Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #41 - March 1976

The final issue of The Phantom Stranger!

After a truly awesome cover by Jim Aparo (even by his standards), regular PS team Paul Levitz and Fred Carrillo bring us "A Time For Endings":

Seine explains to Craft why she is his prisoner, and that its part of a revenge plot against The Phantom Stranger.

The demon he conjured up last issue returns, and informs Seine that, despite the Stranger having defeated their "sister", Tala, (in PS #24), they will not kill the Stranger themselves--Seine must do that himself.

Cassandra, despite being a prisoner, is relieved, because she now knows that her friend is alive. As Seine begins a physical transformation due to power granted him from the demon, Cassandra tries to send a mental transmission to her friend.

Meanwhile, The Phantom Stranger is having it out with Deadman:

The Stranger follows the mystic trail, which of course leads to Seine. He bursts in, and attacks Seine, bringing Deadman with him.

Seine isn't aware of Deadman's presence, so Deadman tries to help out, by hopping into the body of the nearest person, the unconscious body of Cassandra's friend and co-worker at the school.

The Stranger, nearly unconscious, tries to warn Deadman not to do that, but he doesn't listen. Seine attacks the awakened man, and:


Deadman is horrified that his actions have led to this man's death, and attacks Seine just as The Phantom Stranger is recovering.

The Stranger uses his powers to "transfer" the pain inside himself and Deadman, causing Seine to feel the despair they both feel. This helps rid Seine of the magical powers he received from the demon.

The demon returns, demanding a soul, and decides to take it from Seine!:


...a very downbeat, horrifying, and weirdly unresolved ending here for the series.

Seine gets pulled into some sort of hell, which is nightmarish but fitting. But its interesting how the Stranger essentially blows Deadman off, grabs his fine, fine woman, and splits.

As mentioned, this is the final issue of The Phantom Stranger, and editor Joe Orlando breaks it to the readers on the last letters page:

And with that, The Phantom Stranger was cancelled.

Except for one brief burst in the late 80s (and almost exclusively under the hand of one writer, Paul Kupperberg) The Phantom Stranger as a character would never really regain the kind of (near)top-tier status he enjoyed in the DCU when he had his own title.

Sure, The Phantom Stranger was never that big a star, when you consider that, even when he had his own title, he always had to share it with parade of co-stars (Dr. Thirteen, The Spawn of Frankenstein, Black Orchid, and Deadman), most of whom got just as many pages as he did. But at the same time, a 41-issue run is no small feat, especially in a time when comic book sales were on a nearly-permanent downhill slide.

So now that we're done with the regular series, things start to get really interesting, as we see when, where, and how The Phantom Stranger popped up in the DC Universe...and other places.

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