The Phantom #14


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The Phantom #14


  • Words: Mike Bullock
  • Art: Carlos Magno
  • Inks: Carlos Magno
  • Colors: Bob Pedroza
  • Story Title: Walker?s Line
  • Publisher: Moonstone Books
  • Price: $3.50
  • Release Date: Jan 17, 2007

The Phantom is a man in control of his emotions but that was not always the case. In this tale out of time, anger overruled intelligence and the consequences were dire.

Within the space of three issues writer Mike Bullock has really hit his stride and made himself comfortable in The Phantom’s world. While this may be a more traditionally heroic character, Bullock manages to craft a story that shows the hero’s weaknesses without sacrificing respect.

When the Phantom’s young son desires "justice" in the form of an-eye-for-an-eye for the death of a mother tiger by poachers, the hero must try to explain the difference between justice and vengeance. This explanation takes the form of a tale from the Phantom’s own past, a time when he visited his aunt and uncle only to find that a gang terrorizing the town had beaten his aunt nearly to death. As his beloved aunt hovers between life and death, Walker decides it is time to bring the law of the jungle to the urban jungle... Phantom style. The more he fights, however, the more rage builds inside him. The Phantom is a very dangerous man when he is in control so what happens when he gets out of control?

The Phantom is one of those characters that, in the hands of the wrong writer, could easily become a cardboard cutout hero. A paper doll upon whom is hung thin adventures with no more substance or flavor than a plain rice cake. Bullock, however, is not about to fall into such a trap. He understands that satisfying stories are not about trying to craft something deliberately shocking or trying to remake a character. No, good stories are about the heart – the heart of the hero and the emotional attachment the writer creates between reader and character. Within the space of this one issue the reader comes to understand the man behind the mask – the depth of his love and compassion and the danger of his anger and how these things shape him as a hero. At the same time, Bullock shows off his skill at word play with a number of witty one-liners that also mark the Phantom as a devil-may-care swashbuckler. For the Phantom the costume isn’t a burden, it isn’t a curse, it isn’t a dark obligation, it is a source of enjoyment and an opportunity to help others. This is an idea that has, regrettably, been lost by a lot of comic books lately.

Aiding Bullock’s storytelling skills is artist Carlos Magno. Magno’s style has a slight touch of grittiness to it, just enough to give the violence in the story some weight. In fact, his action sequences practically explode off the page, helped along with some unique points of view, angles, and panel layouts. One of the few problems the issue has, however, is that at times Bob Pedroza’s colors get a little too dark, stealing some of the detail from Magno’s pencils and inks.

Aside from the dark coloring and one panel where the word balloons got switched between two characters, this issue was a faultless exploration of emotion, justice, and vengeance. I spent most of this issue grinning like a little kid and when I got to the last page I immediately wanted more. The Phantom #14 really manages to capture the magic of imagination and reminds us that heroes are made up of the best and even sometimes the worst in all of us.

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