Writer: Mike Bullock
Artists: Silvestre Szilagyi, Bob Petrecca(c)
The Army of the Children of God is a real life evil perpetuated in Africa by an individual that makes Sadaam Hussein look like Santa Claus. He is the latest human monster that the Phantom combats in this splendid, solid and thought-provoking issue of The Phantom.
The centerpiece of the story actually takes place circa the early seventies or late eighties, but the tale begins in the eighteen hundreds where a big game hunter saves the Phantom's life. The Phantom of that period marks him with his symbol of protection, and that symbol is passed down through the generations.
The Phantom meets the next Carlyle in the nineteen-fifties. This man bears what must be a tattoo of the Phantom's good mark. He has a daughter who grows up with a wish to atone for her family's exploitation of the jungle wild. She becomes a nurse and encounters the bloodshed against children courtesy of Him, the comic book equivalent of the real life thug. The daughter of the hunter, he an ancestor of the man who saved the Phantom, wears a necklace bearing the good mark.
In her pursuit of the truth, she gets dangerously close to Him, but upon seeing the symbol of the Phantom's protection, in a beautiful scene that captures the awe and legend of the Phantom, the criminals know that their operations will soon cease, and they do the only thing that is now within their power.
While the criminals squabble, our heroine runs and encounters one of the hidden tribes of Bangalla. She also gets swept off her feet--literally by the current incarnation of the Ghost Who Walks.
Mike Bullock's Phantom, or Phantoms, presented in the book are masterful extrapolations on Lee Falk's original. Bullock brings a lot of humor to the Phantom, who has always been far removed from the vengeful so-called dark hero of the nineties. His Phantom for instance manipulates situations so he doesn't have to follow up on his threats. This gives him the balance of spooky supernatural being and just Ghost Who Walks. He also works within the framework of each tribes belief system rather than usurp it in an imperialist fashion.
Artists Szilagyi and Petrecca impressively illustrate the Phantom. A purple-clad, sinewy gent with a full range of expressions. Szilagyi exhibits excellent dramatic timing in the panels, and Szilagyi's and Petrecca's design for Angela Carlyle suggests they would be excellent artists for Doc Savage; in their hands Angela becomes an analogue for Pat Savage, Doc's bronzen, golden eyed cousin.
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