Or – “Not Entirely What I Had Expected…”
One of the earliest female heroes of the Golden Age of Comics, Phantom Lady is usually notable for being (in Rodrigo’s words) “nakeder” than many other super-heroes. Now, she’s back on her feet in the post-Flashpoint New 52, and her origin story is about to be told. Your Major Spoilers review awaits!
PHANTOM LADY #1
Writer(s): Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Penciler: Cat Staggs
Inker: Tom Derenick
Colorist: Jason Wright
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Harvey Richards
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Previously, in Phantom Lady: A founding member of the Quality Comics stable of heroes, Phantom Lady was eventually folded into the DC Universe in the 1970s as part of the alternate Earth-X. After the Crisis on Infinite Earths resolved all the worlds of the multiverse into one, a new Phantom Lady arrived, then another and another. The last one we saw was Stormy Knight, one of the post-Final Crisis Freedom Fighters, probably wiped out when Barry Allen relaunched the universe to save his mother’s life. So, what’s up with the new Phantom Lady?
WE START, AS ALWAYS, WITH BATMAN’S ORIGIN…
I have to say, I’m really starting to get tired of the homogenization of origins, especially in the New 52. Hal Jordan is driven by the loss of his father, Barry Allen changed the entirety of the history of the universe because of the loss of his mother, and it seems that even Plastic Man has a dead loved one in his past. This issue starts with the recounting of the murder of Phantom Lady’s parents in the Suicide Slum area of Metropolis. On the plus side, it’s a quick vignette, cutting immediately to the present day, with P.L. in action against a group of thugs. Her powers have changed a bit, as well, going from a blinding “black light ray” to living shadow ala The Shade, combined with Cloak’s teleportation/emotional void abilities. Also interesting is the fact that only this issue’s cover is handled by Amanda Conner. Discussions that I’ve had of this title seemed to assume (although DC never promised) Conner interiors as well, but the book is handled by an artist I’ve never heard of, Cat Staggs (with Tom Derenick inks.) The art is very dark and moody throughout the book, and Staggs does good work with the first appearance of Phantom Lady in uniform, delivering a very cool upward shot of the hero in her new purple and gold togs. Sadly, it’s the only glimpse of the character in costume in the entire issue…
BACK AND FORTH IN TIME…
The story jumps backward (after jumping forward) to explain WHY her parents were killed, giving us the backstory of Miss Knight’s father as a crusading reporter for the Daily Planet, killed by a crime family for reporting their misdeeds. Young Jennifer has a boyfriend as well, a genius scientist who works out of a junkyard, who is working on a machine to shrink matter and is also her go-to guy for tech wizardry. The issue is nice, if unremarkable so far, with the young reporter following in her dad’s footsteps and falling afoul of the Mafioso’s who killed him. Boyfriend Doll Man gets his origin here, and while the issue is skillful, as a first chapter it’s a little bit generic. The alteration of Phantom Lady’s powers bothers me a bit, as it homogenizes her with other shadow-wielding heroes (which may be the intention, honestly) and while I’m looking forward to the Freedom Fighters revival that this has been announced as the herald of, but there’s so much familiar here that it’s hard to judge the first chapter as a stand-alone issue.
THE BOTTOM LINE: NOT BAD, BUT OVERLY FAMILIAR
With a clear Batman influence in her origin, the changes in her powers, and the “first act of an action movie setting up for revenge” plot, I’m kind of on the fence about this issue. I like the art, but part of me is still disappointed that it’s not Amanda Conner’s, while I just don’t feel enough was made of Jennifer Knight in this issue, focusing instead on external factors and the injustices of her past. All in all, Phantom Lady #1 is an okay comic book, but not the bolt from the blue that I had hoped we were going to get, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall. I’m still withholding final judgement for the rest of the series, and this hasn’t put me off the title, the issue left me a little bit disappointed overall…