There is enough action in a single issue of The Phantom to satisfy 12 comic books. There was a time when Batman used to smack one criminal off a staircase while he kicked another in his knee. I'm not asking for blood thirst. I am asking for snappiness. The Phantom is snappy.
Bullock resolves last issue's cliffhanger. Szilagyi and Pedroza explosively illustrate the resolution in a double page spread. That single piece of art sprawled across two pages is really all you need to know about the Phantom. He’s strong. He's resourceful. He's a crack shot. His right cross appears capable of felling a moose and he is the man that cannot die.
Bullock last issue indicated that the Phantom now wears body-armor. Body armor actually enhances the aura of the Phantom. The Ghost Who Walks is the Phantom's legend. Getting back up after a shooting just hammers the legend home. The Phantom has already instilled this idea in the cultures of all people. It's like voodoo. He uses the power of suggestion, aided by actual science, to scare the living daylights out of the opposition.
The Phantom employs this fearful symmetry against Kamil Kazi who parallels Bin Laden. The nut wants to start World War III. He wants the nations to be at each other's throats while he waits for the dust to clear and shape the world in his image. "Be like us, or else." He's a perfectly created modern day terrorist who wants to set civilization decades backward. The difference is that this is a comic book and the Phantom never fails.
In addition to the sturdy plot, The Phantom features a number of great moments. Bullock shows him to be mortal by having him make human mistakes. This leads to some potentially lethal embarrassments for the Ghost Who Walks. Characters that Bullock introduced in a previous chapter alleviate these hazards. Their return is a very clever way to deepen their importance to the entire story and undermine any argument for stereotype roles that a reader may have laid in the opening.
In terms of artwork, Bob Pedroza through color illustrates a remarkably realistic desert setting that actually feels uncomfortable. Szilagyi's fight choreography is fantastic. There are a helluva lot of criminals that bear the mark of the skull by the time the story ends. The Phantom's moves are also so varied. He twists necks. He punches necks. He smothers his foes. He kicks them in the face. Seriously, I was in Nirvana.
The Phantom has always been action-packed in any form you would care to name--okay, I don't know about that sick SyFy Phantom with the hoodie. Bullock, Szilagyi, and Pedroza continue the tradition while making the Phantom relevant in his fight against piracy and cruelty.
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