Written by Scott Beatty
Art by Eduardo Ferigato
Covers by Alex Ross
This week, the Ghost Who Walks returns to comic shops in the Alex Ross fueled “The Last Phantom,” featuring a new look and the promise of updated Phantom stories for a more modern sensibility.
The Phantom is the latest old-school hero to get a face-lift courtesy of Alex Ross and Dynamite. However, like so many first issues in the modern era they story itself is entirely set-up, with practically no action and very little drama to move the story along. This issue introduces us to Kit Walker, a wealthy business man working to improve the lives of workers and citizens of the African nation Bengali. It’s clear that the country has its share of problems and that Walker is one of the few willing to help and is in a position to do so, working with the country’s President to hold fundraisers for his philanthropic organization. He’s also a well loved husband and father, and he has his assistant carry a mysterious metal case with him wherever he goes. Just in case.
Walker and his family are placed in danger as forces move against the Bengali people and their protector for some unknown reason (although one would assume it has something to do with the countries oil, diamond and “yellowcake mines”). It is only then, in the last few pages of the issue, that the Phantom is reborn in his new loin-cloth wearing, purple berry smeared, ash drawn domino mask incarnation. Aside from dealing with the aftermath of tragedy there’s no real action, which is a shame because the end of the issue sets up the ultra-low tech Phantom in a fight against enemies with science fiction level cloaking technology outfits. As the premise for an action sequence there’s a lot of interesting places that could go and I’d have felt better about the issue if it had been a little longer and we’d actually been taken there.
There’s nothing wrong with the execution of the story or art, it’s just nothing that we’ve never seen before in re-introducing an old character to a new audience. The only dramatic change there is the new outfit, which looks a little better on the sequential page than it did in Ross’ various covers and pin-ups. It seems to work more as a smeared on camouflage here rather than the bright purple that the covers make it out to be. The Phantom is a hard sell to the modern audience (justly or unjustly), but to make it work you need to have more in your first issue than introduction, build-up, build-up, build-up, a page of action, dramatic loss, and the promise of real action next issue. The Phantom is one of the original pulp heroes, but if they want to keep audiences hooked they’ll have to come up with more original storytelling and action than what we’ve got here.
2.5 out of 5 scarves turned loincloths.