Phantom Stranger (vol.4) #1 (December, 2012)
“When You’re a Stranger”
Writer – Dan DiDio
Penciller – Brent Anderson
Embellishments – Philip Tan
Colorist – Ulises Arreola
Letterer – Travis Lanham
Editor – Will Moss
Special Thanks – Geoff Johns
Cover Price: $2.99
Another dip into the stormy seas of the New 52. This volume of The Phantom Stranger brought with it a particular interest, as it was when they were finally going to reveal his origin. It’s amazing to think that a character who had been around nearly a half-century had never been given a decisive origin… until this volume, apparently.
This one has been in the library awhile, likely picked up on a whim… left to sit in my ever-expanding pile of “to reads” until my recent flight of fancy to “get to know” the New 52 a bit better. I really want to be able to talk… perhaps not with any measure of wisdom… but at least with rationality about the subject. I often take others to task for “knee jerk” reactions when it comes to subjects like the Chromium Age of Comics (1990’s) and Rob Liefeld… I figure I may as well try and curb my own.
I hope at the very least this endeavor will make my reaction to hearing The New 52 go from “ewww” to “ehhh”. I feel I have perhaps given the incentive a bit of an unfair shake… I suppose a half-decade of stewing over the losses of “my” characters has finally kind of given way to curiosity. Let’s see where this takes us…
We open on a park in New York City. A child is chasing a soccer ball and soon finds himself bumping into a tall, dark, be-hatted gentleman. He introduces himself as “the Phantom Stranger”… and this young fella was raised right, he plainly states he’s not supposed to talk to “strangers”. Instead of engaging in idle chit-chat, the boy proceeds to kick his soccer ball into traffic… and chase it into the path of an oncoming car.
Our next scene is the boy’s funeral. Friends and family are all lined up at the casket to offer their respects. Among the queue is a dark-haired young woman who nobody appears to recognize. She becomes overcome by the emotion in the church and bails out into a surprisingly dark and disgusting alley.
Outside she gets into something of a shadow battle with an as of yet unknown foe. Of course we know this is the Phantom Stranger… who addresses her as Rachel, and makes mention of her father Trigon. I can’t remember if Raven had shown up in the New 52 version of Teen Titans by this point, so this may very well be her “first” appearance. The Stranger claims he is here to help her, and takes her to a local eatery to talk.
While there, the pair are attacked by members of the Church of Blood, who in this DC Universe follow Trigon rather than Brother Blood. I can’t seem to remember Trigon ever being behind the Church before this issue, though I’ll concede I may be misremembering. Rather than fight, the Stranger opens a portal for them to step through… on the other end, is Stonehenge.
Stonehenge is a familiar local to Rachel, as this is where she first appeared on Earth after fleeing Azarath. She fears that this would be the first place Trigon would check in order to find/reclaim her. She argues with the Stranger, only to get zapped. You see, the Phantom Stranger has been using her. Trigon blasts onto the scene and draws his daughter back to Azarath.
The Stranger and Trigon speak. It is hinted that the Phantom Stranger has been cursed due to a past betrayal. For each betrayal he commits, a silver coin falls from the Stranger’s necklace… this will lead to the revelation that the Phantom Stranger is the biblical Judas Iscariot.
Later, we observe the Stranger returning home. He is greeted by his wife and two young children.
As the family embraces, the woman known only as Pandora looks on from outside their window.
I’m starting to get the impression that most of my New-52 era reviews will all be kinda samey (or more samey than my usual fare already is…). This was… okay. I didn’t love or hate anything about it… however, I guess I can say that I’m glad I didn’t pay cover price for it.
The art was very nice, and really fit the mood of the piece. The writing… was okay. Again, nothing overtly bad, and nothing that really stood out as exceptionally good. I’m not terribly interesting in how this story continues, and have no real sense of urgency as it pertains to picking up subsequent issues.
I’m still not quite sure where I stand in regard to the impending origin reveal. The more I consider it, the more I really dig that we never really “knew” the Phantom Stranger. Just as the name implies… he’s a stranger. In actually providing a definitive origin, I feel there may be a bit less mystique to the character. I suppose it’s to be expected in today’s comics landscape… it seems as though nobody is satisfied “not knowing”… I miss the days where not everything needed to be spelled out. I never needed to know that Wolverine was a rich kid named James Howlett… and I never needed to know that the Phantom Stranger was Judas Iscariot.
Okay… I don’t wanna make a mountain out of a mole hill… or start a whole “thing”,
but I really wish comics fans would stop identifying as “geeks”.
We’re comics fans… not geeks.