A few weeks ago, while scanning the racks of the latest issue of Jonah Hex, one cover really jumped out at me. It was from a Phantom series I’d never heard of by a publisher I never heard of. Feeling like trying something new – and feeling like it was my duty as a comic book fan to support a good cause, I picked it up. It was issue #9 of an ongoing series, but luckily the story was the beginning of a two-parter so I was in no danger of feeling lost.
The Phantom has a very peculiar track record as a comic book character. He is one of the oldest, and best known globally but has seemingly struggled to sell comics here in North America. There have, of course, been some great Phantom comics in the past – mostly notably runs by Jim Aparo and Don Newton for Charlton, but the Ghost Who Walks really hasn’t made much of an impression on the funnybook world in the past 30 years. This raises the question of whether a character who is described as ‘timeless’ is really just out of touch.
I am pleased to announce that, based on what I’ve read so far, the Moonstone series is full of promise. Issue #9, written by Chuck Dixon, deals with the illegal slave trade, and this setting really helps to set a sinister tone. This is a perfect backdrop for a Phantom adventure, and Dixon does a good job of balancing dialogue with action. Eric J’s artwork is uneven and some of the facial expressions are just a bit too distorted for my tastes. That being said, the cliffhanger ending has me anxious to read #10. Comics don't often have that effect on me these days.
Future writers would do well to study Dixon’s solution to dealing with a 21st Century Phantom: Have the Ghost That Walks deal with issues of the modern developing world.