The Phantom Stranger #21 (Comics Review)

Though this title may be ending soon, the recent issues have made it clear that J. M. DeMatteis intends to go out with a bang. He took over the title a few months before the Trinity War event last year and he has shepherded it through that and the Forever Evil event as well, turning this series into one of DC’s best books, as far as I’m concerned. And the bet part of it has been all the religious stuff that he’s injected the series with, which is far cry from how I felt when I read the zero issue by Dan DiDio when the series launched almost two years ago.

Recently DeMatteis wrapped up a major arc in which the Stranger was pit against his enemy, the Sin Eater, and it proved to be one hell of a read, a true good vs evil story featuring some of the best supernatural elements of the DC universe, and all the creepy that goes along with that. In the new issue, we see that DeMatteis is beginning to wrap up a few things and part of that is how the Stranger now relates to the Sin Eater, and the issue also deals with the end of Forever Evil: Blight in terms of what happened with the boy Christopher Esperanza.

You look at that cover and you see the angel Zauriel down and on the ground, with the Stranger holding back an army of the Fallen, angels of heaven who have been cast out and turned to… evil. Done by Guillem March and Tomeu Morey, this is quite a good cover, though the expressions on the faces of the Fallen do bother me a bit and there’s a certain lack of definition to them as well that I don’t appreciate. But still, it is a fairly good composition, I won’t deny that.

There are two parts to this story. The first of these deals with Chris, who is the Spirit of Redemption as much as a certain former police officer from Gotham City is now the Spirit of Vengeance, the Specter. Chris was cast in that role at the end of Forever Evil: Blight and that was what that sub-event was all building up towards in addition to being a story about how the supernaturals of the DC universe had to fight off against the power of the Crime Syndicate and their Earth-One lackeys. Now, we get some insight into what Chris’ function is as the Stranger brings a battered Phillip Stark to his doorstep, asking for help. The dialogue in this part is a bit dramatic, but I didn’t mind it over-much for it fit the overall feel of the story, and that I could get along with well-enough.

On the flip-side we have the scenes involving Dr. Thirteen and the Stranger as the former sits a vigil for the dead angel Zauriel, attended by other Fallen who stood with him recently, and who have done as he has done in his life. The Stranger arrives to the scene and is understandably shocked and that’s when the issue kicks into serious overdrive as the (good-intentioned and truly good) Fallen take them to their base of operations so that the Stranger and Dr. Thirteen can do for Zauriel what he did for them, especially for the Stranger. We get some major revelations here that touch on the relationship between the Stranger and Zauriel, and that’s where I felt that J. M. DeMatteis was crafting a really superb story about platonic love an angel and a man cursed to immortal life for his greatest sin.

Fernando Blanco is still the primary artist on this issue, though he has assists from Cliff Richards in that regard, with colours provided by the awesome Gabe Eltaeb and letters by Travis Lanham. Unlike the previous issue, this issue had some really good art, and most of all I loved the scene where the Redeemer (Chris Esperanza) and the Stranger take Phillip Stark to the metaphysical Temple of Absolution for healing. Lots of bright colours there and the details are great. Once again, the pencilwork on the true Fallen wasn’t all that good, but I didn’t mind it over-much, especially not when we got that jaw-dropping cliffhanger ending.

DeMatteis paced this issue very well and he has begun the resolutions to several ongoing arcs, so this issue is definitely among the best he has written, especially with the ending, and the artwork is definitely among the top-tier that this title has seen to date.

Rating: 9/10

More Phantom Stranger: Volume 1, #10-13, #14, #15, #18, #19, #20.

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Posted on July 3, 2014, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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