Another one of my “Legends Crossover” purchases, this is a “multiple choice” origin story that features four different stories by four different creative teams. Most Comics Readers Who Read Superhero Stories By Very Important Writers will probably gravitate to the fourth story in this book, which written by Alan Moore with art by Joe Orlando, but as interesting as it is–The Phantom Stranger as a fallen angel who joined Satan’s side in the war against God paralleled with homeless people in the underground of NYC–it’s my least favorite of the four. Why? Well, the other three teams are Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo, Dan Mishkin and Ernie Colon, and Paul Levitz and Jose-Luis Garcia Lopez (praised be his name). All four give some sort of divine or divine-adjacent origin to the Phantom Stranger with three of them having direct Biblical origins.
In the Barr/Aparo story, he is the legendary Wandering Jew, who ridiculed Christ on the way to his crucifixion; Levitz and JLGL (PBHN) have him as the only righteous man in a town God is destroying with a flood; and Mishkin and Colon have him be a scientist who does what he can to foil an experiment to look upon the origins of the universe. Along with Moore’s story, they all have a common element of this man being forced to more or less wander the earth. As far as stories go, Barr’s is my favorite and his Outsiders collaborator, Aparo, is still at the top of his game at this point. Aparo inking himself is always a treat to see because it is just so dynamic and he brings excitement and urgency to a story that is a retelling of a religious tale as well as a character who is way more static than the Batman I was used to seeing him draw.
The Mishkin and Colon story is a solid one, although I have to admit that being a fan of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the idea that a mad scientist would try to look upon the origins of the universe is a road that I feel we’ve traveled quite a few times. Mishkin gives it a twist by having said mad scientist be a sort of living embodiment of Anti-Life and the guy who tries to stop him winds up jumping into the space portal and “becoming one” with creation (and the Anti-Life connection works well in the context of Legends, whose main villain is Darkseid), but it’s almost too sci-fi.
Levitz and JLGL (PBHN) deliver my second favorite of the stories, although I will say that it had my favorite art out of all of them. 1980s JLGL (PBHN) is so graceful and gorgeous and this story about basically the only good person in an awful place having to roam the earth after God sends a flood is intriguing. This is the second story I’ve read by this writer/artist team, the first being a Legion/Superboy Christmas story that I covered on the Christmas episode of 80 Years of DC Comics back in 2016, and I will have to see if I can find any more.
For a character I knew very little about beyond the fact that he tended to be used for plot exposition, the Phantom Stranger proved to have one of the more fascinating Secret Origins.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trade?