Phantasmagoria: The Ghost Lens (#1 – 3) – El Torres

5 out of 5

This one hurts. Another victim of the Amigo Comics’ delays / cancellations plague, and everything going for ita full cohesion of words and visuals; no waiting for the story to ramp up; no sense of “what could’ve been…” This is despite three artist changeups in as many issues, and rather differently styled artists at that; Phantasmagoria somehow remains in sync the whole while, and even seems to lack the usual translation issues that crop up in most of the imprint’s titles…

I remarked in the Rogues review, linked above, how Torres has exceled at coming up with unique horror premises for years, somehow avoiding all the normal stuff of vampires and Lovecrafts and werewolves, except / unless he can twist it to suit his needs; and right after that, we get Phantasmagoria, which has paranormal investigator Francis Hawke looking in to some cult-related killings – that is, a cult, that was killed – and tracking a woman possessed as a result of those killings through the streets of Victorian London. Ah, sure, Jack the Ripper horror with a supernatural riff, which we’ve certainly seen before, and yet Hawke has a Torres awareness to him; an adeptness and wrapping up matters quickly. The cops who are, in turn, tracking Hawke while he tracks this woman are also different than the usual odd couple duo, being pretty sharp, straight-forward chaps themselves. And the fellow in the insane asylum to whom Allen turns for an assist…? Well, he bucks the evil, manic magician shtick as well; Torres pulls off an interesting wrinkle with his backstory – and also calls him Edwin Drood, which is, in itself, interesting – and then sets us up for a potential team-up between both lead characters, to battle the larger force behind those initial killings, …and then the series stopped being published at 3 issues out of 5.

While I imagine the art changeups were unintended to an extent – although I see solicitations for this 2018 comic dating back to 2015, for a different publisher, so maybe Torres had been sitting on the first issue for a while – besides all three of the artists doing excellent work, you could also make the argument that the style shifts to something heavier as the story goes along, and becomes more complex. We start with Angel Hernandez’s clean, cinematic style; Juanma Canada Aguilera and Rodrigo Zayas split an issue that takes Angel’s vibe and makes it a little more stylized and severe; then Gabo Elias takes over, sketchy and dirty and giving the ghosts and ghouls that pop up an appropriately frightening look.

Nothing about this feels overtly like setup or padding; we are somehow fully in to this world from the first few pages, and keyed in to its characters as soon as we meet them. The supernatural elements are familiar with spiked with Torres’ creativity. I could question why Hawke appears with or without glasses randomly, but I won’t; I’ll just pray that Amigo gets resurrected again – now being published by Behemoth Comics, apparently? – and maybe The Ghost Lens completes, or Hawke returns in another adventure.