The Phantom, AKA the Ghost Who Walks. Clad in a purple bodysuit, eye mask, and striped pants, the Phantom made his debut in 1936 and is credited for being the first “costumed” superhero. In the late 80s, DC Comics started its own series with the character…
In Africa, a villager tells the tale of how the Phantom once appeared to fight off some British pirates. The Phantom is a generational hero: every time Kit Walker (that’s his name) has a son, that son is forced to be named Kit Walker and take on the mantle of the Phantom.
The Phantom in this series is the 21st in the line. What happens to the Phantom line if he has a daughter (like in the Defenders of the Earth cartoon)? What if he has a son who doesn’t want to become a Phantom? Have we had lazy or non-committed Phantoms in the line? Why does he wear striped underwear?
The Arms Dealer
In the Harbor City of Daraj, we see a ship leave with a scraggly looking guy on board – Mr. Cammell. He’s an arms dealer, and an unfriendly guy to boot. His ship reaches its destination, and he meets with a rebel army to deliver arms, which they immediately put to use by destroying an incoming Jungle Patrol boat. The leader of the army gets worried because the Jungle Patrol is protected by the Phantom. He and his men quickly depart.
Enter The Phantom
Elsewhere, we see the Phantom. He writes some stuff in his diary about stuff until his young nephew Rex alerts him to an incoming radio call from a Colonel Worobu, who tells him about the destroyed Jungle Patrol boat. The Phantom clenches his teeth, “I plan to handle this investigation personally.”
We move to a bar where Cammell hangs out with his friends and acts like a jerk to the waitress; he mentions an upcoming meeting with Defense Minister O’Botu. A man who we’re lead to believe is the Phantom (wearing a trenchcoat/purple fedora disguise) consoles the waitress about what happened with Cammell: “He won’t hurt you again.”
In the next scene, the Phantom visits O’Botu’s mansion. He starts by criticizing his curtains, then leans in. “I think it’s time we had a talk.”
Mr. Cammell heads to O’Botu’s office. The door is locked, but he doesn’t believe in doors, so he kicks it down. O’Botu tells Cammell that he doesn’t want to deal with him anymore because the Phantom scares him too much. The Phantom, meantime, heads over to Cammell’s ship, where he finds a crate full of rockets and a serial number that matches one that was found in the wreckage of the Jungle Patrol ship; he now has the evidence to incriminate Cammell. The issue ends on a cliffhanger, with Cammell and his men surrounding the Phantom.
This was okay. I really liked the opening, with the villager telling the tale of his encounter with the Phantom. It was a great way of introducing the whole Phantom mythos to the reader, and showing how it’s a big deal to be protected by him. We also see this later in the issue when O’Botu’s meeting with the Phantom, and the possibility of having him as an enemy, scares him so much, that he just gives up.
The Phantom himself doesn’t have much of a personality, but I’m probably too used to modern day characters who have to be highly nuanced and flawed. This guy just seems totally committed to his role as protector that he seems a little inhuman and boring, granted this is the first issue, and he wasn’t really the focus (Cammell seemed to be focused on instead), so he probably gets developed later. The two people the Phantom hangs out with in the cave, his nephew and the old guy, both seem like they can be used to help develop his human side.
One thing this issue reveals about the Phantom that I liked is the ending cliffhanger. Although he’s intelligent and strong, able to beat up a lot of people with ease, the Phantom still feel into a trap. Of course, the issue had to end that way because it needed a cliffhanger, but it shows his fallibility, and perhaps a bit of his ego as well. Maybe if he felt that he had to be a bit more careful, he wouldn’t have been caught by Cammell and his men.
I wonder if DC deals with the ego of the Phantom in later issues. Since everyone’s always talking about how awesome and godlike he is, wouldn’t he start to think of himself that way?
The art was pretty good, lots of darkness and shadows, which helped give this book a nice, gritty feel.
My only complaint is that I was a little underwhelmed by the story. It didn’t set anything up or really hook me. Cammell’s a fairly standard villain who we’ve seen a hundred times, and the fact that most of the issue is about him really brings it down.
There was a post-it note attached to my issue: