circularlogic's The Phantom Stranger #1 - When You're a Stranger review

O Raven, Why Art Though Here?

Alright, moment of honesty. I only bothered reading this book because I was a huge fan of the Teen Titans cartoon, and in that show Starfire and Raven were my favorite characters. Unfortunately, DC seems hellbent on completely re-imagining all of the Young Justice characters (usually for the worse), so when I heard Raven was being re-introduced, and that she was keeping her connections to Trigon and Azarath, I was cautiously optimistic. And for the most part, Raven is the same person as before, the clock has just been turned back a bit.

But that just raises the question, why was she even in this book? Really, what purpose did this serve?

I get that Phantom Stranger betrays people, that's kind of his thing, being Judas and all, but I really don't know why she was involved in this book. The timeline, as best I could tell, is that she was raised by Trigon and taken to Azarath by her mother, and then fled to earth. And now, in this book, Trigon comes to take her back to groom he into his agent of the apocalypse. So... why even bother having her on earth in the first place? We know she's eventually coming back. Did we really need to go through this just to show that the stranger is a traitor to everyone? I don't get it.

The stranger's M.O. in general is kind of nutty. He appears, something bad happens, and we don't get any hint as to WHY any of this is happening, other than there's some grand plan involved. Really, it sounds like a poor explanation a parent tells a child when a grandparent dies of cancer "I don't know why god does bad things to good people, but we have to trust it's for the better". Of course, if that's the whole theme Didio is getting at, it would make total sense.

The dialogue is another gripe I had with this issue. Because like I said, the whole story doesn't seem to have much of a point, nothing about Raven is introduced to us through the story and actions. Instead, we get exposition about EVERYTHING. When things finally do start moving, it's anti-climatic. There's ALMOST a fight, then they run away before any punches are thrown, and the art doesn't make any of the villains look threatening at all. It aims for that kind of sketchy, pencil-shaded look, but it doesn't make anything look dark or ominous. It's not bad, but it's not good either.

If there's one good thing I can say about this book, it's that the twist at the end REALLY threw me for a loop. It would actually have been genius if the rest of the story meant anything at all. I have a feeling that this series is just going to be the Stranger bouncing from one part of the DCU to the next, showcasing characters and secrets that haven't been revealed yet, but if this is the best they could do, I would just read a summary online off someone's blog and save my 3 bucks.

Hopefully, Raven will earn a place for herself in another title that can better use her. I'm hoping Justice League Dark.

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