Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Phantom Stranger (Vol.4) #1 - Dec. 2012

"When You're A Stranger" by Dan Didio, Brent Anderson, and Phillip Tan.

A young boy playing soccer in New York City chases an errant ball off the field, and bumps into...a stranger:

The boy retrieves his ball, only to carelessly run into the street, where he is hit by a car and killed...while the Stranger watches, never stepping in. Cut to the young boy's funeral, where a young woman tearfully seems to be talking to the dead boy. No one knows who this woman is, how she knows the boy.

Overcome by emotion, she runs out of the funeral home, with the Stranger watching nearby (how many times have I typed that on this blog?). Out on the street, she is faced by mysterious glowing wraiths, but she is defiant: she emits a large, raven-shaped shadow which briefly holds back the wraiths. Its then that the Stranger (finally!) steps in:
The Stranger takes the young woman--named Rachel--to a nearby diner, where she sees nearly every other patron as a sinister threat: followers of her father, "The Church of Blood." Suddenly, all of the people don blood red hoods, and approach.

The Phantom Stranger teleports himself and Rachel to Stonehenge, which enrages Rachel. She says this is where her father will look for her first. The Stranger's only response is to say that the voices that guide him have told him to bring her here.

That may be so, but it appears Rachel is right--her father, the demon Trigon, appears:
Trigon takes his daughter, despite her screams to the Stranger for help. Trigon mocks the Stranger, suggesting this this is some sort of "trade" offered by a higher power to keep the peace. Trigon rubs salt in the wound, by saying that no matter what happens, the Stranger will be stuck on the sidelines, always stuck watching, never truly participating.

But that doesn't seem to be true: soon after, the Stranger shows up at a small suburban home, where he enters, takes off his coat and hat, and is greeted by...his family?
sg be continued!

I felt like this issue was a distinct improvement over issue 0, both in story and art. The Stranger's bystander-y tendencies are cranked up to eleven here, as he lets a young boy die in the first three pages, a fairly startling act (or non-act, in this case). It only gets worse as he seemingly betrays Rachel, all under the pretense of "It's all God's plan." I've always had my issues with that excuse, whenever it's used, so if I was Rachel getting sucked into the pit of Hell I'd be pretty mad too.

Art-wise, I'd say Phillip Tan is a better match for Brent Anderson than Scott Hanna was in the previous issue, but I'd still love to see Anderson ink his own work, as he's doing on the covers. Anderson is a supremely talented artist, I've been a fan of his for years, and I think he has a shot at being one of the Great Phantom Stranger Artists if given the chance (maybe it's purely a deadline thing).

The Phantom Stranger versus the Church of the Blood is a perfect, no-brainer match, so I'm eager to see where this goes from here!

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