"Slave Trade" Part One
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Artists: Eric J(p), Peter Guzman(i), Ken Wolak, Dawn Groszewski, Wally Lowe(c)
My opinion of Chuck Dixon's work has been usually antagonistic. I feel that his writing is often sexist. Birds of Prey:Manhunt was a travesty, and he with Batman's attitude toward the Huntress contributed to the misconstrued belief that the hero is a male chauvinist pig.
Though his runs started out well, they eventually disappointed. Dixon through unbelievable contrivances for instance had Batman use a gun. I have warmed about a half-a-degree to him when I learned of his disgust over what DC had done to the Spoiler, but in general, I've never consider Dixon to be anything more than a mediocre writer.
Dixon makes the pulse pound in the latest issue of The Phantom.
The Phantom and the government of Bangalla intend to crackdown on conflict diamonds. Dixon does well in outlining the real-life shining example of man's inhumanity to man, and his plot naturally fits into the world of the Phantom.
The trade gives the Phantom a globe-hopping setting in which to operate, and this flexibility in the Ghost Who Walks shows him to be comfortable any place on the planet: from the steamy jungle of Bangalla to the civilization of Holland. It's also an element central to the original comic strip.
While the Phantom plies his adventurous trade in rousing scenes, Bangalla attempts to employ strong diplomacy against those who illegally use Bangallese citizens to mine the diamonds. At the same time, a well-meaning missionary intends to use the money raised by her church to buy the enslaved their freedom.
The missionary though a woman does not fail because she's a woman. Dixon characterizes her as good-hearted but naive. However, he's making no broad statements. This character's naiveté comes from the insular world of religion that's blind to the way the real world works. Fortunately for this naive missionary, the Phantom has business in Il Gharev.
Accompanying Dixon on this journey into the jungles and the desert heat, Eric J provides exciting scenes, decent proportion and expression. By no means is his artwork flawless, but errors are few and can be attributed to rawness. His choice of angles gives the visuals added dimension, and the Phantom's smile is a notable feature. Inks by Peter Guzman enhance the reality by providing texture, accomplished shadow work and little touches such as an eye imprint behind the Phantom's mask. Warm colors saturate the book and work well to reinforce the setting.
I wasn't really looking forward to this Dixon issue of The Phantom, but his first chapter in a two part serial does the Phantom justice.
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