Last month, Dan Didio left The Phantom Stranger leaving the book entirely in the capable hands of co-writer J.M. DeMatteis. The Phantom Stranger also ventured into Hell, in what was the best issue of the series yet. This month, as a follow-up, the Phantom Stranger goes to Heaven, to finally end the search for his lost family. So, how does this story’s conclusion fare? Well…
By far, one of the best things about The Phantom Stranger has been a character I like to call “Dog:” a heavenly entity (strongly implied to be God) that takes the form of a Scottish Terrier for its own amusement. Dog is one of the most amusing characters introduced in the New 52, and while most of his appearances have been short, this issue contains one of Dog’s most substantial appearances yet.
So far, Dog has been a guiding force for the Stranger, giving him missions on his quest for redemption and assisting him in the search for his family. Now, we get a glimpse of his true nature. Dog is not just all-knowing, but great and powerful, and when the Stranger tries to defy Dog, Dog puts him back in his place. And while Dog seems to berate the Stranger, it seems to genuinely care for him. It’s an interesting dynamic, where the Stranger depends on Dog to get things done, and while Dog is clearly using the Stranger, he seems to have his best interests at heart.
I think I finally understand religion.
This issue also finally closes out the Stranger’s search for his lost family, in what I feel was the best possible way to end the story. While I won’t give spoilers, it’s a good ending that provides closure, and allows the book to explore new story types in the future, rather than roping it into a formula that could’ve gotten very old very fast. I look forward to seeing how the book changes after the events of this issue and Trinity War.
Visually, the book is good. Fernando Blanco’s pencils and inks are great, and Brad Anderson’s colors are bright and beautiful. One of the most impressive things is that the book makes Heaven looks different than most interpretations. It isn’t all sunshine and angels in robes lounging around on clouds, nor is it all picturesque fields (although there is one that we see).
Heaven can be just as varied as Hell, but whereas Hell is all of man’s darkest nightmares, Heaven is everything we dream of and more. It is wonderful and cosmic and there are paths made of light and deities overseeing everything and grand celestial objects floating around. It’s incredible.
This is one of the most impressive pages I’ve seen in a while.
Also, Zauriel looks awesome.
It’s nice to see an angel that looks different.
Really, the biggest problem is that the issue doesn’t sell itself enough. The previous issue had Hell and the choices the Stranger makes in Hell this huge ordeal. Here, the story just doesn’t really feel very powerful. It’s a good resolution, but it just feels like we had this big bang in the last issue, and now the story just fizzles out.
Part of this may be because the end winds up being a set-up for Trinity War, and the current story arc didn’t really start out having anything to do with Trinity War, so having to end it for Trinity War just feels jarring. While next month’s issue (which is a Trinity War tie-in) is actually my most anticipated single-issue of the whole year, I’m eager to see the book fall back into its own identity with the Stranger seeking redemption soon.
This issue really did feel like it just kind of needed to wrap up the story in time for Trinity War, but luckily, there wasn’t really anything left to do in the current story aside from wrap it up. Still, this has been one of the weakest issues of the book so far, and while I wouldn’t call it bad, it’s not great either. But it’s still good, and if you’ve been reading this series so far, you have no reason to skip this.
Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger #10 is available on shelves in local comic book stores and through digital sellers for $2.99 USD.