ACW #623 – Phantom Stranger

Action Comics Weekly #623 (Phantom Stranger)
“The Devil was a Baby”
Writer – Paul Kupperberg
Art – Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Letters – Dan McKinnon
Colors – Petra Scotese
Editor – Renee Witterstaetter

It’s been a little while since our last Phantom Stranger story.  So far, I’ve found them to be (surprisingly) good to great.  Let’s hope this one keeps that trend going!

We open outside a church, where a baby has been left at the doorstep.  A Nun and a Priest… hey, that sounds like the start of a joke… find the child and take it inside out of the cold night.  Once inside, the wee child starts… speaking!  Speaking… evilly, in fact!

Before long, dozens of dazed people begin converging on the church.  Among them, is a certain Stranger.  Inside, the baby reveals himself to be… the Devil!  To prove this, he surrounds himself in a flaming pentagram.  Well, he’s got my vote!

The baby commands that the Priest and Nun do his bidding, but they refuse.  No biggie, the evil tot performs some evil magic tricks to pass the time, including making snakes show up on a platter.  Just then, the Phantom Stranger enters the scene.  The Devil-Baby summons some, uh, smoke-demons from the flaming pentagram to surround him.

The Stranger makes short work of the shadow/smoke things… and so, the baby forces the Nun to attack.  She cannot resist, but begs the Stranger to stop her assault.  Then… the church is overrun with those dazed civilians… all scratching and clawing at the Phantom Stranger.

The Priest looks on, and laments his failures and uselessness.  He watches as the Stranger is beat down… and, out of the corner of his eye, spies the large cross on the altar.

He hoists the cross over his head… and smashes the baby with it.  Annnnd… that’s it?  Okay, fair enough.

Well… uh, while I dug this… I can’t deny that it was about as “basic” a story as we’ve seen in some time.

I get the impression that our takeaway was supposed to have a lot to do with the Priest having lost his faith… but, that really isn’t played up until the very end.  Had the story opened with that revelation, I feel like the ending would have had a bit more “oomph”.  As it was, it just felt like we hit a wall… at a very slow speed.

Heck, the Phantom Stranger himself barely even played into this story.  Had the devil-baby attacked anyone, we might assume that the Priest would have “rediscovered” his (evidently) lost faith, right?  I dunno.  Either way, I thought him beating the devil with the cross was a pretty neat visual.

The art was solid, as we would expect from Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.  From a production standpoint, I feel like the lettering was a bit on the rough side… but, nothing too terrible.

Overall… a somewhat forgettable and “basic” outing for the Phantom Stranger.

Tomorrow: The Compilation of 623!

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