Rating: 3.5/5 – Follows on from the 2013 series King’s Watch.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.
As far as I can tell, this series is set in the aftermath of a takeover of Earth by Flash Gordon villain Ming the Merciless that was chronicled in the 5-issue 2013 Dynamite series King’s Watch. I say “As far as I can tell” because there is nothing in this issue that explicitly mentions where we could go to get more (not a good idea from a marketing POV). I never read King’s Watch and I had to do some digging around the internet to find out where the premise stated inside the front cover was set up:
A merciless conqueror attacked Earth, knocking our technology back one hundred years! But Earth’s defenders rebelled and prevailed!
Yet while unconquered, Earth feels the aftershocks of war’s terrible toll…
King’s Watch featured The Phantom, Flash Gordon, and Mandrake the Magician teaming up to fight off an invasion by Ming, so looks like that’s where the back-story is, if you’re interested.
For me, this issue was a case of knowing too much to just take it all in stride as a new reader, yet not being as familiar with the groundwork laid by Dynamite so I could be totally “in the know”. This is not the Phantom I’m familiar with (who has traditionally always been a member of the Walker family). Here we have Lothar filling in as the Phantom. Who? Lothar is historically Mandrake the Magician’s friend and assistant. Did you see the “Guest Starring Mandrake the Magician” on the cover? Well Mandrake is in 2 panels on page 1, not much of a guest star appearance, but he did leave his pal Lothar behind to take up the mantle of the Phantom for the duration of this issue and perhaps this series. We suss out on page 1 that the previous Phantom died (probably in King’s Watch) and Lothar owes him a debt. He’ll be taking on the mantle of the Phantom and searching for the true successor to the Phantom tradition, a member of the Walker family.
This launches us into the story proper, set in a world with mixed in elements of Flash Gordon lore; Arborian cities and beast men of Mongo, along with elements of Phantom lore; his assistant, horse, and various other trappings that go along with the character. If you’re coming into this cold, I think you can probably just go with the flow and not worry about it too much. There are a lot of references to things you may not be familiar with, but I suspect writer Brian Clevinger will get around to clarifying more as the story goes on. The story itself kept me entertained, a fairly straightforward tale that suffered a bit from the large amount of back-story and setup it had to deal with. That left me feeling like there was not enough setup (because I had a lot of detritus from King’s Watch to absorb and try to get straight with this story) while simultaneously feeling like there was too much setup because it was taking to long to get into the meat of the story. That conflict held me back from rating this higher, but it was a solid story for what it was and Clevinger clearly had to write around the story situation he’d been dropped into.
King: Phantom #1 was a decent 1st issue that struggled with telling a story in the face of what is clearly a large amount of “what has gone before”. It’s not a Phantom that will be familiar to long-time fans, but is a decent jump on point for readers who want something new. This is a new take on the character that is suitable for readers who don’t want decades of continuity but are also willing to just go with the flow and jump into the story premise Dynamite set up in King’s Watch that they may or may not be familiar with. I liked Clevinger’s work here and it’s only a 4 issue series, so I’m going to stick around and see how it plays out.
Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
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