When last we left The Phantom Stranger, he was hanging by a noose held by the ghostly demon known as The Haunted Highwayman, which makes him recall another time he faced such a horrifying situation:
Dr. Thirteen tries to beg for the Stranger's life, saying it was he who drew the Stranger there. HH doesn't care, but is perplexed as to why his flaming noose hasn't burned it's way through the Stranger's neck yet. When he gets close, he is repelled by the Stranger's cloak, which possesses some sort of power the Highwayman cannot comprehend.
With dawn approaching, the Highwayman must depart, but he promises he will return the next night and "end this once and for all":
Dr. Thirteen needs the Stranger's help to make sure he isn't next in line, which he believes is too little a reason for him to get involved. The Strange departs, returning to his family.
With his wife, he attends a neighborhood party, which is a send-off to one of them, a husband and father who is going overseas for six months for work. When they are alone, the man and the Stranger talk about heady subjects, like faith and fate. The man isn't sure leaving his family is the right thing to do, but he can't say no to the money. He asks the Stranger to help keep an eye on his family in his absence. Later, another neighbor gets a call on his cell, but it's for the Stranger. He takes the call, and within moments assumes his more familiar look to return the call in person:
As the battle, the younger Dr. Thirteen is amazed at what he's seeing, from seemingly a purely scientific/ectoplasmic level, thinking this is actual proof of ghosts--something his elder dismisses out of hand, despite what's going on right in front of him!
This was my favorite issue of the series so far. The art of Brent Anderson and Philip Tan is really coming together, with the Stranger doing a lot of the cool fading-in-and-out-of-the-mist stuff that he did in his heyday. There's also more humor than has been seen previously, which works well as a nice contrast to the ever-serious Stranger. The Haunted Highwayman is a cool villain, both in back story and appearance; he'll be a good foil for the Stranger--assuming he comes back. But when you're talking about ghosts, demons, and the like, are any of them ever gone for good?