Lightning Strike Comics released issue #2 in their new Phantom regular series just before Christmas, featuring a striking cover image by Australian artist Jamie Johnson.
ChronicleChamber has been fortunate enough to view an advance copy of the story and overall, we loved it.
We enjoy seeing artists push their style, and after seeing Jamie’s more gritty and dark covers for Frew, his use of Copic markers for this cover is a point of difference among artists today and creates a striking effect.
Anyone who follows Jamie on social media would have seen the two versions (the brighter and the more muted). Our vote is that choosing this version for the final front cover is pure gold from the editorial team. It fulfills its mission of grabbing your attention with the white background, Try telling that Phantom you are not going to buy the issue – we dare you!
The brighter version appears on the rear cover for those who may not agree.
The story itself is compelling. While some readers may be disappointed not to see the conclusion of the tale begun in #1 (that is not due until #4!), this issue stands up as its own narrative set in the same universe. Using a theme that will be familiar to mid- and long-term readers of the character, this is inescapably a truly Phantom story.
One element that we particularly enjoyed was the way the writer Arild Wærness addressed one of the character's biggest problems in today's ‘enlightened’ society, with the preconceived view from ignorant people (usually not actual readers) that the Phantom is the ‘Lord of the Jungle’ and rules over the natives. From a poignant scene:
Gunnar Wulff asks, “What are you, King of the Jungle?”.
The Phantom replies, “I’m no King, you confuse the servant with the master.”
The rest of the story could have been rubbish (it's not) and we would still be praising the creative team. Too often ‘comic experts’ do not understand the character and they raise this ‘problem’ in their critiques. This one line addresses and answers it.
Arild is a very well credentialed writer and while this is his first foray into the Deep Woods, he obviously has a strong understanding of the character. Several other Phantom tropes are added into the story with references to Lee Falk stories The Hanta Witch and The Wasaka Demon.
There is also a distinctly traditional feel, reminiscent of the Ray Moore era, with the Phantom making small talk and wisecracks during the fight scenes.
It should be said that this story is a slightly denser read than issue #1, but this does not make it a drag to read. It is still very fast paced and artist Mike Collins uses larger frames to help create the pace.
Some phans may not enjoy the interior colouring (for instance on page 15) but that is a real nit-pick and a matter of individual taste. It does not take anything away from the comic.
It's safe to say we are excited with what Lightning Strike is producing. The high quality in #2 builds on the great start in #1 and we are already looking forward to #3. While they my not be conveniently located on your newsagent shelf, it is worth your effort to order your copy from the Lightning Strike website here.
We have been told that the ongoing delays with shipping have been sorted and Australian phans will receive their orders much quicker than in the past. We have also been informed that Australian stores like Phantom's Vault will be receiving their copies in the first half of January 2019.
Thank you to the team at Lightning Strike for the advance copy of #2.