In the last week, the highly anticipated second original series from Hermes Press The Phantom: President Kennedy's Mission has finally become available via their website, other internet sellers, and has even arrived physically in comic book stores around the world.
The 20-page comic is the first in a five-part series, and sets the tone for high adventure to come. Ron Goulart's story starts in the Pacific theatre of World War II, where a young John F. Kennedy (future President and one-time dance partner of Diana Palmer) is shipwrecked then rescued with the help of a certain Kit Walker, who is working with the US military.
As a seafarer, Jack Kennedy has of course heard of the Ghost Who Walks, and soon discovers that Kit is a contact point for the "possibly mythical Phantom". Fast forward 20 years and the now leader of the free world calls on his ageless friend Kit when two astronauts crash into the ocean near Bangalla. He needs The Phantom's help.
Before long the plot thickens as star journalists, Russian agents, hired goons, Singh pirates and a mysterious femme fatale are all involved in the action. True to form, it isn't long before Diana's safety is under threat back in America, while The Phantom and his trusted friend Guran begin their search for the astronauts.
The art of Sean Joyce (pencils), Malena Molina (inks) and Jorge Cortez (colours) is strong and vibrant, with almost every panel worthy of a cover image in another publication.
A fast-paced and action packed story, this really sets up for an exciting second episode.
While there is certainly a lot to like in this new Phantom story, critical readers may have concerns with the size and shade of some of the dialogue font, which can be a strain to read at times, and there are a number of spelling errors and punctuation gremlins that have somehow made it through the production process.
There are also some scenes or images that may concern readers who prefer their Phantom to be lithe and lean: Joyce's Phantom is certainly of the more muscular variety.
However, overall this is an exciting new series with beautiful artwork and a plot line and character suite that shows great promise. President Kennedy's Mission is a very welcome addition to the Phantom landscape.
The fact that the books are available through normal retail outlets is a massive boon for Australian phans, who were denied easy access to Hermes' first series almost three years ago, when Frew asserted their distribution rights in Australia and refused entry to the American-produced comic.
While no one is quite sure what has caused the change of heart at Frew - perhaps no one is asking because we don't want to poke the bear - we're all certainly pleased with the result!