The Phantom: The Man Who Cannot Die
by Mike Bullock, Carlos Magno, Silvestre Szilagyi (Moonstone, 2009)

I had a few Phantom comic books from the Charlton line when I was a kid, but most of my knowledge of this ubiquitous character came from the short-lived DC Comics run in the late 1980s. So, when The Man Who Cannot Die, a collection from the current Phantom series over at Moonstone, landed on my desk, I was intrigued without being too excited.

I enjoyed this book more than I expected. Focusing primarily on the current incarnation of the Phantom, Kit Walker, the book does peer occasionally back into a few stories in the jungle vigilante's 20 previous generations -- a heroic lineage that is a unique aspect of the character -- and it takes him every now and then out of the deep African jungle he calls home. But, unlike many comics that feature some crackpot villain who wants to rule the world or wreak terrible vengeance on a heroic nemesis, most of these stories tackle key issues that plague modern Africa -- namely, poaching and slavery.

In one saga, the Phantom declares war on a fictional warlord who kidnaps, tortures and enslaves thousands of children before turning them into soldiers; the story closely resembles actual events in Uganda, where, unfortunately, there's no real Phantom to resolve things. In a somewhat sillier chapter, an earlier Phantom pursues three villainous musketeers in pre-Revolutionary France to reclaim a valuable treasure.

The Moonstone run on The Phantom has a deadline; apparently, Dynamite Entertainment (publishers of, among other things, an excellent new take on The Lone Ranger) is already scheduled to take over the character later this year. It seems the Phantom is destined to be passed around from publisher to publisher, but it appears to me Moonstone, at least, has gotten it right. Let's see if Dynamite does as well.

review by
Tom Knapp

17 July 2010

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