Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Vertigo Visions: The Phantom Stranger #1 - Oct. 1993

"Gerontion" by Alisa Kwitney and Guy Davis.

The Phantom Stranger, having made appearances in Swamp Thing and Hellblazer, started getting thought of a Vertigo character, one that could be used in that quasi-alternate universe.

But this is not the Phantom Stranger we all know. The story doesn't really revolve around him, rather its more about a woman named Naomi Walker, who comes to work at a sanitarium named Paradise Gardens:
...of course, this place is beset by all kinds of horrors, like people wallowing away in their own degradation (to the indifference to the rest of the staff), as well as more otherworldly beings, like demons that lurk around the corners, and where Naomi isn't looking.

Later that night, Naomi is relaxing, when she sees something startling:
Naomi is told by one of Paradise Gardens' residents, an old man who tells her that this ghostly figure is his son, and that he has "come to save us."

Naomi then meets with the rest of the staff, and shortly their true forms reveal themselves. She meets up with the old man again after running away from them, and the old man informs her they are in Hell.

Reality keeps shifting for Naomi--sometimes she seems like she's back in Paradise Gardens, other times she quite literally wandering through the flames of Hell. Some of the demons attack her, and The Phantom Stranger finally steps in:
...after a long battle, the old man and the ghostly image of the Stranger merge, into a complete being--body and soul--and he becomes The Phantom Stranger we're familiar with.

Naomi now remembers who she really is, and is forced to deal with that reality. After kissing the Stranger, we flash forward (if that time-specific term can even be used in this context) to much time later, when the Stranger comes back to Paradise Gardens, with Naomi--know saying she is someone named Naamah--now running the place:
...definitely an interesting story, and a unique take on the character. I left a lot of the plot out here, because I don't want to spoil the story for any of you that might find this book out (it can be found very cheaply on eBay).

The Stranger has a slightly altered appearance here--more monkish than the late-60s cool cat look he'd been rocking for so long. After this, the Stranger would retain this look for many of his future guest appearances.

I don't know whether DC/Vertigo considered this a try-out for another PS series, I guess as a Vertigo title. It must not have the set the comics world on fire enough to warrant a series or even another special, since this is (to date) the last solo book the Stranger has headlined.


Russell said...

I think I have come across this book at conventions etc but not knowing anything about it, always leave it in the bins. Maybe next time I see it I'll pick it up. I really like Guy Davis' art.

Unknown said...

I remember when this came out and was rather disappointed by it. I was expecting something more like the "usual" Phantom Stranger stuff we had seen. Plus, I thought this "look" for the PS was a lot like the "Preacher" from Poltergiest. All in all, this was very much a miss for me.

Jacob T. Levy said...

Judging this book by itself, I like it-- moody, nicely-written, well-drawn.

As a Stranger fan, not so much. Dislike the new look it introduces, dislike the new origin it "hints" at with the subtlety of a sledge hammer.

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