The Phantom Stranger and the Presence (DC's equivalent to God) discuss life and religion. The Stranger's new mission is to find Jack Ryder and help him out. Stranger must do this before meeting up with Doctor Thirteen to find the Phantom Stranger's missing family.
I really enjoy the dialogue between Stranger and the Presence. It's a nice slow paced start to the issue, and I like how this book deals with larger aspects of the DCU. It's not just about heroes fighting villains. There's a philosophical element to this book. J.M. Dematteis does a stellar job with the vast majority of the dialogue here, especially in this opening scene.
Finally, we get to see the Question, in this issue. I like how this book as been integrating the mystical side of the DCU, little-by-little. The Question is cold and ruthless here. I like the interaction between him and Stranger. Their history goes pretty far back, and they play well off of each other.
I am a tad bummed about the artist change. This issue and #6 were not drawn by Brent Anderson and Phillip Tan; however, we do get Gene Ha on pencils and inks, along with Andrew Pepoy (inks) and Art Lyon (colors). The art is quite different from previous issues, but it still has that classic style art meets contemporary style that I loved so much about Anderson and Tan working together.
Spoilers ahoy! The gatefold cover, which I loved, ruins the end of the issue. It's literally on the last page. Why is the reveal on the cover?
Am I supposed to hate Jack Ryder because I really hate him. In the scene where we meet him, which is about three pages, he says his own name four times. Everyone else says his name quite a bit. His dialogue is pretty rough, and he sounds like he's straight out of a 50's crime film. It's a tad over-the-top.
I've said before that this book is a guilty pleasure of mine, and I said on a recent Super Massive Podcast that it's moved away from that status because I just really enjoy everything about this book. That being said, this is a slow issue, and it may be a bit tough for new readers to get through. Yes, Jack Ryder's dialogue is weird and he's a hard character to digest, but to me, that's part of the charm of THE PHANTOM STRANGER. It's a book that's out of place because the character is out of place.
Overall, I recommend this issue. THE PHANTOM STRANGER continues to be one of my favorite DC reads.