Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger Volume 1: A Stranger Among Us
Collecting Phantom Stranger #0-5
Writer: Dan DiDio
Artists: Brent Anderson, Philip Tan
DC Comics, $14.99, color, 144 pages
There is absolutely nothing I like about this book. But two things stand out:
The Phantom Stranger, instead of being a mysterious do-gooder with multiple possible origins, now just has one: He's Judas Iscariot.
This is a bad idea, for two reasons.
For one thing, a great many story possibilities have been reduced to one. Secondly, establishing the Jesus Christ story as the one, true religion in the DC Universe also reduces story possibilities. But in addition you are essentially excluding the one out of four Americans who do not self-identify as Christian.
What kind of publisher closes the door on 25 percent of his potential audience? A bad one. What kind of Christian says only his religion is the true one? An arrogant one. None of this makes the book attractive.
The other problem is that the Stranger is simply unlikeable. He is forced to do various acts he is assigned to work off the 30 pieces of silver he received for betraying Jesus, which he now wears as a necklace. So he never does anything out of altruism; his every act is selfish. This is supposedly to teach him the folly of greed. (Um, what?) And when we meet him, he is acting in defense of his family. Which, we found out, he stole from somebody else. So even in defense of family he is a creep.
So, tell me, why should I root for this guy? Why should I feel sorry for Judas? Why should I read about him following somebody else's orders, when even those acts are selfish?
And, oh yeah, he just got his innocent babysitter killed while he was off on a selfish mission.
I feel dirty just reading this book.
I bought the first issue of this, and I couldn't finish it. I like all of the creators, but I did not enjoy any of this book. I'm going to assume it got at least a little better. All I know is that I don't really care, because after hitting the ground and then just lying there instead of running, I don't want to give PS another dime of my money.
The very idea of giving the Phantom Stranger any sort of definitive origin ruins him as a character. The best part about him before this was that he was extremely mysterious--he may not have known who he was himself--and now he's jsut another guy.
I don't know about whether this defines Christianity as the sole true religion of the DC universe, as it seems as if the various pantheons have always co-existed in some way. If Wonder Woman can be allied and opposed by the Greek deities, why not have a Spectre and a Judas Iscariot?
Still, no getting around the lack of likeability. The idea that he's working off a debt rather than doing what he does altruistically is off-putting.
My first comic ever was Justice League of America #103 which, of course, guest-starred the Phantom Stranger. I have his complete 41 issue run and the two Showcase Presents. I was happy that he was going to be part of the DCnU but I really disliked this book! The motivations, the deceptions and the outright apathy towards any of the characters made me drop the book after three issues. And I rarely do that.
I have to agree with Randy. While I find the premise of the series destructive of the character and a poor foundation for a series, I don't feel like it says Christianity is the "one true religion"... quite the opposite. It says that we'll be treating Christianity as another fictional belief system that we'll mine for stories. I've always felt a little queasy when I see aspects of the Hindu faith treated as fictional myths and now it seems Christianity is set to receive the same treatment... and sadly, not even in the service of a good story.
Yeah, because not only is The Phantom Stranger not really a phantom, he's not a stranger: We know exactly who he is.
As Randy said (and I was trying to say), that ruins him as a character. Instead of being an interesting, mysterious guy, he is a SPECIFIC guy, who is not only one of the worst people in history in at least three major religions, but one who is pretty much getting what he deserves, and hasn't shown any reason for us to think otherwise.