Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Phantom Stranger #0

Dan Didio shouldn't be allowed to write comic books, especially any character that relies on an inherent mystery such as The Phantom Stranger. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the New 52 gives us a new version of the classic character originally introduced by John Broome and Carmine Infantino in 1952.

For 60 years the origins of the character have been shaded in mystery. Even Secret Origins, an 80's DC comic whose sole pupose was to retell the origins of various characters in separate issues and introduce them to new readers, was explicitly vague by offering not one but four possible origin stories for the character - none of which may be true.

Is he a fallen angel? A remnant of a previous universe (which would make the most sense for the New 52)? Or a tortured soul serving penance to God? Here's what we know about the Stranger: He's a shadowy figure, knowledgeable, powerful, with the ability to travel through space and time at will. Cursed into his role, the Stranger can guide others on their path but can never directly interfere himself.

Basically he's the Watcher with far more mysterious methods and objectives. Although the name itself doesn't appear in the comic, the new version of the Stranger removes all mystery from the character (his sole defining characteristic) and explicitly states him to be Judas Iscariot (complete with his thirty pieces of silver), punished for his role in the death of Jesus Christ. Seriously, DC? You're adding Judas to your stable of characters?

Wow. Despite refusing to use the name, Didio hamfistedly rams the Stranger's identity down the throats of the reader so no other conclusion can possibly be drawn. And here I thought Michael Bay was unsubtle. The comic also (almost as an afterthought) gives us an emotionally empty retelling of Jim Corrigan and the Spectre's origin that, like nearly everything else in the New 52, will make you nostalgic for the original. Pass.

[DC, $2.99]

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