Sunday, September 30, 2012

Phantom Lady #2: Review!

If DC is planning to relaunch the Freedom Fighters, they're going to have to amp things up. Here I can't help compare Phantom Lady to the advance sketches for Grant Morrison's Multiversity (starring DC's Charlton characters). Even without words, I can sense that something bold is in store for readers—while casting lower-tier characters. What's to lose, after all? In reviving characters outside of the DC mainstream, I've admired great works like Darwyn Cooke's Spirit, Azzarello's First Wave, and some of the recent Red Circle/Archie licensing written by Straczynski. 

Why bother to write any B-list (or lower) property conservatively? Isn't it precisely these characters who benefit from breakthrough storytelling and characterization? They've less to prove, and fewer expectations to which they must adhere. Palmiotti and Gray's very earliest reinterpretation of the Freedom Fighters did exactly this. Their Stormy Knight was a layered Phantom Lady; their Human Bomb was sleek and tragic; the Black Condor leapt off the page with power. Was it wrong of DC to return to the same well so soon, for the DCnU version?

... Last month, Jennifer Knight had been abducted by her quarry, Cyrus Bender, and Dane Maxwell had become the victim of his own experiment—shrunk to the size of a doll! ...

Bender tortured Jennifer instead of killing her. When he and his men left, Dane came to her rescue—in costume, sporting a mask and armor outfitted with a jet pack and laser weapons. When they returned to his lab, he bestowed her with weapons of her own. One that allows her to become intangible. The others were gauntlets controlled by a neural interace woven into the hood of her uniform. With them, she could fashion shadowy matter into any form.

Doll Man's debut, from Phantom Lady #2 (2012).
Art by Cat Staggs and Tom Derenick.
The two spent some time at Calvin City Lake where they trained and Jennifer coined her own codename: Phantom Lady. In turn she suggested some for Dane, settling on Doll Man because his clothes were made for dolls (he doesn't like it). While sparring, Dane experienced the nature of her shadows: like death, a different plane, claustrophobic.

After they began their costumed campaign against the Benders, Cyrus hired his own meta-muscle: Funerella. Notes: Calvin City was the home of the Golden Age Atom. Funerella was a villain in the 2010 Freedom Fighters series; she looks the same here. (#2)

The art is a little bit better in this issue and showing more sex appeal in the lead character. Still, when I read it there is some sort of disconnect. The writing is solid, the art is competent, but added together, the experience is not exciting. 

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