Monday, July 7, 2014

Phantom Stranger #21 Review and *SPOILERS*

Written By: J.M. DeMatteis
Art By: Fernando Blanco, Cliff Richards
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: July 2, 2014

Breaking The Law, Breaking The Law...... Of God

When we last walked into the weird world of Phantom Stranger, he and Spectre were taking out some
garbage in the form of The Sin Eater, down in Heaven's Basement.  It was one of those ultimate bad guy moments where Sin Eater and his dog master Non planned on collecting an army of souls that weren't ready to move on, and creating cracks in reality that would eventually cause Heaven's Basement to collapse, and cause Heaven to crash it's dimension into Earth, destroying both worlds.  It makes sense if you think about it metaphysically.  But that won't be a problem now because our heroes prevailed, and after Sin Eater's mind was consumed by the souls that cling to life, Phantom Stranger carried him away to hopefully get the redemption he believes he will eventually deserve himself.  While all the hubbub was going on in Heaven's Basement, Zauriel the Archangel who suffered greatly during Project Thaumaton died, leaving Dr. Thirteen wondering what to do now that an angel has died on his property.  So let's check out this story while we still have a Phantom Stranger to talk about.

Explain It!:

The story begins with Phantom Stranger taking the body of The Sin Eater to his old pal Chris Esperanza, who is now better known as the Spirit of Redemption.  It seems like now Chris is juggling the responsibilities of being a teenager and an agent of god, kind of like Jim Corrigan tackled being a detective with being The Spectre.  Shit I was just worried about getting out of detention in time to catch Beast Wars when I was in school.  Chris drops his homework, transforms into The Spirit of Redemption, and the three fly off to his ethereal hangout known as "The Temple Of Absolution".  I guess from the name we can suspect that Sin Eater will be cleansed and be a villain no more.  Phantom Stranger on the other hand isn't allowed inside, and even though he appears a little jealous, he knows that his journey isn't finished yet.  Time to go back and check in on Dr. Thirteen and Zauriel.

Phantom Stranger is shocked to find Zauriel dead, but is even more shocked to find a host of fallen angels at his bedside.  The Stranger is puzzled by these angels because when he asks "How can an angel die?", he is told that all the angels there have died.  The group and the body of Zauriel are then transported to the Utah desert, to the home of the fallen angels, Empyrea.  It's nice to see that somebody has a use for Utah.  Alright so dig this, the group of fallen angels that came for Zauriel's body are known as "The Mercy".  They became fallen because they came to earth because of how much they love humans and want to help them.  But then there are "The Cursed" who align themselves with the darkness, and really don't sound all that pleasant.  Then there are "The Sybarites" who apparently became fallen angels simply because they wanted to fuck...... a lot.  So there are the three groups of fallen angels, and it's time for Zauriel's funeral.  You know the kind of funeral that bring angels back to life.

Phantom Stranger is handed a torch and puts it to Zauriel's funeral pyre, Zauriel is cremated and his ashes fly off into the night.  The Mercy continue to talk in riddles about how it's time to bring him back to life and see what faction of fallen angel he'll become.  Dr. Thirteen argues that Zauriel was a messenger of god, and not a fallen angel, and finally we get the story on what's going on.  It's shocking to hear that Zauriel was Phantom Stranger's guardian angel all throughout his life even when he became one of the Trinity of Sin.  Zauriel loved Phantom Stranger and only wanted the best for him, so when it was time to fight Blight Zauriel wasn't given god's permission to join the Justice League Dark, he did it on his own ultimately damning him to fall.  But to save his soul now someone has to be his human champion.  After hearing that his betrayal of the lamb, and then the suffering that he endured wasn't his alone to witness and bear, Phantom Stranger pretty much says "sucks to be him", and vanishes.  Well he said something a little more Phantom Strangery.  But Dr. Thirteen isn't going to let Zauriel die so he takes on the role of champion.  Which means he's going to have to survive in the desert with a pack of "The Cursed" fallen angels looking to gut him open.  His plan is a simple one, he just runs.  So in the future if you ever need a champion, make sure you treat Dr. Thirteen like a fat kid in gym class and pick him last.

In the end Phantom Stranger realizes that he was being a bit of a dick and returns right in time to rescue Dr. Thirteen from "The Cursed", and proclaims himself Zauriel's champion.  That would be all fine and dandy if Phantom Stranger just had to take on "The Cursed", but now that he's the champion, it seems that he has to fight someone in his own weight class.  But I still think the fight is a little one sided when we see his opponent in the distance, and it appears to be god in the form of a tornado.  You can really understand how Phantom Stranger only has one issue left with those kind of odds stacked against him.  See you next month for the match of the century where we find out the fate of Zauriel's soul.  Do angels have souls?

Bits and Pieces:

I'm getting really sad that Phantom Stranger's solo title is on the way out, because man did I ever fall in love with this character.  I blame DeMatteis, but I guess I've been a good boy this year because that master of spooky is taking on the Trinity of Sin book in October, and I couldn't be happier about that.  But getting back to this book, it features heavily on getting Zauriel a new status-quo in the New 52, hopefully to give him a place to go after this book is finished, and it's a real touching story that creates a whole new dynamic for this relatively one dimensional character.  You should check it out and let DeMatteis touch you the way he's touched me, don't worry you'll like it.


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