Action Comics Weekly #617 (Phantom Stranger)
Writer – Paul Kupperberg
Art – Joe Orlando
Inks & Letters – Fred Carrillo
Colors – Petra Scotese
Editor – Renee Witterstaetter
It’s time for that guy who pops in whenever he darn well pleases… boy, I’m glad I’m not dreading Phantom Stranger chapters anymore!
We open with the story of Ky’lhorr (wonder if that’s “killer” phonetically), an Atlantean Warrior King… from before the place went underwater. This is a story being told by a woman named Sylvia Blaine before a crowded room full of folks looking to… I dunno, take back control of their lives or something… a room also including the Phantom Stranger!
The Stranger wonders if this woman is just a fraud or charlatan, taking advantage of folks looking for answers. This is revealed not to be the case as she continues speaking… suddenly in tongues. She begins to seize up, and from her emerges… why, Ky’lhorr of course!
Ky’lhorr isn’t sure quite what’s going on, and approaches the Stranger, revealing that he had been cursed/possessed long ago. The Stranger attempts to reason with the Warrior, but it’s no use.
Believing the Phantom Stranger to be a sorcerer… or a demon, Ky’lhorr flees into the busy streets. Our man gives chase, still trying to reason with the Atlantean. Ky’lhorr begs to have the curse removed… or be sent back to limbo where he can do no harm to others. Ya see, his blade hungers (more on that in a bit).
A horse-mounted Officer sees the hub-bub and attempts to disarm the Warrior… he winds up dismounted, and horse-jacked for his troubles. The Stranger steps into the charging horses path… and ensnares Ky’lhorr in his magical sphere.
Here we learn of the Curse of Ky’lhorr… doomed to be obsessed with death and bloodlust, he became an indiscriminate killing machine. And so, the Phantom Stranger frees the Warrior of his curse… which causes him to vacate Sylvia Blaine’s body, and returning to… wherever.
We wrap up with Sylvia giving a statement to the press, which only proves she did not learn her lesson of tinkering with dangerous and unknown forces.
Taken on its own, this is kind of a “blah” outing for the Phantom Stranger. As many of you know, this character isn’t one of my favorites, as I find him just too powerful to really get invested in. Take this chapter for example… it’s a very brief chase scene, ending with Ky’lhorr getting locked in a deus ex magic bubble for the instant-cure. On the face of it, that’s kind of weak.
But… that’s not what this story is about. The thing I really appreciate about the Phantom Stranger stories here are that they’re more based on examining the “evils that men do”, or more specifically, the “evils that men unknowingly do”… and either learning from those mistakes, or (like in the case of Ms. Blaine) do not.
When we look at this as just another Phantom Stranger chapter in the part of a greater “whole” in Action Comics Weekly, it remains thematically similar, and adds to the idea that, while the Stranger is stupidly powerful, even he cannot get through to everyone. It is ultimately up to the individual to decide to change their ways… and, in that regard (and especially when compared with earlier outings), this chapter was a success!
I’d be remiss not to mention that the legendary Joe Orlando provides art this week… and, to me, it really looks like a more polished later work of Carmine Infantino (think Trial of the Flash era). Good, not great.
Tomorrow: Nightwing vs. Cheshire, Round 2… or is it 3?