Jennifer Knight is the daughter of Harry Knight, the Daily Planet’s prize crime journalist… that is until he and his wife were killed after he threatened to expose the Benders, a powerful crime family. Jennifer has vowed to carry on his work both as a journalist working under a pseudonym for a high-profile website and, as a crime-fighter the mysterious Phantom Lady. The book opens with her parents’ tragic deaths, followed by her in action today as Phantom Lady. She clearly explains and demonstrates her shadow powers; living shadows, black fog, hard light constructs and the shadow slide, a teleportation-like ability. Her powers are technological in nature and she also sports high tech goggles to allow her to see in complete darkness.
The book then flashes back six months to Jennifer who is dating Cyrus Bender, the son of Robert, the man who killed her father. She is unhappily surprised when Cyrus reveals that he knows she’s been writing about his family. He has her friend Ginger beaten up, then threatens Jennifer herself. She steals his phone and has it hacked by Dane Maxwell, her… fun buddy, who is not-so-secretly in love with her. (It isn’t stated, but Dane, a scientist, is most likely the source of her super tech.) He agrees after some needling, but he takes an unwise extra step, leading Bender’s men to them. Jen is shot and Dane appears to be killed by one of his own technological marvels!
So writing team supreme Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, the writers of ‘The Freedom Fighters’ first reinvent The Ray for the New 52 and now Phantom Lady and Doll Man? I hope this means what I think it does– a new Freedom Fighters book! (Read my reviews of the excellent Ray miniseries here: issue #1, issue #2, issue #3, issue #4.)
I wasn’t as smitten with the first issue of this book as I was ‘The Ray’ but it’s strong enough. Her origin isn’t the most original, but her powers have potential. Personality-wise, Jennifer is damaged and exhibits poor judgement, but she’s still likeable, making her easy to relate to and sympathize with. That goes for Dane, her poor, lovelorn childhood pal who is always there to bail her out, even though she doesn’t return his affections.
The Ray, Lucien Gates, was an all-new character without ties to the previous version. Phantom Lady and Doll Man are mostly brand new, but there are nods to the classic versions. Jennifer’s last name is Knight, just like Sandra Knight, the Golden Age character and Dane was the last name of the original Doll Man, Darrel Dane.
Artist Cat Staggs is usually known for painting, but her pencil work here is crisp, dynamic, and works on every level. Her characters’ faces are all very emotive and convey a lot of energy. I’m not sure who gets the credit for the new costume design for Phantom Lady, but overall, I like it. I may have liked something that more closely paid homage to the original version, but at least she’s not running around in a negligee. I even like her logo on the cover. Very clever!
The one thing I’m a bit amused by is the fact that they’re keeping the name “Doll Man.” I’m all for tradition and history, but talk about antiquated!
This book has potential. It didn’t bowl me over, but was extremely solid, so I’ll definitely be sticking with it.
PHANTOM LADY #1
Written Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by Cat Staggs
Cover by Amanda Conner