Friday, December 16, 2016

The Phantom: Ghost Who Walks #1 (1995)

Ah, the 90's, an interesting time for comics! A mixed bag, really. After the last few adventures, I wanted to move up in time a bit, and look at something a little different. I settled on this 1995 Marvel Comics mini-series for a couple was published about 30 years after the Gold Key adventures I'd been covering and, to be very honest, like many 90's comics I had mixed feelings about it at the time. Now with 20 years between its publication (and my first reading) let's see how I feel about "The Phantom: Ghost Who Walks" #1, written by Dave deVries and drawn by Glenn Lumsden.

Chief Tshanga arrives for a late night meeting at the home of President Luaga of Bangala. Tshanga passionately argues that his people need the proposed Kataba Mining Project, unfortunately Luaga has promised the people living on the land for the project that he will veto the plan.

After the Chief leaves, the President walks outside, talking through his dilemma by a native statue...when suddenly a woman who bears a striking resemblance to the statue and a pack of wolves advising him to honor his pledge.

In New York another mysterious visitation takes place. Matthew Abbot returns home with a woman of questionable morals, only to find a man named Mars waiting for him. Mars quickly escorts the woman to the door before discussing business with Abbot. It seems that Abbot was ready yto sell his interest in Kataba Mining. Mars would prefer he give that control to Morton Hampton, and he makes his point with some well placed punches.

A week later, there's a big soiree at the Hampton Estate and among the guests...Christopher "Kit" Walker. Mr. Walker is a distant cousin of Mr. Hampton, and has been buying up stock in Hampton Industries in effort to secure a spot on their board. Hampton introduces Kit to Katherine Hawkins, a corporate investigator involved in the Kataba Mining Project. She is pro-mining, he is against the project. 

Before the conversation gets too heated, Kit excuses himself...just as a General enters the party. The General and Hampton retire to a private room to discuss the mining operation. It seems there are three local factors at play. The Kataba are loyal to the General, and he's confident the city of Stanley will fall in line. The wildcard will be the hill people...which is where Mr. Mars comes in!

Later that evening, the Phantom breaks into the Hampton estate, or more specifically he breaks in through a window in the room Ms. Hawkins is sleeping in. Mars responds to her screams, but the Phantom is already gone. When he reports back to Hampton and the General that she said she saw a man in purple tights, the General seems a bit shaken. 

Assured that the guards are searching the grounds and house, they retire for the night. That's just the opportunity the Phantom needs to get access to a hidden safe and recover the proxy signed by Abbot. Using hi-tech gauntlets that enable his mask with infrared lenses and quickly hack the combination code for the safe, he makes fast work of it...too bad he wasn't expecting Ms. Hawkins to surprise him with a gun. Leaping through a nearby window he rushes past the guards outside with Mars quickly on his heels.

What follows is a car chase that would look great on the big (or even small) screen. The Ghost Who Drives leads the chase into the city, and near the docks, in attempt to lose his pursuer but Mars is undeterred. 

Pulling a machine gun, Mars blows out the tires on the Phantom's car, causing the vehicle to flip . When he approaches though, the Phantom is gone...but a trail of blood leads away from the crash. The wounded hero easily dispatches one of Mars men, but is attacked from behind by another. 

Even with the odds against him the Phantom manages to take out the second thug...only to find himself staring down the barrel of Mars' gun. Mars tells The Ghost Who Walks he'll let him walk if he hands over the papers, and if he doesn't he'll just visit Abbot again. The Phantom refuses and gets shot for his trouble.

Two weeks later Abbot is lounging on a beach in Bali speaking with his cousin by phone. He ducked out of town before Mars could find him. Apparently the price of the Kataba Mining shares has dropped to an all time low, and are now frozen until a buyer can be found. While in Kataba, the General arrives by plane, greeted by Chief Tshanga

I debated holding my commentary until issue #3, but I do have a couple quick notes. I think one of the things that bothered me the first time I read this was that it was dense. There's a lot of story crammed in this first issue, a lot of set up and introductions...and even then it's not all 100% clear. There's also surprisingly little of the Phantom here. He doesn't show up till about a third of the way in, has little to no dialog and then is seemingly killed. It's an odd way to kick things off...but also very intriguing! See you next month for issue #2!

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