Overview

The Phantom #12

Review

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The Phantom #12

Credits

  • Words: Mike Bullock
  • Art: Gabriel Rearte
  • Inks: Gabriel Rearte
  • Colors: Thompson Knox
  • Story Title: Tiger?s Blood
  • Publisher: Moonstone Books
  • Price: $3.50
  • Release Date: Oct 11, 2006

What fools would dare poach tigers in the jungles of Bangalla? Ones who do not believe in the legend of "the ghost who walks." They are about to learn that some legends... live.

Writer Mike Bullock, well known for his work on the all-ages hit Lions, Tigers and Bears takes a darker, more serious turn as he takes over the reins of the action-adventure series The Phantom for Moonstone. The character has been around since 1936 so what can be new under the jungle canopy?

Rumor has it that there is a new aphrodisiac to be found. Given the black market name of "Cupid," it is made from the organs of female tigers and its popularity has resulted in a rash of tiger poaching. The jungles of Bangalla and all inside them are under the protection of The Phantom... including the animals. Stumbling upon some of the poacher’s recent handiwork the costumed hero sets out to avenge the callous death. Meanwhile, in a bar along the coast, a mysterious man drinks and listens to the news. He seems to have something against the hero... is this the start of a dangerous vendetta?

Bullock made some interesting and daring story choices with this issue and I have to say that, while some succeeded, others did not. Despite being #12 in the series this issue is instantly accessible to someone who knows nothing or next to nothing about the character. Readers learn easily what the Phantom is, what he does, and where he operates. Likewise we quickly learn what type of man he is. Bullock cleverly uses the expansive jungle setting but turns it on its head and transforms it into a claustrophobic, atmospheric chase. While this makes for some fun, thriller style moments it also robs the audience of seeing the Phantom’s fighting prowess. We get to see the aftereffects of one of his punches but we never get to see the hero throw a single punch.

Then there is the fact that one of the poachers changes names and personalities halfway through the comic. I am not certain if this was a mistake in the script or if something became confused in the art but when we first meet the poachers, the blonde Miguel seems to be a little unsure and superstitious. Then, without warning, the blonde becomes Carlos and starts barking orders around. It is a jarring gaffe and broke the story thread for me.

There is the mysterious man at the bar. By keeping him and his mission a mystery, Bullock obviously hopes to generate tension and suspense. The only problem is that the man remains too much of a mystery. Sure, he looks tough, but looks can be deceiving. Will this man become a threat to the Phantom? If so how and why? There can be no real tension until the reader feels that the hero is in jeopardy or will have a struggle on his hands. We are given nothing to illustrate how potentially dangerous this mystery figure may be.

Artist Gabirel Rearte is not a name I am familiar with but his style obviously hearkens back to the late 1980’s to early 1990’s style. While it certainly adds something of an "old school" look to this story which also has an "old school" writing feel, it quickly becomes a little wearying on the eyes. The pencils and inks are rough and scratchy but to the point where details, particularly facial expressions, are either lost or too far exaggerated. It also loses some of the atmosphere. I felt like it was difficult to get to know the settings under these circumstances.

The Phantom #12 manages to stand as a good jumping on point for new readers. The story also has a solid stance in the Phantom’s old stomping ground of bridging the pulp and superhero camps but there is nothing here to grab a reader by the throat and shake them around. There are also some mistakes, which hopefully will not be repeated, in the next issue. The villain introduced was mildly intriguing, enough so I will probably pick up the next issue but the mysteries here need some clarification to provide a more attractive hook.

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