There were two main points to this issue; wrapping up the last few lingering plot threads, and setting us up for Forever Evil: Blight. They pulled off another great read, and the series continues to amaze. There will be Spoilers…
We pick up where the last issue ended, with the Stranger lamenting inside his old house. He verbally spars with the Sin Eater, but then then his foe leaves with Non.
The Stranger uses his mind trick to convince the neighbors that the Starks moved away. One is unaffected…Zauriel. The angel speaks with him, and then takes the Stranger to the graves of his family. The Stranger asks if Zauriel brought their bodies there and give them a proper burial.
“No. Believe it or not… it was him.”
The Stranger is appalled that the Sin Eater did it, but Zauriel, as an angel, sees things with mercy and compassion, apparently. They continue moving, with the Stranger asking Zauriel why he’s really come. My least favorite thing in this issue comes here. They mention the eclipse again, and just like in the last issue, it feels like nothing more than an ad for Forever Evil. Please, you don’t need to mention it every time. It disrupts the flow of the issue, and we still get a hint at Forever Evil later. So please, just don’t.
Anyway, Zauriel reminds the Stranger of the little ball of light that Doctor Light gave him when he attempted to bring back the dead man from Heaven in issue #11. They drop the energy sphere over Doctor Light’s house, and it gives his wife and children hope and happiness. It’s a touching scene, although it also serves the practical purpose of finishing that story thread.
Zauriel tells the Stranger that if he’s needed, the Stranger can cast a thought his way and the angel will come. The Stranger is grateful for, albeit slightly confused by, the aid. As Zauriel leaves, the Stranger decides to finish another task long in the waiting. He goes, of course, to visit…
Side note: I did not like the way the Question was drawn this issue. His trench coat, pants, and fedora all seemed far too light/white, whereas he’s been drawn with a much darker gray outfit until now.
They fight, with the Question showing off an impressive magical ability to disperse himself. As they battle, they go back and forth on how they view the other as evil.
“When will you admit that I’m nothing like you…or that witch, Pandora? When will you tell me why my fate has been shackled to yours for centuries? When will you tell me WHO I AM?”
I love that quote. It gives us a great look at the Question. This entire battle gives us a great insight into the character, in a way we haven’t really been given yet in the New 52.
They grapple with the Spear of Destiny, and it brings them to Jerusalem, where the Question turns people against the Stranger. The Stranger lashes out with his powers, and then the two are alone again on the Mount of Olives. The Stranger beats the Question repeatedly with his fists alone, but the Question has a final card to play. He, using what is apparently his incredibly persuasive voice (which is a concept they’ve been slowly introducing, it seems) very nearly talks the Stranger into killing himself with the Spear.
But wait! Zauriel returns, in a final flash of Doctor Light’s energy sphere. The Question escapes, but the angel has the Spear of Destiny to take back with him. Zauriel and the Stranger stand together in the following silence. The Stranger accepts that he may not always get the answers, and that he has some different future ahead of him. All is well, and that finally wraps up the plot threads up to this point. Great issue guys.
Then the Stranger is taken, somehow, and he disappears from Zauriel’s side. He appears, shackled with Pandora and the Question, back where it all began. John Constantine has brought them back to the Rock of Eternity. He’s there with Nightmare Nurse and Swamp Thing, which references back to Justice League Dark #24, which I intend to review soon. (I do apologize, I’ve gotten very behind and still have Forever Evil, Justice League, JLA, and several other issues to get reviews out for.) And, of course, Constantine’s looking to enlist them.
I touched on how I didn’t like the Question’s look this issue, and I’m very strongly against it, but otherwise the art is quite good. Blanco has been killing it with his art, and he continues to please. The Stranger and Zauriel are consistent throughout the issue, and they are consistently great.
Overall, this was another issue that lives up to the current quality of the series. It’s gotten so much better since the beginning, but the past run starting with issue #9 has been fantastic. I actually felt better about last issue’s use of the Sin Eater and Non after this issue, so that’s a great plus. The scenes between the Stranger and Zauriel are excellent, and the angel seems to be a great supporting character. With Chris and Thirteen (although absent from this issue) the supporting cast is growing, but each character is standing well on their own. The Question was interesting this issue, although some of the powers he showed seemed new and unexplained. Just as odd, is how he escaped the Crime Syndicate, although we may learn that in time.
As I mentioned before, I did not like the Forever Evil nod at all. The mention of the eclipse twice in two issues was too much for me, and I’d rather they just keep the series focused on itself. I am, however, excited for Forever Evil: Blight, the crossover between this series, JLD, Pandora and Constantine over the next few months. It should be great, but once it’s over I really hope we can have a nice long run of the series working alone. These things must be balanced, after all.
All things said and done, I liked this issue, and the quality of the past run has kept up. I’m giving this a strong 8/10, loosing a little on small qualms, but nothing major.
We’ve wrapped up the past and are now looking to the future in Phantom Stranger. I’m ready, how about you?