Friday, October 19, 2012

The Phantom Stranger #1

This comic should be subtitled "Judas's Eternal Road Trip."

I wonder if The Phantom Stranger is going to set up shop in one city or wander around America. My feeling for the story is that he should be wandering around the world doing The Font in the Sky's horrible work of betraying naive people. But my feeling about the way comic books work tends to think Didio will shove him in New York and just let him work his mystical mojo there. Although the wandering good deed doer is a standard story telling trope. Don't be surprised if half of my captions end up reading, "PHANTOM STRANGER SMASH!" Maybe The Phantom Stranger will get himself a Native American sidekick and after he betrays someone and leaves town, someone will pick up his silver coin and say, "Who was that mysterious jerk? I mean strange jerk!"

The story does begin in New York City. So it looks like he's sticking around the town where he fucked over Jim Corrigan (not The Smartest Kid on Earth but The Specter! Unless it's Spectre!). The Phantom Stranger begins his comic book making sure every reader is thinking the same thing: "What a gigantic asshole!"

A strange man handling a young boy's balls is not a good first impression. But not why he's an asshole.

And it gets worse!

And getting this boy killed isn't why he's an asshole either. He's an asshole for stealing this entire scene from Sandman #8!

Enough with the joking about plagiarism. It's time to look at this seriously. I think the comparison of The Phantom Stranger with Death of The Endless is important here. That's a very famous scene from Sandman since the soccer playing kid bookends the first meeting of Death. So putting The Phantom Stranger in the exact position is a purposeful and direct comparison of these two characters. While Death is their as a mere observer of the event and guide to the soul afterward, The Phantom Stranger is there to change events and cause Billy to be killed. They're both doing their jobs but The Phantom Stranger actually manipulates events so that Billy gets his ass creamed by the car. Of course the reader isn't supposed to think badly of The Stranger. I think the reader is supposed to empathize with the position he's found himself. He's being punished and his punishment isn't easy. But The Font in the Sky works in mysterious ways, right? Well, I'm going to modify my initial reaction: "The Font in the Sky is a gigantic asshole."

I suppose the argument could be made that The Phantom Stranger wasn't the cause of Billy's death. But the way things were set up with Corrigan, it's looking like The Phantom Stranger can interfere with how normal events are going to play out and change them. I mean more than a normal person would change the events because The Phantom Stranger is doing the work of The Font in the Sky who, being a DC Editor (or writer (or god (or hallucination due to wildly variable brain chemical changes))) knows the future and knows how the future will change if The Phantom Stranger appears to hurry Billy along by giving him back his soccer ball.

Later at Billy's funeral, a strange woman that nobody recognizes weeps and declares she will try to ease everyone's grief. She looks like Kathy George, Shade the Changing Man's love interest. Or sidekick. Maybe I shouldn't use "Love Interest" and "Sidekick" interchangeably like that. Sorry Batman! Don't sure me for libel! I absolutely wasn't even thinking about you and your young boy fetish!

Phantom Stranger follows her from the service and his weird purple shadow powers betray him to her. So she reveals some powers of her own!

Sheesh. I just got done rereading my previous commentary where I hoped Raven would appear in this comic and I immediately forgot about it when Raven shows up!

The Phantom Stranger knows all about Rachel, her father the demon Trigon, and her powers. The Phantom Stranger has come to help Rachel find a group of young teenagers to help her learn to use her empathic powers. No better group of people to help someone practice manipulating emotions. Plenty to work with in an overly-dramatic bunch like that.

No! Don't hand her over to Scott Lobdell! What a gigantic asshole!

The Phantom Stranger and Raven head go for a cup of coffee where they can get to know each other. Raven has heard about The Stranger from her father Trigon. As they're talking, the cafe fills up with people and Raven senses evil. They're all members of The Church of Blood, her father's followers. I don't know if Trigon's Church of Blood is the same as Brother Blood's Church of Blood but I should probably assume they are the same. World building!

The Phantom Stranger opens a portal to help Raven escape. And they end up in Stonehenge where the Portal to Azarath and Raven's father is located. Surprise! The Phantom Stranger betrayed you, Rachel!

Oh! Someone like her. He meant demons, not teenagers. Whew. Giving her to Trigon is less horrible than giving her to Lobdell.

Trigon appears in all his red, multi-eyed glory and brings an army of demons to haul Raven back to Azarath. Raven continues to plead with The Stranger for help but he listens to a higher power: The Font in the Sky. And then a coin drops from The Stranger's chest. Just 28 more to go!

This is the flaw in the whole premise! The Phantom Stranger believes he's betraying people but that the betrayal will ultimately be for the better. Which was what he did with Jesus. He did something necessary for Jesus's word to spread. But then he was punished for it? So his punishment is to do what he did to Jesus but now he doesn't feel guilty about it? He played his part then just as he's doing now. The Font in the Sky is just a manipulative bitch.

Trigon tries to make The Phantom Stranger feel guilty about his betrayal of Raven as well. But it seems The Stranger has moved past that. Now when he heads home, he leaves his work problems at work.

Yep. He has a home. And a family.

The Phantom Stranger #1 Rating: +1 Ranking. I like that The Stranger seems to have moved past feeling horrible about what he does. Even though this is only his second job! He learns quickly. The Font in the Sky is a jerk and/or works in mysterious ways and/or is unknowable, so why worry his semi-mortal little head about it? Leave the work at work! I like how he hangs his hat and coat up in the foyer as he enters the house. Just another dad coming home.


  1. Ha ha. Love the commentary you deliver here. So much, so that I decided to follow your blog. You were recommended by Shlomo, and so far, you are all shades awesome.

    This whole plot thing with PS is fucking stupid, and shows off just how bad of a writer Didio is.

    Now while the whole "Betraying people thing" does kind of seem interesting, where do you go after that? And with all the people PS has and will screw over, you can be damn sure there will be hell to pay. I wouldn't be surprised if his family ultimately gets killed because of actions.

    I just want the old 52 back:(

  2. Also, yes what a twist to what should have happened with Raven being introduced to the Teen Titans, but now back in the hands of her father. I'm sure PS might be right, and she'll find her way to the TT eventually.

    And yes, good catch on the swipe from Sandman#8. I guess that was Didio casually giving a shout-out to that issue, as well as what occurred there.

    The old PS was never a big a dick as this new one:(

  3. I think for this title to become interesting as opposed to mediocre, Phantom Stranger needs to rebel against The Font in the Sky. He's really just kind of taking it in stride at this point. I imagine a lot more time has passed between his first betrayal of Jim Corrigan and this betrayal of Raven. He's really just treating it way too matter of factly.

    Thanks for the kind words!