Comic Vine Review

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The Phantom Stranger #9 - Burning Bright

4

The Phantom Stranger makes a deal with the Sin Eater for the life of his family!

The Good

The Sin Eater has Phantom Stranger captive and must pay for taking the Sin Eater's life and family away from him. Guest appearances by Etrigan and the Justice League Dark.

This book is on another level. This issue really makes it feel like a stand out from the rest of the series. We finally get a full grasp of what this book is about: a man who tries to atone for his sins but always falls short. The Stranger will do anything to get his family back, even if that means imprisoning himself for all eternity, so the Sin Eater can watch him suffer.

Now that J.M. Dematteis has taken over as the only writer, the tone has changed quite a bit. It's moved away from the Silver Age feel that it had while Didio was still working on it, which was actually quite fun, and now it feels like more of a serious and contemporary book. The book has really focused on the character of Phantom Stranger and what makes him "tick" by utlizing some of the elements Dematteis and Didio set up in previous issues.

I'm really enjoying the journey Phantom Stranger is taking, and in this issue, it's beginning to look like a literal journey. I liked seeing Etrigan make his way into this book as well. He always seems to be in the backdrop of the DCU, behind the curtain, which is a very cool aspect to this character. There's also an appearance of the Justice League Dark here as well, which is a perfect fit to this book.

Fernando Blanco (art) and Brad Anderson (color) take over on the art side of this issue. It's a different style than were used to, compared to earlier issues, but it truly fits the story and tone of this book. It's a bit dark and I was truly happy with how it turned out here. The opening page alone of this issue really sets the bar for the rest of the issue, and Blando turns out some consistently great work here.

I'm loving the cover by Jae Lee & June Chung. It's a great portal into what this issue is about. I'd love to see this team do the covers for every issue.

The Bad

It's hard jumping back and forth between Etrigan dialogue and well, every other character's dialogue and the inner-monologue in this book. Etrigan, as you may or may not know, speaks very poetically and the vast majority of the time, everything rhymes. His dialogue has beats and a flow, and switching between that and anyone else's dialogue, which doesn't have that poetic feel to it, can be very tough. You have to almost break the rhythm of your own reading to get back on board. Essentially, the problem is that Dematteis wrote Etrigan too well.

The Verdict

While I didn't know how to feel about Dematties completely taking over the writing duties on this book, simply because I'm not too familiar with his more recent work, I was extremely happy with how this issue turned out. It actually got a bit better. This is still one of my favorite DC series, and this is a book you want to jump on, especially because the Trinity War is coming up. PHANTOM STRANGER may be a bit different from the rest of the DC books, but that doesn't mean it's not as good, if not better (which it is) than most of its "capes" books.

Overall, I highly recommend this issue and series.