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There is something intriguing about the Phantom as a character. You’d think that a man dress up in purple that shoots up entire groups of criminals would be ridiculous. Perhaps it’s the lore or the legacy of the character that makes him timeless and his stories endless. Since the Phantom’s return at Moonstone the character has had an on-going series along with several minis.
The story of Unmasked, although about the Phantom, doesn’t follow him. Instead the story opens up with Laughton Brice being offered a job by one of the richest men in the country. Ms. Brice has had a rough life and is recovering from a betrayal that left her life in shambles. The rich man is Desmond Melchizedek and he’s dying, but like all rich men he wants reassurance that there’s an afterlife. He’s hired Ms. Brice to find that evidence. A seemingly impossible task, but she’s been given an endless expense account and a large sum of money to start with a promise of more when she’s done.
Melchizedek not only wants proof, he wants a man who has cheated death. He wants the Ghost who walks, the man who cannot die… The Phantom. Ms. Brice begins her journey, checking stories and cross referencing sightings until she’s lead to a prison. There she visits an inmate who was put away for murder. During his trial he claimed that the Phantom killed his men, not him. His proof is on his head as he unveils the mark of the Phantom on his forehead… the mark of a skull.
Her journey leads her to New Orleans which has become the center of several Phantom sightings since a hurricane. She interviews person after person until finding one reliable source that points her to the swamp. Low and behold she finds the Phantom and a big alligator as well. The Phantom saves her and gives her the proof of his existence that she was looking for.
This story captures the lore, the urban legend of the Phantom amazingly. It does what several writers have tried with Batman and that’s to make his existence unconfirmed. That way the people that have seen him are marked as crazy, like the prisoner. Martin Powell (Sherlock Holmes Mysteries) tells a wonderful Phantom story, where the character is treated more like a ghost than a leading man. He is the focus of the story and has several pages of action, but he truly eludes the spotlight of the issue making the lore of the character stronger.
With this series only being two issues there’s not an amazing amount of character development. Powell presents fleshed out characters that are interesting to follow and easy to latch onto.
The book is actually heavy on the action scenes with the Phantom kicking and shooting the crap out of everyone. There are several splash pages that are beautiful to look at and a credit to Hannibal King’s (The Choke) art style. The pages have a very gritty look to them, making it clear that this world is not perfect and that the Phantom is not a sunshine hero by any means. King makes an artistic choice to have fog everywhere the Phantom goes to really play on the ghost angle of his character which really works.
Yes the Phantom is a character from simpler times that runs around in purple pajamas shooting people. He was also the first character to wear a domino mask with no pupils. The character of the Phantom is still interesting and frankly he has a lot of stories left in him. After all, how can you not like a character that burns a skull into his villains? Simple answer… you can’t.
Story – 8.0
Plot – 8.0
Art – 8.0
Color – 8.0
Overall – 8.0
Even Billy Zane wishes he hadn’t made the Phantom movie. Follow Dustin on Twitter and don’t be a Phantom leave a comment.