The Phantom #11
Release Date: July 2006
What Moonstone said:
- Pages: 36 (stapled, colour)
- Price: US$3.50
- Story: Ben Raab
- Art: Rich Burchett
- Colours: Andy B.
- Lettering: Erik Enervold
- Editors: Joe Gentile & Garrett Anderson
- Cover: Doug Klauba
Comic Format Issue #11 by Ben Raab & Rick Burchett ... [sound of crickets chirping] ...
What Guran says:
As you can see from the above introduction, Moonstone seem to have done their best to bury the arrival of this comic. There was none of their usual sell-job and sales have been abysmal, with only 2426 issues sold via Diamond. This is the worst yet for Moonstone's comic series, and is 27% less than the previous low. In defence of these figures, Moonstone claim they do not represent the total sales since they exclude direct sales and exports. That's fair enough, but it still misses the point entirely. The trend in sales for The Phantom via Diamond (see right), which virtually monopolises comic book distribution in North America, is consistently downwards. Unless Moonstone have experienced miraculous sales growth via alternate distribution channels, it does not bode well for the future of these comics.
The "new creative team" built around writer Mike Bullock is due to start with issue #12 expected to be published in September (ie probably December in the real world). There has been much fanfare from Moonstone about this change (most of it from Bullock himself), prompting bizarre adulation from the sycophantic forum community who have yet to read a single word of his Phantom stories. It will be interesting to see if all the fuss amounts to anything worthy. Judging by past efforts from Moonstone, and what I've read of the first script, the chances are not good. It will be an even greater miracle if Bullock can consistently reverse the above trend!
All this is a bit of a shame because Ben Raab's final Phantom story for Moonstone is a refreshingly neat one, relatively speaking. The twins, Kit and Heloise, discover a brutal murder during a visit to the "Tougonda" tribe and decide to investigate (usually spelt "Touganda" by Falk in The Sea God from 1966 dailies, see Frew #1312). When they subsequently go missing, the Phantom tracks them to a suspicious marine salvage operation financed by the Nanamaru Corporation which is a modern front for the Singh Brotherhood ("Nanamaru" is anglicised Japanese for "Seven Circles" according to Raab's draft script, and this is the famous symbol of the Singh). The object of the salvage is the sunken Singh ship that attacked Captain Walker almost five centuries earlier, and an ancient secret is held within. The story ends with a cliffhanger which suggests there will be more stories about the Singh Brotherhood in future comics from Moonstone.
The story is supported by some strong characterisation of Kit and Heloise who manage to get themselves into and out of trouble, without relying on their father to save them. This is a welcome development with the twins, whose development in the Egmont world has stagnated after they were packed off to boarding school in the US. However, this story is not without it's odd fault. For example, the ancestor of the Phantom line is named "Christopher Walker" in this story which is strangely inconsistent with Moonstone's previous book, Legacy, where he was called "Christopher Standish". In fact both names are incorrect since Lee Falk settled on the name "Kit Walker" a long time ago. Secondly, Moonstone have carried on their unforgiveable tradition of the Phantom using his knife to deliberately wound his opponent; sorry, but this sort of thing is unacceptable in a true Phantom story.
The art for this story is simple and unobtrusive, resisting the urge to be overly stylised. It has a very open style that leaves plenty of space for colouring effects, and the story is easily followed. There are a few exceptions, such as 1) page 1, the shark teeth on the bracelets are remarkably large compared with the size of the "shark" fish they came from, 2) page 2 panel 3 where the red colour of blood in the water has been forgotten by the colourist, 3) page 17, panel 4 where the seven circles logo was missing from the scene, and 4) the odd clunky sequence as on page 19. But overall, the art and colouring was quite approachable. Even the lettering is a substantial improvement on previous issues in the comic series. Doug Klauba's cover was another nice work, featuring the Phantom and Devil creeping through the jungle in front of the skull cave. Why the Phantom has his pistol drawn in such a tranquil and protected environment is a bit of a puzzle though!