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for Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Phantom 17

"Ripped from the headlines" was the phrase used in the direct market solicitation for Moonstone's THE PHANTOM #17-19. If only that were truly the case.

In "Invisible Children," the Phantom seeks to rescue some of the thousands of children seized by warlords, indoctrinated, and forced to fight as soldiers in seemingly endless wars. Tragically, in the U.S.A. - and in the rest of the world - the ongoing atrocity doesn't command the headlines it should.

In these comics, Moonstone and writer Mike Bullock address that shocking failure of the news media and our governments. Each issue was offered with two covers: a regular cover at $3.50 and a limited cover at $4.50. For every limited edition Moonstone sells, it makes a donation to Invisible Children, an organization which works to increase awareness of this situation and also create safe havens (food, health care, education) for the young victims of these vicious warlords. The cover shown above is by Darryl Banks, Terry Austin, and Bob Pedroza and is one of the three covers they produced for the limited editions.

One of the challenges of writing good Phantoms stories is that the legendary hero is so good at what he does. He's trained to be the Phantom all his life. He's smarter than the smarties and he's tougher than the toughies. He rarely goes into battle unprepared. In this trilogy, the Phantom is all of the above, but Bullock still manages to put him in convincing jeopardy by pitting him against a seemingly overwhelming number of foes. Watching the Phantom battle such odds is exciting, as is watching the unfolding of his strategy to dethrone the warlord known only as Him. Kudos should also go to artist Silvestre Szilagyi and colorist Pedroza, who do a terrific job fulfilling their respective roles.

If I have a quibble with the story - and I do - it is that its final page upends the closure the trilogy should have had...for the sake of setting up a future story. This sort of stealth promotion is common in comics, but here it undermines, however slightly, the loftier goals of these issues.

Bonus text features in these issues include information on the Invisible Children organization, interviews with the organization and Bullock, and historical commentary by Ed Rhoades, perhaps the most knowledgeable Phantom fan of us all. All the title lacks in this regard is a letters column.

The Phantom #17-19 earn four our of five Tonys apiece. This title is one of the few standard-size comics I buy regularly. Moonstone is definitely doing right by Lee Falk's classic creation, and that keeps me coming back issue after issue.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

You can learn more about Invisible Children by visiting the organization's website at:

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back soon with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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