Phantom Stranger: Dan DiDio, Brent Anderson, Scott Hanna, Jeromy Cox, Travis Lanham
The announcement of this book created such a conflict within me. I love this character. He’s just the coolest cat. I love his look, I love what he does. And now we’re getting a definitive origin story - never before done in the DC Universe, past and present.
The conflict came from the fact that DiDio was on writing duty.
Those that read my reviews, especially of Challengers of the Unknown, know already how much I dislike his writing, so I was really hurting to think what would happen to Phantom Stranger under his guidance.
I’ll cut to the chase here. I can’t believe how much I liked this issue. There are a couple things that bugged me, and I’ll get to those. But first…this was just really well done. A great story, and a great setup for what seems to be an excellent ongoing. We first saw this character at the Wizard’s Council in the Free Comic Book Day issue. He, Pandora, and a man who may or may not become the Question are being punished for the greatest sins the world has known. What are those sins? Well, it’s not clear.
Apparently, Stranger’s was greed…for he accepted 30 pieces of silver and committed an ultimate betrayal. Of his friend. And then hanged himself because of the guilt he felt. ……Phantom Stranger is Judas. The biblical Judas Iscariot, Apostle to Jesus Christ. WOW! I actually really love this! I’m not a religious person, but I’m very familiar with the Passion thanks to a large amount of research I’ve been doing for a project. So when I read this issue, I understood everything!
Hopefully it was obvious to others who aren’t as familiar, because that’s a good origin. It also explains the circles Stranger wears around his neck. I always assumed it was what was holding the cloak together, but apparently it’s the 30 pieces of silver he accepted on a necklace. A constant reminder of his sin. As Stranger repays his debt to the universe, these pieces fall off. In the meantime, he is cursed to walk the Earth, ageless and mysterious.
And this issue’s a two-fer! We also meet none other than police officer Jim Corrigan. Is that name ringing a bell? Tickling at your ears? On the tip of your tongue? YES. Preboot Jim Corrigan was once the Spectre, God’s hand of wrath and judgement on Earth. It only makes sense that these characters be linked together.
The couple things that bothered me were Anderson’s art, for one. Just a couple of things were…in a style that I don’t find very amazing. It’s good art, but sometimes people’s faces look like they’re made of putty. Another is that Stranger didn’t know who the Wizards were he was brought before, but later cries out to them, “Please, wizard!” Why would he know to call them that? Maybe a sudden burst of awareness in their presence? Like…if you were brought before the actual one true GOD, you would probably immediately understand. That I can buy, I guess.
Phantom Stranger #0, the verdict: Wow, I can’t believe how good that was. I’m still in shock. Maybe I should go into all of these issues with a downtrodden, defeatist attitude. Hopefully I’ll be more pleasantly surprised like this! While the art suffers in some places, the story kicks so much ass I just kept smiling the whole way through it. I love that Stranger is Judas, THE Judas. I love that the robe he wears is the purple robe in which Jesus was humiliated and named “King of the Jews,” and I love that Stranger wears his 30 pieces of silver as penance, and is forced, compelled, to help certain people as he repays his debt. And, even better, as a part of his debt, he is forced to betray those he helps so that he can feel the sting of his sin again and again as he works toward redemption and forgiveness. This is going to be an awesome series, I think.
(Photo Source: Badhaven)