Will the Phantom Stranger shed some of his silver necklace? Will he betray perfectly nice people for less-than-clear reasons? Find out the details of this not-quite-debut issue in this Major Spoilers review.


Dialogue feels quite natural

The reveal of who Phantom Stranger really is

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)


Previously in Phantom Stranger: In what could be described as a poorly thought-out transaction, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Now condemned to walk the earth as the Phantom Stranger, he does the bidding of a Higher Power as penance for his betrayal.


I’ll get this out of the way right up front: I thought it was a huge mistake in the Zero Issue to explicitly reveal the Stranger to be Judas Iscariot; now that we know who he is/was, he’s not really a stranger anymore, is he? I feel like the decision to make him Jesus’ betrayer was done just to facilitate the 30-pieces-of-silver necklace atonement gimmick.

Now, having said that, I quite enjoyed this issue. The Stranger finds a woman, Rachel, with the mystical ability to absorb the pain and sorrow of others and use it to create her own shadowy minions. She’s on the run from her father and the Stranger says he’ll take her to some people who can teach her to use her powers properly. Hey, this Stranger is an awesome guy! Oh, wait, he’s a serial betrayer.

Rachel’s father is the demon Trigon, who’s looking to bring her into the family business of dominating the souls of the damned and preparing to conquer the Earth. Trigon and the Stranger have a conversation about the Stranger’s nature which is really just a poorly concealed exposition dump for folks who may have missed the Zero Issue. The rest of the book’s dialogue feels quite natural—or at least as natural as you can get in a book about the undead Judas walking the earth doing God’s will—but a couple of times the Stranger came off as too much of a regular guy, which felt like a misstep.

At the issue’s end the Stranger returns to his unexpectedly bucolic home and we get to see a taste of his home life as he hangs up his cloak and fedora as he greets his … wife and kids? I suppose it’s hard to have a book’s protagonist remain constantly shrouded, but I’m not sure how I feel about seeing the Stranger’s face so soon. Given his character model, though, I’m surprised he didn’t start going on about mutant rights and that damnable Charles Xavier.


While I can’t call this issue’s art haunting, it did evoke that spooky kind of feeling I get when I go back and read old issues of “Swamp Thing” and “Hellblazer”—this some serious, mystical stuff going on so don’t take it lightly. The book is heavy on the pencil work and Brett Anderson manages to capture the artistic vibe of some of those old Trenchcoat Brigade-type stories. The faces are quite detailed and emotive overall, but Rachel wasn’t showing nearly enough fear and loathing toward the end of the book, but you can only too so much when a face is a small part of a panel’s larger canvas.

Trigon was the artistic highlight of the book for me—at just a glance you can tell he’s huge, menacing and implicitly cruel. Superficially at least he’s an extremely well-designed character and the details on his face and armaments are nice touches; I want a poster of him.

Each panel, for the most part, has something to say and contributes to the story and there are even a few standout images buried within: Rachel summoning a shadow and Trigon’s appearance/hellish doings are fantastic examples of large-panel presentations.


Even though I’m a little miffed at the New 52’s demystification of the character, “Phantom Stranger” #1 was an engaging read, even though the story is still trying to ease people into the title. I’m a fan of these magicky books and thus predisposed to enjoy it, so bear that in mind before you pick up a copy. If you’re looking for a non-cape story to read, then this is worth picking up, but I’m not totally sold yet. I’ll see how it goes over the next couple of issues before I decide to drop it or keep it, but it’s a solid effort for an under served character  and I hope the things I perceive as flaws in the book eventually lead to some great stories and revelations. Three stars.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

The Author

Brandon Dingess

Brandon Dingess

Brandon lives his life by the three guiding principals on which the universe is based: Neal Peart's lyrical infallibility, the superiority of the Latin language and freedom of speech. He's a comic book lover, newspaper journalist and amateur carpenter who's completely unashamed his wife caught him making full-sized wooden replicas of Klingon weaponry. Brandon enjoys the works of such literary luminaries as Thomas Jefferson, Jules Verne, Mark Twain and Matt Fraction. "Dolemite" is his favorite film, "The Immortal Iron Fist" is his all-time favorite comic and 2nd Edition is THE ONLY Dungeons and Dragons.

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  1. Slappy
    October 19, 2012 at 10:27 am — Reply

    Some nice insight, but your opening is based upon the faulty premise that The Phantom Stranger IS Judas.
    While he admits to betraying his best friend for money and committing suicide, there are enough holes to allow him not to be Judas.
    1. They kept away from the red head angle often depicting Judas.
    2. MacBeth also betrayed his best friend, While the timelines don’t match, this just means it could be anyone. Brutus & Cassius betrayed Julius Caesar and committed suicide.
    3. Aramaic has been around since 1200 BC. Also Middle Eastern fashion doesn’t appear to change as often as Western fashion. Considering Aramaic is still used, he could have been long after the death of Christ.
    4. The Robe angle aside from the 50’s movie doesn’t really play that much into the life or resurrection of Christ. It has more meaning in the book than anywhere outside.
    5. Considering that Pandora was also there, this may have taken place centuries BC.
    I believe that the writers want the idea of Judas the betrayer, but not him. It is probably a device being used for instant recognition of a type rather than the icon himself.
    The Phantom Stranger may not be Judas, but in the Old DC Secret Origins Series, the Phantom Stranger and a few different origins with none laying claim to being the definitive. This may also play in as only the first of many possible origins.

    • October 20, 2012 at 12:35 am — Reply

      Fair points, but I still think they’re foolish enough to actually make it him. If it’s a red herring then they’ve made it such a convincing one that it’ll be too much of a stretch if it’s not Judas.

      • Slappy
        October 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm — Reply

        During his Origin(s) in the 80’s, he was also a Jew who paid off a Roman soldier to whip Jesus and stab him with a spear as revenge for his son’s murdered in Jesus’ place during the slaughter of the innocents.
        The Biblical angle is not new, just a different angle. He was possibly the “Wandering Jew” of legend prior to being the Phantom Stranger.

        • October 20, 2012 at 6:44 pm — Reply

          I was aware of that. With the universe reboot they had an opportunity to keep him mysterious and they dropped the ball. I don’t think this book will last too long unless they really swerve on his identity with a retcon. You can’t have a Phantom Stranger if he’s familiar.

          • J_Michael_T
            October 29, 2012 at 11:54 am — Reply

            I think you just pointed out the “fatal flaw” in a series I was SO looking forward to. I wanted the mystique and strange. Don’t think I’m going to get it.

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