Dynamite Entertainment provides another character from the 1930s with a book, this time promising a fresh take on the legendary Phantom – but will this new incarnation live up to its predecessors?
The Last Phantom #1
Writer: Scott Beatty
Art: Eduardo Ferigato
Colours: Vinicius Andrade
Letters: Simon Bowland
Editor: Joseph Rybandt
Covers: Alex Ross (two 50/50 covers), Joe Prado (1-in-10), Fabiano Neves (1-in-15)
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Our plot concerns one Kitridge Walker, who is the head of a charity dedicated to aiding his country of Bengali. However, his partner – Peter Quisling – attempts a very hostile takeover, trying to assassinate Walker and his family. Involved in this attempt are soldiers wearing ‘Krieghund’ suits, which allow the wearer to become invisible. Surviving the attempt on his life but finding his family dead, Kitridge decides to embrace his heritage (as twenty-one generations of Walkers did before him) and becomes The Phantom. Our issue ends with Kitridge surrounded by Krieghund-wearing soldiers.
A Very Sudden Change
First of all, it is important to say that I knew next-to-nothing about The Phantom before reading this book, and only did some research on the subject afterwards. So, from someone who didn’t know what to expect from this book, I’ll say that – wow – Walker becoming The Phantom really comes out of nowhere. He doesn’t become The Phantom until the last three-or-so pages, and even then we’re given no explanation as to why he’s The Phantom or how it ever came about (apart from it being implied that such a mantle has been taken up by his ancestors for twenty-one previous generations); these are all things that should really have been explained in this first issue, and so this book really fails in that area – it even borders on the comical how quickly the transformation takes place. After finding out some things about The Phantom, though, the transformation seems a lot more natural and I’m sure Phantom fans will find no issue with it. Indeed, it is actually very well done if you already know some back story, but I can’t help but escape the feeling that this book isn’t ideally suited to new readers.
The rest of the book is a lot of build-up, and I thought it was done rather well. It’s quite slow, but there’s some intrigue going on and it had me interested up until the transformation scene, which seemed to come all at once and really contrasted with what had come before. I can imagine this might be different if you’re familiar with The Phantom, though, as in that case the appearance of the title hero would be expected and all events would be seen as leading up to it, whereas I really had no idea what was coming. One scene in the book, in which Kit’s horse possibly gets shot will, I think have much more meaning for Phantom-fans. The origin story has also been tweaked: in this version, Kit Walker has been trying to escape the Phantom legacy, which appears to me to be a fairly interesting twist on the origin but whether or not this has been done before I don’t know. And, of course, The Phantom’s wife and child are murdered in this book, making Kit The Last Phantom and giving the book its name (although surely Kit could marry again? It doesn’t seem a provable statement to say the Kit is definitely the last Phantom).
Art That Does Its Job
The art presents no real issues: it’s always clear and looks fine, but it didn’t really strike any chords with me – there was never a time when it transcended being, ‘Pretty good.’ That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it – the art is consistently good throughout – but it’s not something that would have me immediately grabbing this book off the shelf. The lack of any protracted action sequences means that the sequential aspect of the art never comes too far into the foreground, but it all flows and there are never any problems in that area.
This book has a whopping four covers, all featuring The Phantom is various blood-soaked poses. The two Alex Ross covers are very much drawn by Alex Ross, so the chances are you know whether or not you’ll like them, but I enjoy Ross’ work and found his two covers to be well-drawn. I have no complaints with the other two covers, either, and they are indeed well-drawn in their own rights. My main problem with these covers is that they’re all very similar and rather generic – they don’t really suggest what’s going on in the book, other than the appearance of The Phantom. Phantom-fans will no doubt be intrigued as to why The Phantom is not wearing his traditional costume (a question unanswered in these pages, and I can only assume that he didn’t have access to it despite carrying around his other Phantom possessions), but for newcomers these covers do little to pique one’s interest.
More Enjoyable For Fans
In conclusion, this is a book I think fans of The Phantom are going to want to pick up. It appears to provide a new take on the character, and really seems in some ways to have been written with the idea in mind that the reader will already have knowledge of the character. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the book is more enjoyable if you know a little about The Phantom. That’s not to say that the book is completely inaccessible to newcomers, and I still found it to be an enjoyable read, but a more flawed one. Overall, I give this book three stars out of five – definitely above average, and new readers can improve their experience by giving The Phantom’s Wikipedia article a quick look before reading.