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This week saw the end of yet another one of the underdogs. A series that started out as just another bad idea whose potential would go untapped. Yet, astounding many, it went the distance. It was able to take something as awful sounding as a character study for one of DC’s most mysterious characters by giving him a real backstory. Yet, due to the prompting of Dan Didio, and the skill J.M. DeMatteis, The Phantom Stranger got the due it deserved.
Honestly, I don’t think anyone thought the series would last as long as it did. Due to the aforementioned disbelief and pessimism about the title the betting odds were just an arc’s length. The first issues by Dan Didio himself did nothing to dissuade this line of thinking other than a few small ideas. None of which seemed to be on the road to paying off, mind you, until Didio graciously handed the series to DeMatteis for a year of amazing issues.
While the final “official” issue of The Phantom Stranger hit shelves last month, The Phantom Stranger: Futures End is where the series reaches a final conclusion. First things first, however, it should be noted that Dan Didio made a rather nostalgic return to the series for this finale as a co-plotter. There are a few Didio-esque hallmarks in this issue itself which bubble to the surface. Some of the concepts of the issue, such as the judges of the Stranger being people he has betrayed scream out in particular.
There is also the matter that some of the dialogue and narration strays into a notable hammy territory. DeMatteis on his own wrote rather deftly, while Didio’s influence here is really distinct – although not together unwelcome. It’s definitely a step-up from Didio’s earlier missteps on the series writing wise. Perhaps the biggest fault of the issue is that it uses a tried and true narrative trick of setting something else up but only to distract from another plot.
One can say that it wastes the original plot, but that’s in the eyes of the beholder. I’ve definitely seen readers of the issue who have claimed either one. In either case while it would have been superb to actually see the Stranger judged and tried for his soul, the way events unfold proper works out splendidly. The Stranger has already, though out the series, proven his worthiness, leaving the issue more of proving this to him. It’s a wrap up, not a conclusion – since there’s little need for one.
Plot lines were at the forefront and DeMatteis and Didio weave through them with real skill. The writing works to establish The Stranger anew, and leaves us satisfied in how he left off. There’s even a wink at the Pre-New 52 outfit which becomes a spectacular nod to the fans that the Stranger has become who he was always meant to be. The art by Phil Winslade was serviceable enough, but thankfully was not the focus. It was a touching goodbye to a series and it’s characters, and the Stranger. It’s a finale that has got me excited for Trinity of Sin next month.