The Phantom The Complete Series: The Gold Key Years Volume 1 (Hermes Press)


Rating: 3/5 – Loved the Art But the Stories Felt Really Dated.
by guest reviewer Asher Turnaround.
Collecting The Phantom #1-8 published by Gold Key.

My first exposure to the Phantom character was when I was a little kid watching Defenders of the Earth, and the memory of the ghost who walks stuck with me through the Phantom 2040 animated series (which I loved) and the movie, but I never really read any of the comics. Recognizing this as a personal failure, I snatched this up digitally via Comixology (it’s Out of Print & selling for big $$ on Amazon):

Turns out this collection is a remix of sorts, as Gold key re-drew, and re-scripted the Phantom strips from the newspaper and crafted them into something more. With a flourish of heavy line and a splash of color something new emerged.  It’s a fast and somewhat meaty read that grabbed my attention and hope early on with the introduction. The legend of the Walker line was familiar; its pulpy roots kind of ensure that by making it an easily digestible premise. It’s a generational story of enduring justice and revenge that spans generations intrigued me. I really like the idea of heroic lineage, and while these Walkers don’t have the animal man like powers presented in the Defenders cartoon, it more than makes up for it with gorgeous artwork by Bill Lignante that holds up even now, though more than once the dialogue doesn’t.

The George Wilson covers interspersed are the biggest standouts with their lush dynamic snapshots of the ghost who walks in all his pulpy glory.  It’s the story that loses me at times. While I did get into the idea that the Phantom has his allies in the jungle who keep his legend alive, they started to lose their charm after a while beneath the density of the collection. Given its age it’s hard for me not to force myself to rate the work by the standards of a different time, especially a time I didn’t live through. But alas, I can’t.

If you want to get a glimpse into a more primordial age of comics, especially with its done-in-one high adventure that more comics should aspire to be, this is the book for you. For everyone else I counsel caution as the work starts to feel a little dated and depthless compared to more modern comics and you may struggle to view the work through the lens of the time for which it was written…   For me, in the end, it was a bit of a struggle.

I want the Ghost Who Walks to be more, and that leaves me torn. This material was clearly pulpy and of its time, and the art is tremendous, but I can’t help feeling this old warhorse doesn’t hold up as well as its more noteworthy relatives do, especially in a modern context

Guest Reviewer: Asher L. Turnaround Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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