Way back in April during “WTF Month” (before DC wised up and dropped the branding, because their claim that it stood for “What The Fifty-Two” was doing them no favors), The Question forced Terrence Thirteen to stab the Phantom Stranger with the Spear of Destiny. This led to an arc that saw the Stranger learn who kidnapped his family, then travel to Hell and Heaven in an effort to reclaim them, which ultimately failed. All in all, the Stranger was pretty sore about the whole thing, but the events of “Trinity War” and all that pesky “being wiped from all existence” nonsense kept him a bit too busy to follow up on it. But not anymore! So here it is, the mystical grudge match that nearly dozens of people have been waiting for! Trinity of Sin member vs. Trinity of Sin member! Man in blue fedora vs. man in grey fedora! Mysterious coin-wearing wanderer vs. mysterious faceless wanderer! The Phantom Stranger and the Question finally duke it out! But is this the fight of the century, or the pointless slap fight between two immortals with too much time on their hands?
This issue, for now at least, resolves the arc pertaining to the Stranger losing his family. That’s a good thing because while the story was well told, the aftermath had been dragging on a bit too long. The Phantom Stranger confronts his arch-nemesis, The Sin Eater, and their fight raises more questions than it answers. But the Stranger seems to mostly come to terms with the loss of his family, and the book can move on to new material for a while. The final showdown between the Phantom Stranger and the Sin Eater is still to be had, but for now, the audience gets a well-deserved break from it.
The fight between the Phantom Stranger and the Question is probably the best fight since the Stranger fought the Spectre a while back because like most things in this book, it’s personal. The Question is mad and confused, and it fills him with hate. We see what happens when he tries taking this all out on the Stranger, who is sick of being the universe’s punching bag. The fight is pretty epic, with both parties mixing magic and fisticuffs to make their points.
The thing that makes Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger so great is that it’s always exploring questions and ideas. What makes us human? What is the nature of Heaven and Hell? What is happiness? How do we forgive ourselves?
This time around, the question is one between whether knowing or not knowing is the greater source of suffering. It’s really something to think about. So often people say “Ignorance is bliss”, but that’s not true. Ignorance can be maddening, especially when one is ignorant of the nature of one’s self. We spend our whole lives exploring who we are, and only ever have a general idea of it. But is it better to know who you are and hate it, or wonder and have no basis or idea whatsoever? Two men in great pain envy what the other has, and it’s a tragic conflict.
I have one of these in my secret hideout too, but it has fewer pictures of Jesus and more hearts.
The art is, as always, top notch. Fernando Blanco delivers great-looking, expressive characters who look fantastic and convey a wide range of emotion without making them look cartoony. Even the Question, a man without a face, still has really expressive body language, and the angles he’s shown in couple with the shading used on his blank face convey emotion well.
Also, Brad Anderson’s colors are astounding. He uses a lot of distinct colors, but still gives the book a naturally dark feel. He proves that style isn’t just about what colors you use, but how you use them, and you can still make primary colors understated without taking away all their vibrancy.
I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger #13 puts a rest to everything going on in the first year of the title, or at least brings it to a satisfactory resting point for a while. As the Stranger goes to join the party in “Forever Evil: Blight”, there are still some plot threads that haven’t been resolved, but J.M. DeMatteis does a nice job of only somewhat wrapping things up, leaving readers ready for more when it comes. The Stranger is brought into the “Blight” crossover at the end of the issue, and while it’s sudden, the way it happens feels totally organic, and like a good next step in the storytelling process. While it wasn’t declining in quality, the Phantom Stranger’s story has been reinvigorated by this issue, and it’s going to be fun seeing where the series goes from here, both as part of the crossover and the story in its own right. But for now, it’s enough to see the Phantom Stranger interact with the wider DC Universe.
Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger #13 is available from physical and digital retailers for $2.99 USD.