With DC’s New 52, the company has reintroduced a lot of their more supernatural characters back into starring roles. We got the return of Swamp Thing and Animal Man in their own titles along with a special occult version of the Justice League, aptly titled ‘Justice League Dark’, that included such stalwarts as John Constantine and Zatanna in its roster. Then, in the pages of ‘The New 52 Free Comic Book Day Special Edition’ #1, the Phantom Stranger made his first brief appearance along with his partners in the “Trinity of Sin”, Pandora and the Question. Now the Stranger get his first full length story in many years with a new origin story and the start of a new series as part of DC’s “dark” circle of titles.
The Stranger’s story begins with the events of the FCBD special as he, along with Pandora and an unnamed man, is brought before the Council of Wizards. These powerful beings were to pass judgement on these three for their horrific transgressions against mankind. Pandora had opened a mysterious box an unleashed horrors on the world. The Stranger (who is never given an actual name) had betrayed a great man for money. It’s never made clear what crime the third man committed except that it had something to do with his pride.
As punishment, the Stranger is given a necklace forged of the 30 pieces of silver, a robe that was worn by the man he betrayed, and forced to walk the world until his debt is repayed. The Stranger roams the Earth for centuries, never knowing how to repay the universe for his betrayal. After nearly 2000 years, the mysterious voice that guides him speaks to him, and gives him a mission. He is to track down a Gotham City detective and help him on his quest to find his kidnapped friend.
During the pair’s quest, it becomes clear to the Stranger that his debt being repayed means that he has to betray key figures and move events into motion. He is doomed to relive his crime over and over until his sentence is complete.
I wasn’t sure I was going to like this issue. Along with ‘Swamp Thing’, the Phantom Stranger was always one of my favorite DC characters when I was younger. The idea of giving him a definite origin didn’t sit well with me. After this issue, it’s clear exactly who the Stranger was before he was given his new role. It’s never outright stated that the voice that the Stranger hears is that of God or what the Stranger’s real name is but, it’s pretty obvious to anyone who knows their Bible stories. In an odd way, that actually works. It gives the Stranger and origin but still keeps him as the mysterious figure that he always was to the rest of the DCU.
In a bonus twist, we’re treated to the origin of another of the DCU’s darker and more mysterious figures this issue and I can’t wait to see where this one’s going to turn up as the New 52 Universe continues to unfold.
THE PHANTOM STRANGER #0
Written by Dan Didio
Art by Brent Anderson & Scott Hanna
Cover by Brent Anderson