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The Phantom Stranger is one of DC Comics’ most underused characters, so it’s a pleasant surprise that “The New 52” is treating him as more than an afterthought. In this collection of the first six issues of the Stranger’s latest ongoing series, he’s given a fresh, tragic origin story and a family and, consequently, something to lose when he crosses paths with the demonic Trigon and the Haunted Highwayman and with more familiar sparring partners the Spectre and John Constantine. The Stranger is as enigmatic as ever, but the effective plotting and moody artwork—especially the distinctive inking style—conspire to keep the reader’s sympathies with the Stranger while creating a palpable sense of dread, even when the scripting gets mired in mind games and threatening verbal exchanges between characters.
Verdict Although it may be tougher going for casual readers, this reintroduction to the Phantom Stranger is recommended for those who like their sequential art macabre but without excessive gore. Some mildly disturbing scenes of violence and the supernatural; suitable for YA and up.—J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., N.B.
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