For most of the last year Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom weekday continuity has been an imaginary story. A story of how the current, 21st, Phantom could die. It’s Tony DePaul’s chance to tell a story that probably couldn’t be done in-continuity. Not with how much The Phantom Publishing Empire sprawls, even if King Features Syndicate were brave enough to let the star of its … fourth-oldest(?) … comic strip die. (Barney Google, Popeye, and Blondie are older; any others? Not counting Katzenjammer Kids as it’s no longer in production.)
So almost all these events have been Mozz’s vision of how, if The Phantom rescues Savarna Devi from death row, incredible disaster follows. The death of the 21st Phantom, but also of the whole line of The Phantom. But “actual” things have happened. The Phantom’s told Diana that Captain Savarna is in Gravelines Prison, and that he means to get her out before she’s executed. Diana agrees this is the only thing to do. (Savarna was key to breaking Diana Walker out of Gravelines, in a story that ran eighteen months, from 2009 to 2011.)
Mozz insists on another day or two to finish his chronicle, one to be kept with the Phantom Chronicles. He snipes at The Phantom for telling Diana where Savarna is, spotting it as a way to get himself pushed to free Savarna whether or not that’s wise. And he admits to himself (and the reader) that holding The Phantom back is essential to saving him, and that “Deception must be the banner I fight under”. How that turns out, I don’t know yet. Tony DePaul wrote back in February that he had the current chapter — 23 weeks, stretching from the 18th of April through the 24th of September — scripted. This story, Phantom’s End, sees the Ghost Who Walks die, in prophecy. And that there are three more chapters to follow that.
So this should get you up to speed on The Phantom, weekday continuity, for mid-May of 2022. For the Sunday continuity, or if you’re reading this after about August 2022, a more relevant plot recap may be here. That link is also good in case I get any news about the strip.
The Phantom (Weekdays).
28 February – 14 May 2022.
Last time, in my recaps, Mozz had shown Captain Savarna Devi killing Chief Constable Jampa. This in revenge for Jampa, decades earlier, killing her family and stealing her family’s ship and enslaving her. Though Jampa’s not much loved, he is a “keystone” figure, as Kyabje Dorje — head of the Nyamjang Chu monastery where Kit Junior studies — describes. Invaders from the unnamed North, whom Kyabje had been holding off, take the killing of Jampa as provocation. Kyabje and Kit Junior beat back their assassins easily. They’re helpless to fend off the aerial bombardment a week later, one that kills Kyabje, and many people in the mountain city.
Also killed, Mozz explains, is the part of Kit Junior that would make a Phantom: his youth, his generosity, his goodness. He becomes a legend, commander of guerrilla forces “on a disputed frontier”, killing many to avenge the murdered city.
Heloise, Mozz explains, refuses to become the 22nd Phantom. Something not yet revealed causes Kadia to kill herself. Between the pain of that, and of Kit Junior’s turn away from the Deep Woods, she rejects The Phantom legacy. She leaves for the United States, never telling her children of the Deep Woods or the Phantom or any of this. Diana Walker leaves, takin a permanent post in New York City, refusing to be part of The Phantom’s life anymore.
And in what apparently is to be Phantom’s End — begun as promised the 18th of April — The Phantom journeys into Asia to confront his son-gone-wrong. And it somehow connects to the strange hallucinatory landscape where The Phantom faced a demon-image of his own father. This in the 2020 story of The Llongo Forest.
A hallmark of this story has been how it’s told out of order. Not just that it’s The Phantom hearing Mozz’s prophecy. But we get pieces of the prophecy and then come back to fill them in. Hearing the fact of Kadia’s suicide, for example. Mozz writing out how The 21st Phantom’s body is buried. The mountain city being bombed, seen first from Kit Walker’s perspective months ago (our time) and now from Diana Walker’s this week. The Phantom’s campaign for governor falling apart when he’s found in a love nest with a “singer”. I’ve tried to untangle that, as my mission is the draining of all storytelling to leave a list of events behind. But if you find the story confusing between now and my next plot recap, I recommend re-reading in blocks of a week or a month at a time. And looking to see where DePaul has said what happened, and whether the story is fleshing that out. If a major event seems to have been written off in a single panel, there’s reason to think the strip will come back to that.
Will Prince Valiant overcome his greatest menace yet: the Comics Kingdom redesign that makes the Sunday strips illegible if you have an actual computer and read the strips on your Favorites page? Oh, also Morgan Le Fey? We’ll find out as I recap Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. Unless Comics Kingdom cancels my subscription because I will not stop complaining about their lousy redesign and even worse customer support.