Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Comic Reviews: The Phantom Stranger and S&B Vs A&P

The Phantom Stranger

    This whole New 52 business gave me a chance and excuse to try out a bunch of DC characters I hadn’t read (or in some cases heard of) before.  I’m not a fan of starting somewhere in the middle, though I understand all these long-running comics make that a necessity.  Anyway, I dig a lot of those old, pre-Crisis type titles from DC.  The ones that are closer to Tales from the Crypt than to The Fantastic Four.  Swamp Thing, for example, or The Specter.  So The Phantom Stranger made my reading list.  And, it’s… OK.

    It feels very 70s, from the art to the writing style.  And I like that.  I could imagine it being in black & white, in one of those oversized magazine comics, like Savage Sword of Conan.  It feels a bit like watching a horror anthology show, or reading those old Eerie or Creepy comics.  The book starts out pretty good, giving the Stanger’s origin, tying him to some of the other weird characters (Captain Marvel aka Shazam, for example), and seeing the creation of an incarnation of The Specter.  I liked all the hints about the other two members of his ‘Trinity of Sin.’  And the appearance of the ghost of the original Terrance Thirteen!!!  Heck, I even kind of liked when you see what the Stranger gets up to when he’s not being terribly mysterious.  But once John Constantine and the Justice League Dark show up, the whole thing falls apart.  There’s more about the Specter, some about Pandora, and hey, The Question pops by.  But I found myself tuning out, like it lost focus, or I did.  Either way, by the last few pages of the trade, I suddenly didn’t care what happened next.  Bummer.  And I know people love John Constantine.  But after reading Alan Moore’s creation of him in Saga of the Swamp Thing, and now seeing him pop up in other things, I kind of hate him.  By ‘kind of’ I mean ‘really, really.’

Superman & Batman Vs. Aliens & Predator

    Obviously, this is a wacky, silly crossover gimmick.  DC and Dark Horse putting together some of their most popular titles.  Not at all the only time this sort of thing has happened.  Dark Horse itself mixed Tarzan and the Predators.  Green Lantern went up against the Aliens.  Batman and the Predators seem to work well together.  Superman and the Aliens, I guess.  But throwing them all together,  especially in such a short piece, was just too much.

    The art is pretty, with a painterly aspect.  It reminded me a bit of that old Euro comic, Ranx I think it was called.  The one with that hideous muscled guy and his little girl companion.  But the writing is pretty bad.  OK, it’s straight up awful.  The idea of a lost tribe of Predators living in the underground of Peru might have made for a good Batman adventure.  But the banter between him and Superman is lame.  The stuff with TDI is just dumb.  Overall, not as much fun as the goofy concept led me to hope.

Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger Volume 1: A Stranger Among Us
Author: Dan Didio
Artists: Brent Anderson, etc.
Publisher: DC Comics
ISBN: 978-1-4012-4088-2

Superman And Batman Versus Aliens and Predator
Author: Mark Schultz
Artist: Ariel Olivetti
Publishers: DC Comics & Dark Horse Books
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1328-2


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