silkcuts's Secret Origins #10 - "Tarry Till I Come Again"; "...and men shall call him Stranger"; "Revelations"; "Footsteps" review

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With four stories told he is more a Stranger then before.

When DC Comics released The Phantom Stranger's Secret Origin, we were given a treat of four stories ten pages each.  These stories were four possible origins of The Phantom Stranger, and each story is told by a different creative team.  This comic would be an Anthology of origins, which any of the stories being canon and any could be read by themselves. Like most well planned anthologies the strongest stories surround the weaker stories, which is true in this comic. 
The first story is "Tarry Till I Come Again", written by Mike W. Barr and illustrated by Jim Aparo.  Next to the Alan Moore story, which is featured at the end, "Tarry Till I Come Again"  is my favorite story from the remaining three.  The opening page is superb. We see The Phantom Stranger standing on a small mountain and in the background we see the crucifixion scene. There is three word bubbles to help us understand the direction of where this story is going and then a bible quote "Verily I say unto you, there are some standing here, who shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his Kingdom - Matthew 16:28" to complete the tone.  This story takes place in the times of Jesus and we see how the Phantom goes from hating "The Lord" to why he servers "The Lord".
 "...and men shall call him Stranger" is in my opinion the weakest of the four stories.  Written by Paul Levitz, it is a story in which when Human, the Phantom Stranger challenges an Angel and is punished by it.  This story suffered because it follows after Mike W. Barr's story which is written much better.
"Revelations" was maybe the nicest change from all four stories.  Still religious as seen in the name, but instead of the religious past, writer Dan Mishkin focuses on the end.  The end of the bible being Revelations becomes the theme of this story.  Dan Mishkin also does the best job in tying in DCU mythology with the "Hand creating the universe" as explored in the Green Lantern Mythos. 
"Footsteps"  would be the final story in this collection.  The celebrated Alan Moore Phantom Stranger story is the only one of these four stories to find itself reprinted. Because it is the most accessible of the four stories it is considered the canon origin story for most people and it deserves that reputation. In the mid-80s when this comic was released Alan Moore was Huge. Watchmen, V-For Vendetta and Swamp Thing made Alan Moore stand out from hims peers.  "Footsteps" in no different.  Alan Moore structures this comic mostly with a pattern of five panels, for smaller panels which almost shape a box and then below the four panels is a larger panel.  This pattern would stay consistent in most of the comic, with exceptions with pages 7, 9 and 10 where there are more smaller panels above one large panel at the bottom.  Alan Moore explored panel rhythm in Lost Girls and it is very possible this story was an early attempt at a rhythm of panels.  Symbolically I could not figure it out, maybe a symbol for the heart beat?  By the end it increased drastically from 5 panels within most of the comic with 9 panels in the last page.  
Without spoiling "Footsteps", Alan Moore suggests The Phantom Stranger to be an angel who lost his wings and now walks side by side with us mere mortals.  The story takes place in a city that looks like old New York, with subways and the filth.  In the opening title page on the subway we can make out "Uptown", which may refer to Manhattan.  Hell's Kitchen New York is in Midtown Manhattan, so is the markings wrong because of the artist or did Alan not write in such details?  I suggest that the story should be set in Hell's Kitchen because Alan explores a duality between the origin of the Phantom Stranger with the events that are occurring in the subway below the city.  

By looking at the cover we can see a well designed piece of ART.  Four stories and four Phantom Strangers, One is larger then the rest and that larger one may represent the true story.  There is also many entries, meaning many paths, but all paths lead back to Earth, which is almost in the center of the picture.  The Cosmos is also in the background and the cosmos is important to give the ratio between Heaven and Earth.  I loved this cover and if I remember correctly it is a Jim Aparo cover.  I am not saying cover artist nowadays are lazy, but for sure the creativity is not the same as they use to be.  Cover art has become pretty pictures most of the time and the art itself is not as expressive as it can be.
I gave this comics a 4.5 out of 5 because as great as it is, the Levitz story was just not 5 worthy.  I would suggest this to any Phantom Stranger fan or comic historian. 
 - Silkcuts.
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