The Best of Pantha: The Warren Stories HC (Dynamite)

Pantha

Rating: 3/5 – A Nice Companion Piece to All Those Vampirella Archive Trades.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.

If, like me, you’re investing your time, money, and all those years of weight training at the gym in those hernia-inducing Vampirella Archive volumes from Dynamite, you might not be as interested in picking up this collection/companion piece comprising the best of Warren’s Pantha stories. However, if you’re a completist or just want a separate collection of the tales, you won’t be disappointed by this compendium. One, it’s much lighter than the Vampirella tomes, coming in at around half the page count. Two, it hand picks the stories that best tie together Pantha’s byzantine backstory. Whether or not it succeeds in that task is up to the reader. Either way, the journey is worth it, even if nothing is discovered.

Many of us grew up with that relative who came from a different age, and whose mannerisms, beliefs, and speech were simply shrugged off as being a product of that earlier era. The first eight or so stories in this collection work along that same vein. Not that any of the Vampirella books were designed for children – young lads coming of age, maybe, but definitely not children – but the Pantha stories in particular tended to push the envelope a bit. The titular character works as a stripper, has a bit of a homophobic/racist streak in her, and gets wrapped up in a very confusing and unresolved rape sequence during the early stories. Were it not for the amazing artwork from Auraleon, readers may find it very difficult to work through them, and some may still find it so. Proceed with caution, and remember that older relative when you start this book.

Fortunately Jose Ortiz and writer Rich Margopoulos take over in the later stories, and fans of the more modern Vampi tales will see a few familiar faces in the form of Adam Van Helsing and his father as they assist her in a quest very similar to Vampirella’s…who is she and where did she come from? Is she, like Vampi, a castoff of the distant planet Drakulon, and part of a race of cat-creatures who crash landed in ancient Egypt? Or does she have ties to the goddess Bast herself? The book provides few actual answers but throws in a different possibility with each new writer. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that – origin stories are usually subject to change at any moment in any story – but readers may find themselves scratching their heads as they try to figure out which story is the “true” one. My advice? Just relax and enjoy the artwork.

And what great artwork it is. As mentioned previously, Auraleon’s work distracts nicely from some of the harsher elements of the early stories, while Leo Duranona and Atox fill in nicely with the two-part “Annubis” storyline until Jose Ortiz can bat cleanup for the rest of the book. The story “Death Snare” alone is with the price of admission, with Ortiz blending the mystic surrealism of Pantha with costumes straight out of the old Flash Gordon/John Carter comics.

Pantha exists as a bit more than just Vampirella’s sidekick, possessing a strong enough presence to warrant a collection of her own tales. The early stories may strike newcomers to the Vampirella universe as a bit rough, perhaps even a bit confusing at times, but Pantha’s story is well worth sticking with, particularly towards the end of this volume where the art and words really combine to make for excellence in comics. While this collection won’t necessarily be for everyone, those looking to round out their Vampi collections will welcome this volume to their shelves.

Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
(al@comicspectrum.com
)
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