ACW #614 – Phantom Stranger

Action Comics Weekly #614 (Phantom Stranger)
“Death God”
Writer – Paul Kupperberg
Pencils – Tom Grindberg
Inks – Brett Breeding
Letters – B. Sean Pinaha
Colors – Petra Scotese
Editor – Mike Carlin

Today we wrap up our second brief “visit” with the Phantom Stranger.  He’ll kind serve as a “guide” through our Action Comics Weekly journey… popping up probably a half-dozen more times during the run.

Last time out, he was being drained of his energy by a Mayan Death God… let’s find out if he survived!

We open with Au Puch tormenting the Phantom Stranger in Chichen Itza.  The baddie refers to it as his “Realm”, and that’s good enough for me.  The Stranger states that Au Puch was foolish not to simply kill him, for he will continue to fight so long as he draws breath (which is something I wasn’t sure the Phantom Stranger even did!).  The Mayan Death God informs him (and us) that he is powered by the “Cosmic Life Force” of his worshipers… and that Daniel Gleason’s book brought him back to this mortal plane.  He then tosses the Stranger into the “Sacred Cenote” aka. the “Well of Sacrifice”… which is, believe it or not, a real thing that exists!

In the depths, the Stranger regains his heft and more normal form… Au Puch had drained him of much of his essence beforehand.  Ya see, this is the baddie’s plan… he’s going to continue to feed of the Stranger, again and again… for all eternity!  When our man protests this decision, dozens of skeletons rise from the Cenote floor.

The Stranger fights his way through the skeletal “cattle”, being careful not to take his full aggression out on them.  Thing of it is, it ain’t their fault they’re being used this way!  The Stranger escapes the Well, and engages in battle with Au Puch in the skies above it.

They fight, and it appears as though the Stranger’s offense is in vain.  Amid the battle, however, he manages to sneak one little spark of light into the nape of the baddie’s neck.  This opens up communication between the Phantom Stranger, and Au Puch’s “human vessel”, Daniel Gleason!

Daniel is instructed to make his way toward the light… which, I mean, if the Phantom Stranger (or anyone!) is telling me to “Go toward the light”, I might not be so sure that it’s a good idea.  Daniel, however, does what he is told.

The Stranger finally lets loose with a massive blast of light energy which reduces the Mayan Death God to a pile of goopy flesh and bone… from which, Daniel Gleason emerges!  All’s well that ends well!

And so ends our second stint (of six or seven) with the Phantom Stranger.  I feel like the ending didn’t quite measure up to the open, but it was still quite good.

I appreciate the use of the real world Cenotes… which, up until right now, I didn’t even know were a thing.  Who says comics can’t be educational!

The Au Puch “life-draining” gimmick is a pretty well-trodden trope… kind of like the Vampire who keeps his victims alive in order to keep feeding on them.  I suppose, in a way, Au Puch very much is a Vampire… so, it works!

Convincing Daniel Gleason to approach the light was a creative way to shake him back to reality… and ultimately, a creative way of beating the baddie.  This was well done.

My only complaint is… I don’t feel like we get all that much in “closure”.  Maybe I’m just too accustomed to exposition to the Nth degree, but this ending didn’t feel like it tied up properly.  What happens to the Mind Games book now?  Can it now be read without summoning a Mayan Death God Energy Vampire?

I guess it was more a morality tale… or sorts.  We learn not to muck around with forces we don’t know (or respect) enough.  Fair enough!  What’s important (to me) is… I enjoyed it!

Tomorrow: Nightwing and Speedy do London!

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