THE PHANTOM STRANGER # 1 - 8  TRINITY OF SIN: THE PHANTOM STRANGER #9 -10 (DC, December 2012 – September 2013)
It was the fabulous art of Brent Anderson that first captured my attention, in a style highly evocative of DC’s classic HOUSE OF MYSTERY back in the Wrightson era. Also, not being well versed on the character of The Phantom Stranger it seemed a good time to check out the New 52 version.
Dan Didio does a workmanlike job on the series. The opening story arc is a good one, although Didio’s style reads just a bit too much old-school. It seems that The Phantom Stranger has assumed the persona of a normal family man and keeps his off-hour activities secret from all. The first story arc lasts three issues and is a nice introduction to the Stranger’s wife and kids. Along the way he encounters Doctor Thirteen and The Haunted Highwayman. Story and dialogue improve immediately in Issue #4 with the addition of J. D. Dematteis writing the script from Didio’s plots. A long story arc begins here with the abduction of the Stranger’s (a.k.a. Phillip Stark) family in a complicated plot that includes Justice League Dark, Pandora, The Spectre, and the Question just for starters.
Gene Ha takes over art responsibilities for one issue, but it’s the cream of the crop. If you only pick up one issue, make sure you get THE PHANTOM STRANGER #6. The Phantom Stranger enters a high-stakes poker game with three demons that must been seen and read to be believed. The imagery and story are awesome, and this makes my short list of the best single-issue stories of the year 2013. From this point forward, the stories become more engaging and convoluted. The Stranger dies, visits Hell, Limbo/Paradise, and Heaven; confronts his inner demons and angels; and lays the groundwork for the path forward.
Things kick into high gear with Issue #9 when DeMatteis takes over all writing responsibilities. He takes it to another level, a metaphysical one that asks deep questions about spirituality. Issue #11 begins the crossover Trinity War, which is where I get off. I’m already too involved in a few other epics right now.