Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fanholes Side Story #6 The Ghost Who...Loves Rasberry Jelly?!

For as long as I’ve been able to read, I’ve followed the adventures of the "Ghost Who Walks." It started with the comic strip in the Sunday paper. It continued when Defenders of The Earth began. I eagerly anticipated the movie. For a time I wore a Phantom skull ring. I watched Phantom 2040. I followed the Moonstone comics. Now, we have the latest comic series from Dynamite called The Last Phantom.

Our story opens with Kit Walker at a fund raiser, while his family, friends and even his country, come under attack by forces seeking to eliminate him. Here we see a Phantom that thinks he has broken the long legacy he has inherited. He keeps a suitcase with him at all times. A suitcase which contains his Phantom mask, guns and rings. For the most part though, he is resigned to live a normal life. I’ve always felt that the legacy of the Phantom itself was a prime source for story material. What if, like this Kit Walker, there was a Phantom who did not want to carry on the traditions. What if the Phantom died before having offspring? What if there was a gay Phantom? But, I digress.

In the coup Walker’s wife and son are murdered and his plane explodes in mid-air. Having found the bodies of his family, he opens the suitcase and becomes a blood drenched Phantom. When I first saw the cover to issue one I thought, okay, they’re going all ‘extreme!’ with the Phantom. Also, I remarked that the Phantom looks like he’s covered in raspberry jelly and not blood.

With all the violence, blood, murder and costume change(or lack of one perhaps) this does feel like an extreme update of a classic character. The classic elements are present. Devil, the wolf, and Hero, the horse, are here to assist our vengeful ghost. Kit faces several soldiers who wear invisible suits. This is no problem for Kit, as a quick flashback reviles how his father trained him to use all his senses. When I saw the invisible suits I had a feeling Kit would be making use of one later. I suppose you could say this is a logical update to the mythos of the character. However, I feel this is unnecessary. To me the Phantom is more interesting as just a man. A man with a long legacy to carry on. A man who uses guns and the help of his friends, both human and animal, to deliver justice.

Also of note is the blood drenched Phantom I previously referenced. This is how the character is presented for the first four issues of the series. We have Alex Ross to thank for this. I know some fans have been a little off put by this but let me assure you that this is no blood thirsty Phantom. He does kill when it is required, but he is not a mindless killing machine. One gets a sense that he does not enjoy killing, but will do so when necessary. For justice and to avenge the death of his family.

It's not until issue five that we see the ‘classic’ Phantom. He’s now using the invisible suit, but this is pretty much the Phantom we all know and love. He has some self doubt, as he keeps telling himself he is supposed to be the hero. I have to say that I enjoyed these issues a great deal, mostly because it was fun to see the Phantom riding Hero around New York City.

One could say the theme of this new series is evolve or fade away. The creative team has certainly brought the Phantom into the twenty first century. Personally, I think the character gets by fine without an invisible suit. Does this mean I didn’t enjoy the series? While I may not agree with some of the creative decisions, I admit I’m very curious to see where this is all going.

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