TRINITY OF SIN- THE PHANTOM STRANGER VOL. 2: BREACH OF FAITH (DC, 2014; Softcover)
Collects The Phantom Stranger Nos. 6-8 and Trinity Of Sin: The Phantom Stranger Nos. 9-11 (cover dates May- October, 2013)
Writers: Dan DiDio (plot) and J.M. DeMatteis (script)
Artists: Gene Ha, Fernando Blanco, Philip Tan, Zander Cannon, Dan Davis, Andrew Pepoy, and Jason Paz.
Colorists: Art Lyon, Ulises Arreola, and Brad Anderson
News of this series being cancelled hit the airwaves of the Internet as I was finishing this book up. It doesn't surprise me that this series is being cancelled, as The Phantom Stranger has never had much luck in terms of long term popularity. While it doesn't surprise me, the news does disappoint me, because with a little bit of a push, DiDio and DeMatteis could have moved this into some really deep emotional territory.
As finally revealed in Volume 1 of this reboot, The Phantom Stranger is really Judas Iscariot, doomed to wander the Earth trying to right enough wrongs as his penance for betraying Jesus Christ. This really puts an interesting spin on the character. There is a wrinkle in it, though, as while doing his duties he takes over the life of Philip Stark, a serial killer who was planning on killing his family when The Phantom Stranger paid a visit. The Stranger desperately wants to be with his adopted family. This is touched upon but a deeper probe of these scenarios, away from the DC Universe at large, coupled with the macabre could have made this series something very special. Instead it is merely a good read.
Then there is the rest. The God/dog entity who seems to both lead and torment The Phantom Stranger is interesting. I kind of hope that they never reveal if the dog is God or merely a servant or angel. The rebooted Doctor Thirteen is the weak link in this chain. I am not feeling it at all, and he seems to only be here for name recognition and the old timer Easter egg factor. Nightmare Nurse seems to be little more than cosplay fodder, something that DC seems to cater to with all of their female character costumes.
Things go well enough in this book until you hit the speed bump that is issue 11, which is part of the Trinity War crossover (available in the Justice League: Trinity War hardcover). While I am glad that it was included here as well, it would have benefited from one of those Marvel-style text recap pages before the issue to help bring the reader up to speed. All of a sudden Batman, Deadman, and Katana are journeying through a limbo of sorts with The Phantom Stranger and you are left scratching your head. Crossovers suck. Endless line wide crossovers interrupted by intermittent “family”/group titles suck even more. These things suck the life out of titles and fans tend to get tired of them and jump ship. The endless series reboots of the past few years should demonstrate why none of these things are good long term solutions to declining readership. In short, the reason why Image is gobbling up DC's market share at an alarming rate is because they don't demand fans buy eighteen different titles to get a complete story. An average fan could buy only Saga or The Walking Dead and go home happy. There is a lesson to be learned here. A shared universe is great. One that demands that fans spend tons of money on it just to barely keep up is a barrier to entry.
Issue 11 aside, this was a fine read with decent artwork by a slew of different artists. It somehow did not feel disjointed, so kudos to all for that. If you have ever been a fan of The Phantom Stranger then this should be right up your alley. I just wish that DC would do an Archives line of the old series.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.
The OCD zone- The branding of this title is confusing, even to a hardcore comic fan like myself. No wonder it scared off any potential casual fans and this series was cancelled with issue 22. I wonder if DC will bother collecting the last 11 issues in one chunky book, two separate trades, or not at all.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Gallery- The Phantom Stranger by Fernando Blanco (2 pages)
Zauriel by Mikel Janin (3 pages)
Paper rating: 4.25 out of 5. Good weight glossy coated stock, perfect for material with modern computer coloring.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Nice thick waxlike lamination which will hold up with repeated handling.