Phantom of the 52
By: Andrew Hines
For as long as I can remember, the Phantom Stranger has been the greatest mystery of the DCU. Who is he? Where does he come from? How does he know so much about the DC(n)U? Is he really as neutral as he claims to be or is he a villain biding his time? These were actual questions from my 10 year old brain the first time I saw him in Adventures of Superman #548, "A Stranger Stalks Metropolis." Unfortunately this was during the height of the "electric Superman" period where DC was all into the digital age and then some. This issue reminds us of how well Public Domain characters can be utilized for comics.
Co-publisher, Dan Didio has given life to The Phantom Stranger. He begins without even using the character's name though still telling us exactly who we're dealing with through some awesome writing. With time, I can see him being a truly integral part of the DCnU. It's a great intro issue and I hope to see Didio do more in there future. I'll admit, I don't typically follow Didio's work as much as I do other writers', so this is a treat. I think he did a good job with a pretty obscure character, given that he has more creative wiggle room. Of course, being one of the top bosses doesn't hurt.
Brent Anderson's pencils combined with the inks and colors from Scott Hanna and Jeremy Cox, respectively, gave us some decent art to go with a good story. There are good scenes and decent effects. Most notably, the thing that really caught my eye was Anderson's decision to literally draw outside the lines. Several pages show effects that reach beyond the edge of the panels and flow across the page. For a title such as this, it's a great decision. The panel layout works as well, as there are places, such as pages 8, 24 and 25 where the panels, or lack thereof work best for the visual layout.
In all, it's a good issue that deserves a "B". I don't want to set the bar too high on an origin story and make the rest of the run look bad. If you want to know more about the classic character, go to the character's page at http://www.comicvine.com/phantom-stranger/29-3298/.