If you’re reading this after about June 2019 I probably have a more up-to-date recap of Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, at this link. The link also has the separate Sunday continuity recapped there. If you’re trying to work out all this stuff about Heloise Walker and the Bangallan Embassy? This is a good essay for it.
I try to recap all the syndicated story comics still in production. All those recaps should be at this link. I also discuss the mathematical topics inspired by comic strips. One of those essays, including a challenge to rewrite a joke, is at this link.
Before I get to the weekday Phantom storyline I have a warning. The storyline includes a despairing character considering suicide. If you aren’t comfortable with that, you’re right. Skip this installment. We’ll catch up again in June.
The Phantom (Weekdays).
December 2018 – March 2019.
I last visited the weekday Phantom at the start of a new story. This one, the 251st, is “Heloise Comes Home”. Heloise Walker had crashed the plane of Eric “The Nomad” Sahara and gotten the terrorist arrested. She’d made her way back to the Briarwood School and her roommate, Kadia Sahara. Kadia knew nothing of her father’s avocation. All she knows is her roommate is demanding they flee the country now before it’s too late.
Kadia is reluctant. She acts almost like she had no idea her father was an international terrorist. And her roommate had just broken into the dorm late at night insisting They were after Us. When she sees security types surrounding the building, though, she goes along. It’s a lot to take, though. The most any of my roommates ever did was insist they taped all the segments of Late Night with Conan O’Brien out of airing order. Heloise leads Kadia toward the Bangallan Embassy, promising all the while that she’ll explain things later. Kadia needs the recaps. There’s a lot that happened the last three months of reader time. For the characters everything’s happened in about two days.
They get to the Bangallan embassy, barely ahead of a fleet of New York City cops. It’s closed. The security guard won’t let them in until Heloise flashes her Phantom medallion. Then he lets them in, and holds the door secure against the cops. Heloise promises she’ll explain “later” what she showed the guard. The guard acknowledges that Heloise has a Bangallan passport. Kadia doesn’t, though, and I learn from this I had assumed Kadia was also Bangallan.
Well, she was from an African country. That was why the headmaster of the Briarwood School set them up as roommates. Eric Sahara had supposed it was a deeper plan. He thought Heloise Walker — who’d been a ward of Bangalla president Lamanda Luaga briefly — was a Bangallan secret agent targeting him. This was why Sahara tried to kill her, and why she was in place to crash his airplane. I typically like stories where characters misinterpret coincidence. Characters making disastrous decision because they reasonably but wrongly imagine they’re under pursuit? That’s got the wonderful dumb messiness of the real world.
The guard won’t evict either, though. And Heloise Walker here explains what’s going on to Kadia. It’s only a couple of days of strips, although they’re lavishly illustrated. I saw other readers complaining that there wasn’t enough time spent showing Kadia absorbing information and, mm. We’re showing just where she does get told things that the reader already knows. You can fairly argue whether that’s given enough space to feel the weight of the moment, but you can’t say it isn’t in there.
The next night a helicopter lands on the embassy roof. It holds President Luaga. The guard is stunned that the girls he let in rate this impossibly high-ranking escort. Also present: her father Kit Walker, helicopter pilot and Ghost Who’s Walking Wounded. In his previous major story, “A Reckoning With The Nomad”, he got shrapnel in his neck. It opened an artery. Guran’s been able to patch that. But he’s only had a few days to heal. He’s still wearing bandages around his neck, although it’s not very prominent amongst all his cool flight gear. I’ve seen people complain about how The Phantom’s even mobile, given the injuries we saw him take back in June 2018. I’m still on board here. Part of being a superhero is acting like you’re fine even though you’re barely intact. But I am also supposing we’ll see how near death’s door he is.
Luaga, with Walker, lay out the stakes as they understand them. United States intelligence is coming to conclusions like Eric Sahara’s. Heloise Walker must be a Bangallan secret agent, infiltrating the United States. Kadia Sahara knew Heloise was a Bangallan agent. Heloise turned Kadia, and the two of them got The Nomad identified and arrested. This while no major nation’s intelligence agency had any idea. The CIA thinks Heloise Walker some supernaturally expert agent.
Nice for Bangalla’s reputation, but what do they do so that Heloise and Kadia have, like, normal-flavored lives? Heloise wants to be a female Phantom, an idea the comic strip has flirted with since no later than the 1950s. But Kadia just wants to be a person. Also, how do they get out of the Bangallan consulate in New York City? Legally?
I have I think a normal fascination with legal technicalities and fictions. You can make a preposterous statement, if you do so in the correct form, and then everyone has to carry on as if they believed it? That’s magic, and the real kind. Luaga and The Phantom use some of this real magic. First, President Luaga swears in Kadia as a citizen of Bangalla. She takes the chance to change her name, too, to Kadia Walker. That’s not 36 hours since she saw her roommate arrested by the Transportation Security Theater Agency. Not 24 hours since her roommate told her that her father was a terrorist. I’ve been dithering on whether to buy my own WordPress domain name for four years now. I’m lucky not to have to be superhero-adjacent.
Next step: Luaga appoints Heloise Walker to his cabinet, and Kadia Walker to flag rank in the Bangallan navy. Why? So that they can leave the United States at will. Diplomatic immunity is a glorious and fascinating subject. Would this actually keep the United States from arresting them? I can’t believe it would. It might make it a bit more of a hassle: Bangalla would have stronger grounds to protest on the world stage the United States arresting the girls now. But if the United States were willing to take the damage to its reputation? … I know, it’s hard to imagine a United States wreaking great harm to get to jail children. But it is good manners to grant creators one absurd assumption per story.
What it made me think of most, though, was that bit in The Three Musketeers where d’Artagnan gets hold of a letter of pardon. It’s a moment that made me think, oh, that’s, I mean, that’ll slow down or confuse any low-level minions. But it can’t help them escape Cardinal Richelieu and d’Artagnan is going to be in so much trouble when he discovers that.
In the event, this cabinet-and-navy-appointment hasn’t mattered. At least not directly. They have a helicopter to take them to a ship in international waters. They just have to get to the helicopter … get everyone onto the helicopter … get … OK, Kadia is stepping to the edge of the consulate. She’s looking ready to leap off. Everyone races for her. Heloise is the only one who can talk her down, though. Kadia’s despair is real, and reasonable. She’s had many life-wrecking traumas in a day and a half. Among them: what’s become of her mother? Kit Walker was able to explain Imara Sahara was being held by one of The Nomad’s terrorist militias. With American drones circling the place already. There’ll be a fight between the militia and American special forces. President Luaga explained Bangalla was helpless against that. And Kit Walker didn’t suggest that he knew someone who might be able to do something.
Heloise did, though. She insisted her father could do something. He allowed that he knew someone who could help. It’s enough to talk her off the ledge, and into the helicopter. Although they’re pursued by an American helicopter, they make it to land on a ship at sea. William Thompson, commenting at Comics Kingdom, identified it as the Australian Border Force’s ship Ocean Shield. Thompson wondered how Bangalla could have a duplicate of this odd ship. But Luaga just mentions this as being under the Bangallan flag, and it’s not as though ships can’t fly whatever flag is convenient for needs. I’m not sure what this ship would be doing near New York City, or how Bangalla might get a loan of it for a special need.
But we might hear more. Luaga explains to Heloise and Kadia how they arranged this extraction. He’d called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to help get people to New York City. Trudeau, glad to have anything to talk about that wasn’t Canadian politics this week, was glad to help. We can suppose something similar went on with the Australian prime minister, if they still have one.
President Luaga and Walker hitched a ride on an international aide flight, to parachute to the Ocean Shield(?) in the water. This is a normal sort of activity level for The Ghost Who Walks. It’s a heck of a thing for the President of Bangalla to do. I mean, you appreciate physical courage in a head of state. Many great leaders do dangerous things. Possibly working their bodies hard builds the mental reserves that allow them to act with decision and care. Contrast how the future Disgraced Former President has never done anything more physically dangerous than attempt to pronounce the word “supercilious”. Still, parachuting out of a plane to land at or near a ship at sea? That’s some crazy stuff.
And all that legal trickery and technicality-raising doesn’t seem to have explicitly mattered. Either it was an implicit thing, instilling enough reluctance in the Americans to not force the issue of keeping Heloise or Kadia. Or it was meant as insurance in case they did get custody, and it turns out to not have been needed. Also left implicit was why all this fuss was needed. Why not just take a plane, if the Walkers have legal protection around their passage? But that seems clear enough to me. Just having the right to leave the country doesn’t get your plane out of JFK. See above comments about Richelieu’s pardon.
This seems like it’s nearing the end of the story of getting Heloise Walker home. And seems to be setting up The Phantom, still quite wounded, invading the North African compound where Kadia’s mother is being held. And it seems like it’s got to complicate Diana Palmer-Walker’s work at the United Nations. And, for that matter, Kit Walker’s in case he needs to get into the United States again. Never mind if Heloise ever has Phantom-related work again.
I probably won’t have 1700 words to write in recapping a story. The next story strip on my schedule is Mark Schulz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant.