After preludes and teasers, “Forever Evil: Blight” is finally starting to get into the swing of things. The bad guys are on the move, the good guys have come together, and the pace has picked up. There’s just some final pieces of set-up required before this story has all engines fired up. So, do those final pieces fall into place?
While the Phantom Stranger is the star, this issue does a good job of highlighting the other characters who appear. This is something J.M. DeMatteis did well back in issue #11, when he actually used Batman, Deadman, and Katana in the “Trinity War” tie-in instead of just having them along for the ride as a cheap sales boost. Similarly in this issue, Pandora, Constantine, and the rest all have something to contribute to the story.
Pandora is way more enjoyable here than in her own book.
Pandora especially plays a big role here, finding herself allied with the Phantom Stranger instead of standing against him for once. One of the big things that hasn’t really been touched on with Pandora yet is that she really is one of the oldest characters in the modern DC Universe, second only to gods and possibly Vandal Savage. It’s expected that somebody who’s been walking the Earth for that long would have some wisdom about them, and here we get to see her share it with the Stranger, who, while quite old himself, is very young in comparison to Pandora. There’s a very touching moment between the two, which shows a softer side of Pandora that still manages to stay in line with her characterization in her own series, and it offers up some ideas that could lead to further exploration of the Stranger either during “Blight” or after the arc has run its course. In addition, we finally get to see the Trinity of Sin display some impressive power worthy of magical immortals
This issue does a great job of showcasing the Trinity’s powers by pitting them against Constantine, who’s basically been able to do whatever he wants since the reboot started. All across the Dark line of titles, Constantine has been this human deus ex machina, and it’s gratifying to see him fed some humble pie for a change.
Not too much happens in terms of plot, but that’s a lot more forgivable now that this crossover is getting a new chapter every week. The bulk of the plot is about the Phantom Stranger as a character, and introduces a new idea to his story: That there is happiness within him. This is a character who performed one heinous act by choice, and has since been forced to perform even more heinous acts of a similar nature in the search for redemption. He’s relied on outside sources of joy and had them ripped away by fate, and this book raises the idea that he may have more control of his destiny than he seems. The Phantom Stranger is currently a very negative and depressed character, one you want to root for emotionally, and also want to be happy. In a story about humanity’s collective negativity, the pursuit of happiness is a very compelling plot thread.
Fernando Blanco’s art is a bit messy, but the rougher lines and sketchier details of his artistic style add a bit of ugliness that actually compliments the story quite well. Swamp Thing seems a bit more monstrous, Constantine’s less-handsome-than-usual visage fits a lot of the blows dealt to him in this book, and Pandora not looking as glossy sells her age and wisdom a bit more. Brent Anderson’s colors, while plentiful in variety, are a bit muted, and that helps sell the tone. Really, it’s nice to see characters not look like oiled-up movie stars for a change, and for the characters to be a bit more, well, ugly. It’s a nice change of pace that really compliments the overall tone of the story.
This image really sells the “Phantom” part of the name.
This issue features another magical character being kidnapped as part of the crossover’s overall plot, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with what the main characters are doing, so it feels a little out of place. It’s only a page and a half, and actually a nice cameo for anybody who’s a fan of the characters that appear in it, so it doesn’t really ruin anything. The bigger issue is that the Question gets taken out of play in this story, right after we finally start to learn a bit about him. This may come back later in the crossover, so it’s too soon to tell if this is an overall good or bad development, but in the short term, it’s really annoying.
Between this series and “Trinity War”, we still don’t know enough about this guy for all the on-panel time he’s been given.
Also, Zauriel is on the cover of this book, but not actually anywhere to be found inside of it. So there’s some false advertising.
Minor complaints aside, this is a fantastic issue. Not a lot happens in it, but while being read, it feels very substantial. The artwork is a great for the story being told, it focuses on the Stranger while also giving enough spotlight to the other players in this story, and it works. J.M. DeMatteis’s contributions to this story have been amazing so far. Now we’ll just have to see what Ray Fawkes brings to the table in the next couple of weeks.
Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger #14 is available from digital and physical retailers for $2.99 USD.