Childish Schoolyard Bickering Between Reality Warpers
God damn DC... you sons of bitches putting Jae Lee on cover duties... Last issue and this one I was far more excited about this series than I should be. The massively eye-catching blue background has an eerie contrast to the genuinely disturbing and creepy image of The Phantom Stranger with The Spectre climbing out of his face, (ironic considering who eats whom in the issue.) It's just amazing.
But the interior art.... I normally really like Philip Tan, but he's working off of initial pencils of someone with a completely different style, and he's doing more than just inks, with Rob Hunter as well. The whole issue just looks messy. The Spectre actually tends to look pretty awesome, but any scene that gets close to normal looks really off. Not to mention the entire battle seems to take place in some kind of weird uncanny 'non-place,' which would make sense if they weren't clearly still in the police station half the time. And it looks like there's nothing that exists outside the police station. The backgrounds are just really lazy.
And the story for this issue has all kinds of flaws. The entire thing is set off by The Phantom Stranger's massive impulsiveness, something which is facepalmed right at him at the end of the issue, and it's not so much a 'fight' as it is a childish schoolyard argument. Any move either party makes feels like nothing more than decoration, as both combatants are basically reality warpers and the effectiveness of any attack seems based entirely on how much of a burn the attacker's words were. And then it just drags on. Each person seems to strike a definitive life changing blow about three times, each time to have the other person just come right back. It's exhaustive, like, GET ON WITH ALREADY! Yes, so-and-so made a valid point about the other that will surely change their li-oh wait. They've ignored it and returned fire. Sigh. And since when was The Phantom Stranger such an all-powerful reality warper? So he's got a loving family, not a stranger, and he can freeze time and reshape the world around him. IN WHAT WAY IS THIS PUNISHMENT? His entire definitive character core has been completely invalidated, and he's now simply a normal man who's a tool of God in any spare time not of his choosing. And his family exists, storywise, as absolutely nothing more than something to threaten since The Stranger himself is so damn powerful.
In Conclusion: 3/5
I like how we got to see The Question coming into play, and I'm enjoying the portrayal of him here, but overall this issue was mentally draining. I won't deny that The Phantom Stranger and The Spectre did indeed make a lot of amazingly deep observations about each other, and the art was pretty cool half the time, but the argument just dragged on and on and on. The whole thing was decent, not outright terrible, but this series is stuck in a consistent lull of barely passable, serving as nothing more than to show us 'behind the scenes' looks at the building of major events in the DCU.