Phantom Stranger 11
J. M. DeMatteis, Fernando Blanco
Trinity War Crossover
Spoiler alert! You have been warned!
This has been a series that I have been secretly enjoying ever since its first issue. The fact that we as the readers are being treated to both an ongoing and ever-expanding “behind the mask” story of the DC Universe’s most mysterious character is something that only fans of the old DC could truly appreciate. But I’m sure that the uniqueness of his character and the fact that even though he is a character very much based in faith and spiritualism, the book is never preachy or obnoxiously blunt make it easily accessible to new readers as well. This issue, which will more than likely be the first for a casual reader due to its tie-in to Trinity War, will hopefully grab enough new blood to keep the series going strong for readers like me who were always kind of irritated with the lack of a legitimate origin story in the old DCU. I was always bored by the whole “He’s mysterious! That’s his power!” logic of the Phantom Stranger in the past. This one is much more interesting. Much more flawed. And above all else, much more human.
This issue perfectly meshes with stories from the first year of the Phantom Stranger’s title as well as events from the recent issues of Justice League, Justice League of America, and Justice League Dark. Katana, Deadman, and Batman guest star while they each get to glimpse a bit of Heaven on their search for the soul of the recently deceased Dr. Light. Upon finding Light, the Phantom Stranger talks about some mysterious higher power stuff for a bit and decides that it’s in everyone’s best interest (excluding his own, but more on that later) if instead of interrogating the good doctor about what exactly happened between him and Superman, he should just break the laws of physics and reality and simply restore him to life. Everyone wins. Or, as even Batman says, “That’s insane! I like it.” Naturally, the angel Zauriel, who had previously warned the Stranger not to meddle with forces he doesn’t understand (or return to Heaven unannounced), feels differently. He transports the heroes back to Earth and deals with the Stranger personally, seemingly destroying him once and for all.
And then we’re told to come back in two months. What? That’s a terrible (or is it a fantastic?) cliffhanger ending to a pretty simplistic, yet very human approach to breaking and following the rules of Heaven and Earth. I’ve always enjoyed the writing of J. M. DeMatteis, and although he tends to get a little preachy every now and then, this is the one title where I feel like he’s purposely avoiding being so. The artwork of Fernando Blanco is great and they seem to really work well together as a creative team. And as far as making the Phantom Stranger an actual character and not just a last minute plot device for poorly-thought-out storylines, I’m actually okay with their gimmicky ending. I look forward to seeing the New 52 interpretation of Zauriel, one of the most underutilized and underappreciated characters from the old DC Universe. And, of course, I’m excited to see what happens to the heroes after their botched interrogation-turned-resurrection mission. Whatever happens, it should be interesting.
My Rating: 4/5