year ago I waxed on a bit about how despite the things I'd read and disregarding my own early impressions, I still wanted to read Dynamite Comic's version of Lee Falk's classic hero The Phantom. Now at long last a full twelve months later spurred into action by the recent Kings Watch comics, I have pulled the trigger and gotten the two trades. I got them yesterday and have read them both through.

Actually I have to say I was taken away by them. I get what purists object to in this much more violent version of the classic "Ghost Who Walks", but I did detect a clear knowledge of and a fundamental respect for the classic version. If this bloody Phantom was all I had, then I might sigh mightily and move on, but seen merely as a version of the classic, I was intrigued.

This Phantom might or might not be the twenty-first we all know and admire. The arrival of Diana Palmer at the end makes me think he must be. My initial impressions was that this was the twenty-second Phantom, the son of the classic we'd been following so long who was trying to find a Twenty-first Century solution to the Phantom mission, something other than shooting forty-fives and traipsing across the jungle saving folk who need saving. This is a good man who wanted to do good on a broader scale. But we soon find, as does he, that fate has other plans.

The death toll in this story is exceedingly high, and The Phantom is not shy about leaving those who deal death to a fatal reward. That's a definite shift in the nature of the heroics here. It's pretty high octane stuff in this story which never really stops. Thank goodness I waited to read the tale in its entirety. Following along month by month would've been far too tedious.

This Phantom is already married with a son, a wife and son who are killed when the worldwide network he has established for the betterment of the poor of the world is sabotaged by his second in command, a man named appropriately Quisling. Kit Walker must survive long enough to return to his roots as the "Ghost Who Walks" and bring hard justice to those who have killed so many innocents.

I liked how Scott Beatty's story reinterpreted so many of the classic tropes of the original tale, giving them a new and often darker spin. The addition of a stealth suit to the Phantom's arms was a nice idea, adding to the Phantom's power and living up to his name. Hero and Devil are both along for the ride, though the pair do prove nettlesome when it comes to intercontinental transport.

The artwork by Edwardo Ferrigato is still of the new school which usually leaves me cold, but has enough classic touches that I can endure it. The Phantom doesn't look off model in most of the panels and the storytelling is sufficient. I would've preferred an artist with a bit more atmosphere, or perhaps a more detailed inker would've helped. The covers by Alex Ross and others are magnificent by and large, though as always with Dynamite they become a fetish. I'm happy to have them all in these trades where they can be enjoyed.

The second story arc gives us a new version of the classic origin, a much bloodier retelling but one that still rings essentially true. The Phantom is a concept which is sturdy enough to handle these revisions, so I don't mind when writers try to bring a bit of a change to the details, as long as they don't tinker with the core.

Overall I found myself swept along by the story which I will caution one and all does end abruptly. But not without a wink to the fans who know that the Phantom regardless of circumstances will always prevail.

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