Monday, December 29, 2003

The Phantom #1 - A Review

Written by: Ben Raab
Penciled by: Pat Quinn
Inked by: Pat Quinn
Colored by: Ken Wolak & Dawn Groszewski
Lettered by: Jeff Eckleberry
Editor: Joe Gentile & Garrett Anderson
Publisher: Moonstone Comics

Nearly two months ago, I was given a rare chance as a critic to preview some of the unfinished proofs of a new book. That book was The Phantom #1, and I wrote about the history of the character as well as my initial impression of the proofs in Looking to the Stars. If you are unfamiliar with the history of the world’s first true superhero, follow the link above for an in-depth discussion of the character and his history.

The proofs just gave me a look at the first twenty pages or so; lettered and inked, but not yet colored it. This gave the art a somewhat appropriate film noir feel, making me feel like I was watching an old Republic serial or reading some reprints of the old black-and-white daily Phantom strips. The story was classic Phantom material; a masked man of action fighting those who would seek to oppress the innocent. All that was missing was the final pages and the color...

And with these elements added, you have one of the best books to come out in recent memory. The colors by Wolak & Groszewski do not diminish the nostalgic feelings inspired by Pat Quinn’s inks and pencils. If anything, it takes what looked like a classic comic strip and transforms it into an epic worthy of the big screen.

Raab’s story has brought the potentially archaic Phantom concept into the 21st century with ease. Rather than try to upgrade The Phantom with a new angsty personality, a darker costume or a load of new weapons, he has simply changed the name of the enemy. The Phantom has always fought against all those who would rule through terror, strong-arm the weak or force people into anything. So instead of fighting pirates and poachers in the jungles of Africa, why not have him turn his attentions to terrorists and diamond-mine slavers; both very real issues in Africa today? This allows the book to feel topical yet timeless, as groups like Al Quaeda are mentioned, but not specifically blamed for the events of the book.

Worry not about politics, fans of escapism! The conclusion is high-action heroism, with the Phantom chasing after assassins on horseback and somehow keeping pace with a speeding van… with an explosive cliffhanger that I guarantee with leave you desperately waiting for Issue 2, just like me.

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