After an absence of almost seven years, The Phantom returned to American comic stores in February 2002, thanks to Moonstone Books. Click HERE to see the details of the previous issues.
Law of the Jungle
Law of the Jungle
Release Date: August 2006
So what's the story about? A man seeks revenge on The Phantom who he blames for the death of his father, and invites his attention by going on a killing spree that includes the murder of a Jungle Patrolman. The remainder of the book concentrates on the fight between the man wearing strange goggles and military fatigues, and his sworn enemy The Phantom. It turns out that The Phantom did not commit any such crime and the story finishes with a somewhat open-ending which implies that The Phantom abandons the villain to be burnt to death by Bandar tribesmen. This is followed by a post-script that includes the lines "There comes a time and place when justice can be had only if we take the law into our own hands" and "The law only protects those who don't need its protection."
Oh Moonstone, when will you ever learn? The Phantom is not a vigilante and does not condone such activity. He is a facilitator who deals out justice by bringing criminals before the Council of Chiefs and it is they who decide and administer punishment. The Phantom also encourages the Council of Chiefs to use Western legal procedure of hearing evidence from both sides, and to select punishments that are sufficiently severe but also allow rehabilitation. The Phantom has never condoned capital punishment! OK, so the story doesn't necessarily finish where the book does - the Bandar might conceivably have been spooking the villain - but the postscript suggests otherwise by stating that such a brutal punishment is justified by "jungle law". What utter rubbish! Go read Lee Falk's Phantom stories and learn something about what the character is really all about!
The design of the book is certainly unusual and interesting from that point of view. However, having seen this one, I'm in no rush to read another since the format simply does not work. They are trying to achieve a cinematic effect but can you imagine watching a movie and having to put up with a dirty great crease down the middle of the screen? That's what you get with every single illustration in this book. Mostly, the crease/binding is not too intrusive but page 28-29 is appalling ... The Phantom is positioned right in the middle of the illustration and it is impossible to flatten the spine enough to extract his head from the binding! It's laughably amateur stuff, it's sad to say.
Paul Guinan's artwork for this book is again quite novel. He starts with photographs of his subjects and then digitally transforms them into a mixed-media "painted" collage. A sample of this artwork is shown on the cover scan above, which is taken from page 17 of the story. The final result is a strangely surreal look where the characters take on a weird wax-work sort of look. The art overall is very dark too, which makes it essential to read the book with strong lighting. Nice try with the artwork but, I'll pass on it thanks very much.
As usual, Moonstone continue to get essential elements of Phantom lore completely wrong. This time around, we have the Bandar warriors shooting posion arrows that do not induce immediate death - only temporary unconciousness. There are also several panels in which The Phantom's eyes are clearly shown beneath opaque eyeholes in his mask . The Jungle Patrolman at the end of the story seems to be an unusually welcome visitor to the Deep Woods despite countless precedents to the contrary in Falk's stories. And of course there is the aforementioned pro-vigilante stance of the story which flies in the face of Falk's humanitarian creation. Any knowledgeable Phantom consultant worth their salt should have picked up these things and advised Moonstone to correct them. Perhaps their new consultant Ed Rhoades did this? Perhaps not? Either way, such excursions from established Phantom lore are inexcuseable.
Finally, there's the price for this monstrosity: US$11.99 buys you a mere 36 pages of story. For the same price, you can have six regular issues of Frew Phantom comics or three issues of Egmont Fantomen comics, and that's without factoring in shipping charges. I had to pay Aus$30.20 for my copy (including airmail, local mail, GST, and local store margin), which is a totally stupid amount of money for something this bad. Good value this book is not.
This is the sort of book that strangers to The Phantom might get some enjoyment out of. Good luck to those people. Unfortunately, it is also the sort of book that will provoke howls of protest from anyone who is remotely familiar with Lee Falk's creation.
Click here to see the previous issue
Future issues planned as of 25 September 2006:
- The Phantom #12 (30 Sep 2006)
- The Phantom Man-eaters (10 Oct 2006)
- The Phantom #13 (30 Nov 2006)
- The Phantom Annual #1 (30 Dec 2006)
- The Phantom #14 (30 Jan 2007)