Overview

The Phantom Double-Shot: KGB Noir

Review

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The Phantom Double-Shot: KGB Noir

Credits

  • Words: Mike Bullock
  • Art: Fernando Peniche & Michael Metcalf
  • Story Title: The Hammer
  • Publisher: Moonstone Books
  • Price: $4.50
  • Release Date: Jan 6, 2010

The Phantom Double-Shot: KGB Noir is a comic book that will appeal to readers with an appetite for sensationalized noir and Cold War antics. The book’s publisher, Moonstone, has reprised the popular Phantom comic strip, which originated in 1936 and is still appearing in select newspapers today.

The origin story revolves around a son vowing to avenge his father, who was murdered by pirates in the 1500s. With this in mind, the son eventually creates a lineage of crimefighters based in the fictional African country of Bengalla. Each new heir of the mantle pledges an oath: “I swear to devote my life to the destruction of piracy, greed, cruelty, and injustice, in all their forms! My sons and their sons shall follow me.”

The modern incarnation of the Phantom is Kit Walker, who is keeping the vengeful legacy of his family alive and well. In KGB Noir, written by Mike Bullock and illustrated by Fernando Peniche, Walker as the Phantom is doing what he does best: fighting criminal masterminds who want nothing more than to decimate the world. Here, a Russian weapons deal is underway in the ancient halls of Rome’s Coliseum, and it’s the Phantom’s duty to stop the destruction that will ensue.

KGB Noir is brief, only 11 pages in length, making it difficult to firmly grip the story and characters aside from the most basic of plot appearances. I’m not sure how much continuity is needed in order to appreciate the Phantom as a crimefighter, but this is my first encounter with the character and not much of an impression was left on me one way or the other.

It’s apparent that writer Mike Bullock has a fondness for the character, as he shows the Phantom pummeling with his fists and firing his pistols with precise glee. And I have a known soft spot for black-and-white comics, so for whatever it’s worth, Fernando Peniche’s pencils have my seal of approval. But this introduction to the Phantom as a character is simply too brief for me to render a solid opinion, and I’m afraid readers in general will feel the same way.

But not all is lost, for there’s a supplementary comic, an extra thrown to us called Death Angel, and this little eight-page tale (written again by Bullock, but penciled by Michael Metcalf) was truly an unexpected treat. It’s only a snippet of a story and doesn’t reveal much—only an alleyway mugging and attempted rape that is interrupted by a bleak hero called the Death Angel, who speaks in black word balloons, leaving an evanescent feeling of Dream’s speech in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.

Perhaps it’s my taste for the macabre, but the dark fantasy set into motion at the end of the story (along with an exciting unmasking) is the real selling point of KGB Noir—not the comic’s title story. I enjoy Bullock’s dark pulp along with the wondrous rendering of the Death Angel hero, which has a set of some of the coolest angel wings I’ve seen. My hat is off to Metcalf for those little details.

There’s nothing wrong with first story in The Phantom Double-Shot: KGB Noir. The Phantom’s adventure is fun to read and has sleek art, but I need more if I’m going to feel out the center of the story and characters. But the small Death Angel story is definitely a solid extra; I hope it becomes its own autonomous book in the future, because it certainly has the legs to stand on its own.

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