King: The Phantom #1 (Comics Review)

Last year Dynamite closed out its Kings Watch mini-series, which brought together three of the greatest pulp-era comic-strip heroes Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician in an effort to combat an invasion of Earth by Ming the Merciless of Mongo. The extra-dimensional war took its toll on the heroes and the villain alike, and by the time we were done with it all, Earth had been saved, but the planet’s technological level had been set back considerably and while the resultant Flash Gordon series has been moving along at a very good clip, we haven’t seen anything with either Mandrake or The Phantom. Until now.

King: The Phantom #1 deals with the immediate aftermath of Kings Watch and we see how Lothar deals with carrying on The Phantom’s legacy in Bangalla. Before the end of Kings Watch, Lothar Kehwabe was a friend and ally to the twenty-second Phantom, and following his friend’s death, he became the next Phantom although only temporarily, until the actual Walker heir can be found. And writer Brian Clevinger does a great job with portraying Lothar as Phantom. A really incredible story of how Lothar carries out his duties as The Phantom, and the art by Brent Schoonover and Robt Snyder follows that incredibleness.

King - The Phantom 001

Aside from portraying Lothar as Phantom, Brian also adds in the Bandar warrior Guran, who helps Lothar understand and fulfill his duties as Phantom. The two have some really great chemistry and it is quite apparent from the get go that these two are going to redefine what it means to be the Ghost Who Walks, the guardian of Bangalla. I’ve read a lot of Phantom stories in the last couple years or so, and most have impressed me quite a bit. This new series by Dynamite definitely stands at the top of the pack in that regard.

Lothar’s inner reluctance to properly embrace the heritage of the Ghost Who Walks is perhaps one of the coolest things about this new series. To him, it is an obligation that he must fulfill to carry out his friend’s dying request. In effect, he is just the caretaker of the property and little more. But then, that is what makes him so fascinating. He might not be the “proper” hero he is meant to be in his own eyes, but he is just as damn good as any of the others who have borne that responsibility ever since Christopher Walker became the first Phantom some four hundred years ago. He is just as much a credit to the title as any of them.

And then there is Guran himself, the source of much levity in the issue and also an able sidekick who also functions as kind of Lothar’s tech-specialist, though the Phantom doesn’t exactly need much in the way of advanced tech. Regardless, Guran is a great character and he really comes into his own in the second half of the issue when the two are trying to find out why there are so many mercenaries coming into the country.

Finally there is reporter Jen Harris, an analogue to Dale Arden from the Flash Gordon series. She is the Vicki Vale to The Phantom’s Batman, or Lois Lane for Superman. She has spunk and grit and is unafraid to ask the tough question and doesn’t give in to fear. I really liked her character. Still early days since she’s a new character I believe, but I definitely enjoyed her scenes here and she has some great potential, especially given how the issue ends.

Ultimately, what I see here is that Brian has a great handle on the characters and is invested in telling a great action-adventure.

Brent is the artist here with Robt on colours, Simon Bowland on the letters and Darwyn Cooke on the cover. I liked the artwork here. It is a bit simplistic in places, but detailed in others and it has a nice smoothness to it in certain pages, where it all flows together really well. I was expecting a little bit of dark moodiness to the art since The Phantom is kind of a brutal hero, but all the same, Brent’s lines and Robt’s colours do much to clearly set out the world of a character I grew up reading about, and I like that level of familiarity.

Definitely one of the most promising new series out this year!

Rating: 9/10

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