The Phantom (#1 – 4, King / Dynamite, 2015) – Brian Clevinger

3 out of 5

The first issue of the King Phantom wasn’t anything special, really, but it set up a fairly fun jungle romp vibe – especially compared to the madly uneven Paul Tobin Jungle Jim romp vibe – that would have a newbie Phantom and his associate going undercover to figure out what’s what with some people messin’ with Phanty’s home.  Clevinger gives us some good one-page intros – the big whatever cataclysm that led up to the new King series; a reporter investigating the same people with whom Phantom will get involved – and then does his jovial shtick to ingratiate us to our lead and his pal, Guran.  Brent Schoonover’s art is pretty wonderfully pulpy, given a nice moderate tone by Robt Snyder that lets the purple suit work.  Simon Bowland’s lettering feels a bit bulbous for the pages, but Dynamite stuff never really feels all that professional for some reason, if I’m being honest (sorry, editor Nate Cosby), so I just sort of accepted it as Dynamite standards.  The undercover gag always seems a bit funny when you first take time to show that your hero is a badass, but again, it worked, and issue one ended with a fair cliffhanger.

Issue 2: Let’s welcome Ryan Cody on art with Schoonover.  And since the art takes a distinct nosedive to simplistic, poor consistency, poor figures, and overall boring panels, we’ll assume Schoonover is just doing layouts or something.  Similarly, Aikau Oliva joins on colors, and what once popped to just the right degree now feels like newspaper standards; that is, nothing too special.  Clevinger also chooses a too-complicated time / narrative flip-flopping for the issue, which just drags out – essentially – one scene rather endlessly and, since the cliffhanger is a total shoulder-shrug, drags it out without much payoff.

The mirthful tone of the first issue does remain the same, though, and successfully does so throughout the remainder of the mini.  Clevinger continues his flip-flopping gag, so we get used to it, and Cody, working solo (or assisted by Scott Godlewski) evens out, managing to deliver consistency and fair enough characterizations, even if his settings feel rather bare.

Phantom remains readable, and, thanks to Clevinger’s poppy story-telling style, mostly entertaining, but it takes an early nose dive by diverting us from an interesting setup and abruptly switching up art duties.

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