Sunday, September 2, 2012

Phantom Lady #1: Review!

As always, the writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray deliver a fresh take on two iconic Quality Comics characters, Phantom Lady and Doll Man. Amanda Conner's gorgeous cover drawing really channels the spirit of this heroine, but the interior art by Cat Staggs though competent, does little to elevate Phantom Lady's legend as a sex symbol (a lost opportunity for DC; there's a lot of fandom surrounding this character).

Robert Bender murders Jennifer's parents. From Phantom Lady #1 (2012). Art by Cat Staggs and Tom Derenick.
The new heroes are Jennifer Knight (originally Sandra Knight) and Dane Maxwell (originally Darrel Dane). Their personal lives are intertwined, having known each other since childhood. And they share a romantic connection (so no Doll Girls on the horizon here!).

Jennifer's story is similarly tied into that of her father's, Harry Knight, a renown writer for the Daily Planet. When Jen was six, Knight's stories about Robert Bender, head of the Bender crime family, earned him and his wife a ticket to early graves.

Like so many super-heroes, Jennifer became motivated by grief and so she took up her father's former profession and became a journalist herself. She was so bold as to go after the family's new boss, Cyrus Bender, widely considered to have killed his own father. Her byline appeared mostly on stories about Metropolis nightlife, but she wrote about the Benders anonymously. They found her out, threatened her, and beat her friend. In the commotion, she stole Cyrus's cell phone and took it directly to her number one confidant—Dane Maxwell.

Jennifer and her oldest friend
(and occasional lover),
inventor Dane Maxwell.
Maxwell was a technological genius with a lab headquartered in his own junkyard.  The two of them have an off-and-on sexual relationship (and some unrequited feelings from Dane). Jennifer had Dane hack the phone and he discovered video of Cyrus murdering his father. Knowing that this kind of information could get Jen killed, he mailed the phone back to Bender and copied the video. But foolishly, he'd used the phone and the Benders tracked them down to the junkyard

Bender's men shot Jennifer in the leg and Dane retreated inside one of his experiments—a bulletproof cell made to test the process of miniaturization. The thugs turned on the machine and Dane apparently disappeared into smoke. They left with Jennifer and Dane emerged—shrunken to no more than six inches tall.


It's unclear from the story whether Dane was the inventor of Phantom Lady's "black light gloves," but they are formidable. The gloves give her the ability to manipulate and move within shadows (and mirrors much of what her immediate predecessor could do). She can create, mold, and bend shadows to her will using her gauntlets. They can become solid, malleable, and also allow her to "shadow slide" between locations via the darkness. The void in between is void of all emotion save sadness.  This is very similar to the powers of DC's other  heroine, Nightshade (originally a Charlton character).

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