Phantom Stranger: Dan DiDio, Brent Anderson, Philip Tan, Ulises Arreola, Travis Lanham, Jeromy Cox
Ghk! Frrrbbk! Wuvvtbdr!! What’s…nff…happening…rngh!…to me?!? I…have this…uncontrollable urge…hrrhk!…to take back…everything I’ve said…about Dan DiDio!! Whoa, HOLY CRAP that was awesome!! SO AWESOME!! What did I even read?!! It couldn’t have been DiDio! The same guy who wrote that Challengers of the Unknown stuff?! NO! No way!
Well, folks, if I hadn’t already read the Zero Issue, I wouldn’t believe it. But it’s true. Dan DiDio wrote a totally kickass comic book starring the Phantom Stranger. There are some light spoilers in this review…but I’ll do my best not to reveal too much. So read along while squinting sidelong at the page just in case.
The issue starts in a park where a boy runs into the Stranger while playing soccer. He then runs out into the street because, apparently, the ball leaped out of his hands and he goes chasing after it. Well, he’s killed. It’s actually really sad. I was pretty blown away, pretty shocked. At his funeral, there’s a girl there who can apparently feel the love and grief all around her…and has to run out because it’s all too much.
The Stranger follows her, until she starts to use shadows to ward back who she thinks is an attacker. Yeah, this is a girl who’s been on the run for some time. Running from followers of a cult. The girl sends out a bird-shaped blast at the Stranger, who repels it back into her easily. He says he only means to help her find the training she needs to focus her empathic abilities. Her name? Rachel.
Her father’s a pretty important guy. A ruler, even. A guy with a massive army that he means to use to strike against all the nations in search of his daughter. That aforementioned cult worships him like a God, in fact. Rachel and the Stranger talk about her dad, and how her mother kept her hidden from him in another dimension. But her luck’s running out. And it’s in the nature of the Stranger to betray those he looks after. So he takes her to Stonehenge…which, unfortunately, turns out to be a gateway for her father.
He comes looking for her, and realizes the deal that Heaven is making the Stranger perform. It works. For now. Have you guessed who this girl is yet? Oh, come on, it’s so bloody obvious…the only way you wouldn’t get it is if you’ve never read a DC Comic book in your life, or have never seen a DC animated TV show before. All I’d have to do to sell it out completely would be to say Azar—. Whoops, almost gave it away.
The ART!! Oh my god, it’s an artgasm. I really, really liked the style of this issue. It’s completely different than the Zero Issue…which was a surprise, but a welcome one. I really, really hope this style maintains throughout the series because it’s very fitting of the ethereal quality of the character and story. Nothing is ever truly “in focus,” much like the character himself.
Phantom Stranger #1, the verdict: I seriously can’t believe how awesome this was. I was SO EXCITED when I realized who the girl was, because I’ve been waiting for her reappearance in the New 52 ever since Teen Titans #1 (dangit, did I give it away?). I still love the idea of Stranger betraying souls one at a time to pay his penance for his sin. I love, even more, that we never really knew what angle he was playing to fulfill his deed until the end. I hope that approach stays consistent throughout the series. Kind of like “Quantum Leap,” where he never knew exactly how to solve the problem until he just did it. I like that we, as readers, don’t know exactly what needs to be done for the Stranger to meet the requirements before being done. More of this, please.
(Photo Source: Source Comics and Games)