What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Why is the Python held by the Wambesi? November 2019 – February 2020


Hi there. This essay should get you caught up on what’s happening in the weekday continuity for Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom. If you’re reading this after about May 2020, or if you’re interested in the separate, Sunday, continuity, you’ll want to see this link for something more relevant. Also, on my other blog, I look at mathematically-themed comic strips at least once a week. Sometimes more.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

18 November 2019 – 8 February 2020.

Chatu, The Python, was the big terrorist menace around before The Phantom captured him. (This capture gave Eric “The Nomad” Sahara his big opening.) In an 18-month storyline started in August 2009, The Nomad arranged the bombing of a United Nations building in Mawitaan, Bangalla. And also the kidnapping of Diana Walker to a Rhodian jail. And all this from his Bangallan jail cell. When this got sorted out The Phantom kidnapped The Python and put him in a secret jail cell watched by The Python’s fellow Wambesi people. That The Python could carry that out is the moral pretext behind putting him in a secret jail cell. That he’s one of the Wambesi is why his secret jail is in Wambesiland, somewhere within Bangalla.

The question last time was why pairs of people were streaming from fascist Rhodia into Bangalla, heading for the Wambesi’s territories. The Phantom had investigated some of them. They were talking about a mission and claimed to have no idea who this The Python was. So The Phantom figures it’s a scheme to free The Python and bring him back to Rhodia for some mischief. He goes sneaking into infiltrators’ tents and swiping their arms. This to end their usefulness to the mission, and turn the column into along string of people heading home. Of course, some people may also need to be punched, or at least threatened with mauling. But better that than a firefight.

Rhodian solider woman: 'We could have *fought* him! We still had the means! It was our duty!' Other solider, held under The Phantom's guns: 'If I didn't order you to surrender, he was going to send THE WOLF!' [ Devil stands, angrily, behind the first solider. ] 'We're walking out of here unharmed! It's over!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s Alley Oop for the 6th of December, 2020. I’m glad to see that Gabby “Margo’s Stepmother” Magee and Lu Ann Powers have been having adventures since Apartment 3-G ended.

In December we-the-readers finally get to know the plan. The Colonel and one of his underlings discuss what they’re doing and why. I’m going to call this underling The Major. If these people gave one another names I’ve missed it. The Colonel’s at least addressed by rank on-camera. The Colonel, the Major, and another underling whom I’ll dub The Sniper are to find out whether Chatu is held by the Wambesi. And if Chatu is, then that’s what column of forces behind them are for. They’ll break him out of the Wambesi village and bring Chatu to Rhodia. Infiltrating in small groups should let them assemble a big enough force to overwhelm the village without detection. And still be obscure enough that Bangalla, and the Jungle Patrol, won’t get immediately involved.

The Colonel, explaining to the Major and Sniper: 'The plan's a good one! We confirm that the Python is a prisoner of the Wambesi. The team BEHIND us confirms that our forces have arrived in place for the attack! We free the Python, melt back into the jungle ... by the time Mawitaan knows what's happened, we're in Rhodia!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s Alley Oop for the 13th of December, 2020. “And the only way the plan could possibly fail is if a legendary immortal protector of Mawitaan punches out every one of our soliders and they all go home until we’re left out here alone! But how could that ever happen?”

So The Ghost Who Walks spends a lot of time sneaking into tents, stealing guns, and shooing people home. I was surprised all the two- and three-person teams The Phantom encountered agreed to this. The mechanism of The Phantom disarms some minions and they shrug and run off screen feels a little video-gamey. I’d expect at least a couple die-hards to carry on and trust they could get guns somewhere. But then The Phantom would have to go punching them again, and the story would take longer to get where it was.

With the support column rolled up, The Phantom phones the colonel leading the column. This to tell him there’s no support forces following; the colonel and the two with him are it. Go home. Sniper is terrified. Sniper has one of the Phantom’s skull tattoos on his face. Sniper says he can kill The Phantom, but it won’t stick. Meanwhile The Phantom races toward them, saying he’s going to save their lives.

Sniper, holding his rifle, and thinking: 'He was dead ... and then he wasn't ... ' [ Imagining being in wet tunnels, cowering before a gigantic Phantom. ]
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s Alley Oop for the 3rd of January, 2020. I like the artistic touch that The Phantom’s drawn here so much larger than Sniper is. It’s a good bit on Manley’s part to emphasize how big an impression the Ghost Who Walks leaves.

Sniper’s left behind with a sniper rifle. He’s also very rattled by the prospect. He’d been part of some gang that, they thought, had killed him. I do not know whether this is part of a specific story shown on-screen before. The Phantom Wiki doesn’t help me here. Sniper’s flashbacks look like the sort of thing The Phantom’s always doing, anyway. Gunfire in dark tunnels and all that. When they meet up The Phantom doesn’t remember him either, and guesses they met in the dark. It convinces me that Sniper’s backstory was off panel. Anyway, thoughts of that, and of maybe seeing The Phantom come back to life, have him rattled. When he sees an archer pulling a bow he doesn’t know what to do.

The archer is Babudan, one of The Phantom’s reliable Bandar supporters. Babudan shoots Sniper through the arm, fastening him to a tree. And then another arrow, through the other arm, pinning him the harder. This is one of the most visceral and disturbing things I’ve seen. I’m not sure what it says that hand grenades and assault rifle fire don’t horrify me but arrows through muscle do. Maybe I can just imagine living through that pain.

Phantom’s wolf Devil, the Ghost who Woofs, runs out ahead of The Phantom, not for the first time this story. Phantom wonders what’s got into him. He leads The Phantom to the pinned Sniper. The Phantom pulls Sniper down and patches his wounds, and learns that Babudan has been shadowing them. So that’s a plot point waiting for resolution. Also waiting for resolution: what is with Devil? This reader’s first assumption was that he was running back and forth to Babudan. But then Devil got pretty worked up and even chased Babudan up a tree. So that probably means something.

Invaders frozen in their tracks. The Major: 'W --- What happens now?' They're surrounded by Wambesi warriors holding spears at their necks. The Colonel 'They're just ... just ... I - I don't know ... holding us here.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s Alley Oop for the 3rd of February, 2020. So, one thing that will make me like someone better is if they’re upfront about when they’re in over their head. The Colonel does beg The Phantom to help them out of there, you know, one white guy to another, and that strategy doesn’t work.

Phantom sends Sniper back home, with instructions to say he had seen The Python wasn’t there. And then races to Wambesiland, to get the Colonel and the Major. The Major argues they have to stop. The Colonel wants to press on, since why should the complete evaporation of their army stop their progress? Well, there’s the band of Wambesi soldiers surrounding them. The Phantom comes in to the standoff and explains: the Chief will decide whether they’ll be tried by the Wambesi, or be turned over to the Jungle Patrol. And toddles off. He’s going to talk with Chatu.

And that’s where the story’s gotten. You should be able to read at least the next week’s worth of comics without confusion.

Next Week!

This should be an exciting time for me to write about
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant.
Last month I read a library book that contained summaries of every Prince Valiant story, from the origin through to the book’s publication about fifteen years ago, and now … uh … all right, so I know Valiant has been to both North and South America, including a stop in Manhattan. Also there was a story in the early 2000s where he and some cavemen had to fight Godzilla. And why was that not the plot of the Prince Valiant movie? Uh … well, we’ll see what more I remember in a week, trusting that all goes well. See you then.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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