Mikyzptlk: When Patrick covered issue 10 of this title, he brought up the movie What Dreams May Come. Okay, I know it’s not everyone’s favorite, but you’ve got to admit that it has it’s moments. I’m a fan of the movie myself, especially early on when we are first introduced to the concept of Heaven and its inner workings. Essentially, when you die you create your own Heaven. We get a similar description of Heaven’s mechanics in Phantom Stranger 11, which gives us a chance to peek into some of our character’s innermost desires. What happens, though, when all that is left for your main character to desire flies in the face of a Heavenly decree? Nothing good, surprisingly enough. Continue reading →
Taylor: We like to think of our world as being made up of opposites. There is always a yin to a yang, there is always a cat to a dog. It’s a convenient way of looking at the world and it helps us make sense of a lot of what we see in our everyday lives. But as we grow older we come to realize that maybe the world isn’t so black and white. Maybe there isn’t an absolute good and maybe there isn’t an absolute evil. Despite this, we tend to think of comic book characters as falling in either the spectrum of evil or good. However, when Superman, supposedly a hero of pure heart, opened Pandora’s Box we realized that not even the best of our heroes is totally without a certain darkness in his heart. But if we flip the tables, is it possible we’ll find a super villain who is totally evil of heart? Pandora wants to find out and in the second issue of her stand alone series, we see that the Trinity War is becoming even more complicated than we thought.
Taylor: The Flash has been living up to his abilities and making himself appear nearly everywhere with his insane speed. He popped up in Dial H a couple months ago and he’s currently enjoying a run (pun definitely intended) in Justice League Dark. The character has fit in remarkably well in both of these titles and in Justice League Dark, Barry even goes so far as to say he feels more comfortable working with the JLD than he does with his regular teammates. That Barry would say such a thing is interesting both for its narrative consequences and for what it means about his crossover events in general. It’s not always an easy thing to integrate a hero, with his or her own mythology and personality, into a different title that has its tone and voice. So what happens when you try to integrate not just one hero, but an entire league of them into a different title? Can that be done? Issue 22 of the Justice League, which marks the beginning of the Trinity War crossover event, makes it seem that such a thing is not only possible, but that it can done well too.
Patrick: Comic books have an unhealthy relationship with death. For superheroes and their enemies and friends and families, death is a temporary setback. It’s such a common assumption that heroes will come back from the dead, and that assumption affects our language as we talk about these characters. Here’s a good example — in the blurb introducing the new Marvel series Superior Foes of Spider-Man, the editor explains the conceit of the series by saying:
…One thing they have in common is their shared hatred for their nemesis, the Superior Spider-Man — even if he’s possessed by their old boss Otto Octavius at the moment.
“At the moment?” Dude, come on, let’s commit to the idea that Peter Parker is dead. Otherwise, he’s not dead — he’s on vacation. So, it’s nice a character so integral to DC’s mythology journey all the way to heaven only to discover that he can’t just pluck the souls of his family from the afterlife.
Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing Phantom Stranger 2, originally released November 14th, 2012.
Shelby: To me, the Phantom Stranger is a very old-fashioned kind of “hero.” There’s virtually no way to make the hard-boiled, fedora-wearing, mysterious man in the shadows seem like anything but old-fashioned. With his current origin as (probably) Judas Iscariot, he fits into that nebulous, religious category with The Spectre (of God’s Vengeance, for those of you keeping score). Unsurprisingly, he’s in here too; also not surprising, he’s an old-fashioned, hard-boiled detective. So, when Dan DiDio includes these characters with far more contemporary references, like kiddie soccer games and Star Wars quotes, it doesn’t fail so much as it just feels disingenuous.
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing The Phantom Stranger 1, originally released October 10th, 2012.
Taylor: A long time ago I was talking to a friend about how we enjoy the use of biblical imagery and myth in our media. Neither of us is particularly religious but we both had to admit that there is something really engaging about the use of stories and symbols that have been a primary pillar of western civilization for over 2000 years. When an author is able to integrate religious themes into his or her work without bludgeoning you over the head with theology, the result is often highly entertaining, as fans of John Constantine will attest. However, it can never be stated enough that the author must have a clear vision in mind when alluding to religious imagery. While borrowing from a story here or a symbol there is fine, the most important thing is that it all hangs together with a clear vision held by the author. Phantom Stranger teeters on the edge of this abyss and in the proper first issue of the series the reader has to wonder on which side it will fall.
Today, Drew and Peter are discussing Phantom Stranger 0, originally released September 5, 2012. Phantom Stranger 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.
Drew: I don’t remember when it is that I first stumbled across William Safire’s cheekily ironic Rules for Writers, but the last rule, “Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives,” has managed to nestle itself in my editing subconscious. I make a point of eliminating any cliche I see on the site (the odd exception aside), which has effectively lowered my tolerance for reading them. It rarely becomes a problem — this is one of the most well-known axioms in writing, after all — but every so often, I’ll come across a piece that indulges in cliches to excess, it’s beyond distracting. The Phantom Stranger 0 is one such example, offering sequences that are so dense with cliches, it’s hard to remember that this story was published in 2012.