Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Comic Book Review: The Phantom Stranger #42

Book Information
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Ardian Syaf

The Phantom Stranger returns to the comic books stands as Blackest Night comes closer to its inevitable climax.  The Stranger takes on the Black Lantern Spectre along with the help of Blue Devil.  To make matters worse, the confusing dilemma of Deadman fighting his risen body becomes the central focus of the Stranger; he assists Deadman in taking control of his body to hopefully bury it where it will be kept safe.  But what happens when a barrage of Black Lanterns have set out to destroy that very resting place?

My Thoughts
I know nothing of the Phantom Stranger except that I’ve heard of him and seen him occasionally cameo in certain titles I pick up monthly; that’s the extent of my knowledge.  After reading this issue however, I’m starting to hope DC has plans on making a permanent revival of the hero because I loved every moment of this book.

Tomasi intelligently writes the banter between Blue Devil and The Stranger, making it humorous while still maintaining that serious undertone.  It was fun to see Blue Devil unable to out wit someone with his negative outlook on life.  The Phantom Stranger wasn’t even making any snappy comebacks at the expense of Blue Devil, but still kept the blue demon in his place.

The story has two major plotlines going on, (which is a risky thing to do) where the Stranger and Devil assist the Spectre to take back control of his body with no success, and Boston Brand fights his risen corpse and rebury it.  Both of these plots stay strong and do not linger or dwell on unimportant dialog and narratives.  We discover that the souls of risen lanterns stay in tact while the bodies remain consumed by the black rings.  This was also hinted at in Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #2 in which her Diana’s inner monolog narrates the story while her body brutally murders three people.  Boston Brand fighting the horde of Black Lanterns was intense and terrifying; I could sense the pain coming from Brand so vividly it was incredible.  I did enjoy the Spectre fight, but I was thrown off by the unresolved conflict where The Spectre was unable to regain control of his body, and the Black Lantern side of the spirit of vengeance flies off to find Hal Jordan.  I’m sure this only means The Spectre holds some importance to the resolution of Blackest Night, which means I have more to look forward too.

The Phantom Stranger is such an interesting character, much like the Question and the Spirit.  I find myself attracted to those hardcore, vintage detective titles more and more as DC continually revitalizes the silver age of comics.  I cannot stress enough how I wish DC would give the Phantom Stranger his own title back and allow us unfamiliar to him to discover how obviously cool he is.

Ardian Syaf is a great artist whose style resembles that of my favorite comic book artists, Ed Benes and Ivan Reis.  The realistic figures and wonderful facial expressions should not go unnoticed or undenied as some of the best work in comics.  In fact, I would argue that where Syaf surpasses Benes lies with the originality of his work.  Ed Benes tends to make all of his woman and men very similar in facial features, where as Syaf seems to have a variety of faces in which he brings to his art.

No complaints about this issue except for the fact that Zatanna appears on the cover, but not in the actual story.  I hate it when that’s done and it seems to be a consistent feature of DC comic books.  However, I’m not allowing that to dictate my feelings about this issue.  Unless one of my comics I’ve subscribed too comes in the mail later and blows me away, I think this issue will most definitely make my top three comics for the month.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10 stars

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