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The Phantom: The Ghost Who Walks #1

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The Phantom: The Ghost Who Walks #1

Credits

  • Words: Mike Bullock
  • Art: Silvestre Szilagyi
  • Inks: Sergio Mulko
  • Colors: Bob Pedroza
  • Story Title: End War, Pt. 1
  • Publisher: Moonstone Books
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Apr 17, 2009

The Phantom steps outside Bangalla to help a group of refugees and gets more than he bargained for… perhaps fatally more.

As Moonstone re-launches the Phantom franchise under the pen of writer Mike Bullock there are changes afoot. While on the surface it may not seem controversial, Bullock steps into some rather uncharted territory as he chooses to take inspiration from real world events in Africa and the surrounding areas to create new challenges and conflicts for the venerable hero as well as bringing the characters more up to date in the 21st century.

A cruise ship headed for Mombasa is usually a place of rest, relaxation and the pursuit of fun but this cruise turns dangerous as Somali pirates attack. Luckily for the passengers one name on the passenger list is Kit Walker and he has another name as well… the Phantom! All may not be as it seems, however, and this trip to meet up with his wife and a UN envoy bringing aid to Somali refugees in Mombasa runs up against a new player on the world stage. Kamil Kazi wants to cleanse the world in fire and he does not care who burns… including the Phantom!

Not that there was necessarily anything wrong with the Phantom before but Bullock’s decision to widen the hero’s prospects to encompass more of the African continent is a welcome one. Bullock also has already tested the waters of dealing with real-life African issues in a fictional context with his "Invisible Children" story arc and, based on the strength of that, his competency at handling the issues of future stories seems assured. Here he sets up a new villain who is, like the best of antagonists, someone who appeals to those who have been wronged and downtrodden – one who can try to paint himself as a "hero". Bullock also does a good job of balancing the traditional with the new. He throws in some old, familiar characters and does it in such a quick, but efficient shorthand way that it only takes one panel for new readers to understand the character’s significance and history and he throws in some other little bits that have long been a part of the character’s printed adventures.

The art, provided by Silvestre Szilagyi is solid as a rock and all around excellent. There may not be big flourishes or an eccentric artistic style but this is one comic that does not need such. In fact, it is refreshing to see a superhero character who looks like a fit athlete and not an over muscled body builder, female figures who are a bit more realistically proportioned, and supporting and background characters that represent the diverse body shapes, ages, skin colors, and facial structures that are seen in the real world. In short, Szilagyi populates this comic book world with people from the real one. On top of all of this, he knows how and when to use splash panels and he handles the action with a casual flair. The sequences hit with all the appropriate impact and "cool factor" but they never overwhelm or steal the spotlight from telling the story.

If you’re tired of "angsty" heroes who do little other than mope about their lives, if you’re tired of endless crossovers and "events" that change nothing, if you’re tired of stories that are more concerned with making a statement than anything else then this is the antidote. Bullock is transforming the Phantom into a character that isn’t just plot driven and isn’t just character driven but rather an appropriate mixture of the two. The Phantom is going places and now is the perfect time to come along for the ride.

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