Current Reviews


Phantom: The Ghost Who Walks #1

Posted: Saturday, March 28, 2009
By: Ray Tate

Mike Bullock
Silvestre Szilagyi(p), Sergio Mulko(i), Bob Pedroza(c)
Somali pirates attack a cruise ship. All hope seems lost, but here's a new jungle saying: never abandon hope when the Phantom is near.

To some, Bullock's attempts to make the Phantom relevant will look like grandstanding. I on the other hand see a strength in plotting. Although it's true that Bullock is relying on items "ripped from today's headlines," he mixes the facets of the news items in original ways.

I recently heard on NPR, that Al Queda is investing in Somalia as a new catalyst against the West. Bullock takes some of that into account and incorporates the stratagem within a reflection of Iran's radical fomenters. Yes, paranoid Republicans, there is actually moderation in Iran, not just "Death to America" which many average Iranians interpret as "Down with America."

With that in mind, Bullock imbues an atmosphere to the story that's one of desperation. The norm is hedonism represented by the two lovelies that the Phantom encounters aboard ship. The norm is also peace, represented by well meaning U.N. aid workers including Diana Walker. Terrorism is an aberration, and the Phantom exists to remove this malignance. In this way, Bullock at once respects the past and moves the Phantom into the future.

The Phantom was born from the violence of piracy. So, it's fitting that the latest incarnation of the legacy battles Somalian Pirates who have in reality become a modern day scourge. Thanks to Szilagyi the Phantom enters the current era with a stealthy eradication program highlighted by right crosses that make the reader go "oooo." I don't think I've "felt" such impact from a hero's strikes since Jim Aparo made Batman's hits reverberate from the pages. In another scene the Phantom gives a pirate a gentle neck massage. Now, I don't believe he killed him, but that little move felt really painful.

Sergio Mulko and Bob Pedroza darken the Phantom's bodysuit, possibly just to acknowledge the nighttime setting. The emphasis on shadows and the change in hue fits an attitude of bone-breaking that while not exactly new certainly jars the reader's attention. Letterer Josh Aitkin completes the picture with a very effective nuance to the Phantom's word balloons. He makes them eerily stand out. This technique does something that has never been done in Phantom history. It creates a Phantom persona that differs from that of the typically trenchcoated Kit Walker. For the first time the Phantom and Kit Walker could plausibly be identified as two different people.

Phantom The Ghost Who Walks represents what amounts to a new season of the Phantom. Bullock, Szilagyi, Mulko, Pedroza and Aitkin focus on elements that were tweaked in the previous volume. They also add completely new flourishes that make this treatment of the Phantom a different and heady experience.

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