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.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

The Author

Scott Hunter

Scott Hunter

He spells 'colour' with a 'u' and has the Queen on his money, but Scott Hunter loves pop culture all the same. His first memories of comics are of going down to the local corner shop to buy issues of The Beano and watching the 90s X-Men and Spider-man cartoons. He only recently started reading and collecting comics regularly, but has plunged himself heart and soul into the hobby, bagging and boarding with the best of them. Outside of comics, he enjoys sci-fi (reading, writing and watching), good-bad horror films playing with a brass band. Favourite writers include John Wagner, Alan Moore, Mark Waid, Alan Grant and (in non-comics literature) Philip K. Dick and H.P. Lovecraft. Colin MacNeil, Carlos Ezquerra, Brian Bolland and Alex Ross rank among his favourite artists.

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7 Comments

  1. August 18, 2010 at 12:41 pm — Reply

    I just can’t get past the muddy coloring and the general silliness of a blood-covered man in a loincloth to enjoy the book. I am a casual Phantom fan (love me some Defenders of the Earth, if that helps) and was not drawn into this one the way I hoped it would be.

  2. TaZ
    August 18, 2010 at 6:12 pm — Reply

    I have been a fan of the “Phantom” mythos since I was a kid reading the comic strip in the black and white dailies and in the “funny pages” of the full color newspaper comics on Sunday. Kit Walker (the Phantom of the 20 Century covered in the comic strip) was a great mix of Batman, The Lone Ranger, The Shadow and Tarzan all rolled into one. The matched Colt .45’s, the white horse and the dog as well as the access to a fortune that would make Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark look like paupers, it made for a lot of good story-telling.

    Cut to a guy in these photos that look like The Black Terror got caught in the prom scene from “Carrie” while wearing a bad tiger striped bath towel and, despite being a Ross-mark, I’m totally underwhelmed. If you have 21 generations of gun and sword toting bass-assery behind you and the fact that even the more modern folks in the Dark Continent think that you’re “The Ghost Who Walks” then walking around naked and covered in blood doesn’t make a great deal of sense.

    With piracy (the whole Walker Family/Phantom thing started with pirates…nasty ones, not your Jack Sparrow fun type) once again a huge concern both on land and in the waters of Africa then it seems that having a continuing Phantom series would have plenty of story fuel. There’s also the continuing storyline of why an European family spent 21 generations in Africa and nobody’s skin tone ended up more Dwayne Johnson than Don Johnson. And why “The Last Phantom”? Why stop at 22 generations?

    As young Master Hunter points out, this series may be a good point for some folks not versed in the past history of the Phantom character to begin. Based on what I’ve seen so far on this version, I’ll stick with my old memories of the Skull Cave, Devil, the Major and Minor Treasure Rooms and the skull and symbol rings.

  3. aussie
    August 19, 2010 at 8:57 pm — Reply

    “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.”

    Funny, my knowledge of the character had next to nothing in common with this imposter that Ross and co have created. This is a real slap to the face for Phans and seems like more of a money making effort then simply writing for pleasure. Agreed with TaZ.. give me the classics anyday :)

    Good review.

    • August 20, 2010 at 11:18 am — Reply

      Funny, my knowledge of the character had next to nothing in common with this imposter that Ross and co have created. This is a real slap to the face for Phans and seems like more of a money making effort then simply writing for pleasure. Agreed with TaZ.. give me the classics anyday :)

      Meh… Re-imaginings are almost a necessary evil in the publishers’ eyes anymore. Even if you have a built-in fanbase (like the Phantom, the Shadow, or other characters who predate comic heroes) there’s a need to tinker with it and make it more “fresh.” Hopefully, there’s a market for more traditional Phantom tales, which I believe are being published by Moonstone concurrently with this Dynamite series. A little something for everyone!

      • Luaga
        August 23, 2010 at 2:19 am — Reply

        I agree with “aussie” that longtime Phantom fans will probably appreciate this series the least, as it deviates far too much from the basics of the character. Unfortunately, since Dynamite is taking over the license, Moonstone has to bow out of the Phantom; Moonstone is printing their last Phantom issues right now. If “The Last Phantom” had come out at a time when no other Phantom comics were published in the US I would have been more positive (like when Defenders of the Earth, Phantom 2040 and Marvel’s mini series were published), but now that we are losing a good, traditional Phantom series in favor of this experiment, many Phantom fans including myself will judge it harshly.

  4. Paul Jarrett
    August 24, 2010 at 9:20 am — Reply

    You are right to be corrected by “aussie” and “Luaga”, this Phantom series is definitely not for the fans. Most longtime Phantom fans, myself included, have found this series so far to be an abomination. Probably one of the worst transgressions is that it gives “the finger” to both longtime fans and Phantom creator Lee Falk. Falk had some past Phantom stories in which there were generations of Walker siblings from which the first born did not take up the mantle, but never a generation in which no sibling took up the mantle (or tried to break the chain). That’s not what Falk wanted for his character. Rule number one for me when it comes to carrying on the work of another creator is to never go outside the boundry set by the original creator. This version of the character goes so way outside of the lines Falk established. Why did King Features / Hearst allow such a departure for the character?

    And how long do you think it will be before “Kitridge” is using one of those invisibilty suits to be the modern day Phantom?

  5. SirShreK
    October 29, 2010 at 5:43 pm — Reply

    I hope the company is punished by the free market by this transgression. All they have done is isolating the only fan base they could have. Phantom does not have any broad reputation as other comic books characters. The writers, instead of building on the well established popular history, flush it down the John and create this… hideous abomination. Well…. They don’t deserve the Phantom.

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