Comic Book Review: The Phantom Stranger #0 (Spoilers)
Warning: This review is spoilerific! If you don’t want to know details of The Phantom Stranger #0 that will give away character plot points, origin stories and other details, turn back while you still can…
I try so hard to keep my articles and reviews on the positive side of things. In the over 400 articles and reviews I’ve written for GFBRobot, I can count the negative articles on on hand. My philosophy is that I’d much prefer to steer people in the direction of the good comics than spend time complaining about the bad ones.
I wasn’t originally going to pick up The Phantom Stranger #0, but then the internet buzz on the character’s controversial origin caught my eye. Apparently DC Comics have decided that The Phantom Stranger is actually Judas Iscariot destined to wander the world until he has redeemed himself. Having grown up in a God-fearing, Pentecostal household, I thought I had to have a look at this.
Judas, travelling the world and doing good? What an incredible idea. This idea had the potential to not only make a great comic, but to become an instant classic.
Unfortunately, this comic book comes nowhere near reaching the potential that could have been reached. As a matter of fact, this comic makes me wish there was a place you could take bad comics and get your money back.
I don’t know if this is an average comic written by Dan Didio (I don’t know if I’ve read any of his stuff before), but there is so much wrong with this script that I don’t know where to start. There is so much that just doesn’t make any sense at all.
Examples? Okay, the coin chain that Stranger wears around his neck is actually fashioned from the thirty pieces of silver he was paid for selling out Jesus, right? Makes sense and I like. But then Didio adds:
The coins! A reminder of my greed, and my greater sin. The pain of the coins seared my eyes closed…
What? What pain? Physical pain? How? Emotional pain? How does that make you blind?
Okay, a little later Stranger is given the robe stolen from Jesus when he died and is told to wear it forever by God. Okay. I can work with that. Jump forward two thousand years and we get this caption:
And I’ve been wearing it ever since. Times changed and I changed with them. Aramaic was no longer my language of choice, and I transformed my robe into something… less conspicuous.
Have you seen Stranger’s costume? If you saw a dude walking down the street dressed like that today, he would stand out like a sore thumb. Ridiculous.
From here, we’re introduced to rogue cop Jim Corrigan who quickly laments:
Yeah, all my life I’ve been filled with an uncontrollable rage. I thought the force would help me focus…
This kind of over explanation to make two-dimensional characters more “real” I just found patronizing as a reader. And to tell the truth, that is how I found this entire comic.
I could go on with more examples of weak characterization, missed opportunities, unsympathetic or relatable characters, over explanation through conversation, and internal monologue and unbelievable plot points, but I’ll save you from every single detail of how bad a 32 page comic book can be written.
The art by Brent Anderson wasn’t terrible, but he could only work with what was given to him, I guess. And the (not so) surprising appearance of the Spectre could have been awesome but seemed so matter-of-fact in both script and art.
All in all, what could have been the comic of the week, meshing a person of historical significance (or maybe not so much historical as religious) with a fresh and original approach to superheroing fell short as a seemingly underdeveloped, unplanned origin story.
This comic book is pretty much a text book example of what’s wrong with superhero comics today (except there aren’t any female characters to be exploited and drawn like porn stars).
Judging from this issue, I’ll be avoiding the upcoming comic book. If you love great comics, you probably should too.