Before I get into the book proper the prologue had me thinking about something. First off the book opens with an amazing prologue. It is a drastic art change and very welcomed, I was kind of hoping for a new tone for the series because this art was dynamic, bright, it was big, it felt superhero-y. I really liked it, it was a brief glimpse into the Kings Watch (King Dynamites super-team) taking out Ming and the sacrifice of the last Phantom. But in that prologue it mentions the Walkers and how white guy Walker ended up in Africa and created a line of white guys who protected Africa. Does anyone else find that a little fucked up? Clearly the writers of Phantom think that because it does get concept checked at the end of the issue. As for the issue proper. I don’t know man. They’re keeping the cut-aways, which is fine because they are mostly funny and it is something the book does well but as a result they’re keeping the weird time displacement of flashing forward in order to flashback. I don’t know if you necessarily need to do that to facilitate the cut-aways. I feel you could present a scene and then by introducing a cut-away you establish something happening earlier. I don’t really know if you need to jump around in time so much.
However, the character writing is still solid, the story writing was a bit thin, the premise kind of rushed. I think, to hide the flaws. But the characters each have their own voices and personalities and they are all likable which is appreciated. At the end of the issue you have black African Lothar, white American Jen and native Bandaran Guran standing side by side with Lothar stating that “We are the Phantom” which is a nice little symbol of unity. By the end, the book kind of recognizes how weird it is that a foreign white guy has always been the protector of Africa and provides a new, united, multi-racial/multi-cultural protector. I liked it anyway.
I do want to talk about the art though. That opening was great, it was everything I said above. It just totally changed my feelings towards the book, I immediately began to re-think my opinion of the whole series because I’m easily influenced like that, I react well to visual stimuli. Then we crash landed to the same old art and it made the regular art feel so grey and colorless. It made me really notice things that I may not have noticed before.
There is a crowd scene in a boardroom and the artist just neglects to draw faces. Faces of people we should recognize and in one case a face of a main character with a speech bubble. The basic outline of that person tells me it might be Jen and the voice bubble is communicating something plot related that only one of our three mains would know so it must be her, but I wouldn’t know that if I wasn’t paying attention. I don’t like having to notice the mechanics.
When something is done well, in my mind, it flows like a movie. I don’t notice the panels or pages, I don’t notice the speech bubbles or the onomatopoeia but I do notice when something pulls me out of that Zen. After seeing that great art at the beginning I really started to see how frayed and drab the regular art is. It just seems that the only colors are muted browns, blues, whites and purples. Not even vibrant versions of those colors, just echoes of colors. In my head it just feels very monochromatic almost. Having said all that I can barely draw a stick figure so I feel like an asshole telling a professional I don’t like his art. Dudes got a job so he’s doing something right.
My final thoughts on this book is that it’s had four issues to get it’s shit together and just now I’m kind of seeing some shit come together. There isn’t really enough here for me to recommend this book unless you’ve been following along the whole time and it doesn’t carry enough weight for me to recommend getting back issues to get caught up. The writing and art are serviceable, I enjoyed my time this month with The Phantom but is it enough to draw interest? I would argue that it’s not, but with the end of this arc perhaps a new arc with more purpose will draw that interest.
King: Phantom #4 ( of 4) Writers: Brian Clevinger/Jeff Parker Artists: Ryan Cody/Marc Laming Colorists: Robt Snyder/Jordan Boyd Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Price: $3.99 Release Date: 7/15/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital