DC Comics brings us a team-up between the most mysterious man in Gotham and the most mysterious being in the universe with the one-shot ‘Batman/Phantom Stranger‘ from 1997. It is written by Alan Grant with artwork by Arthur Ranson.
The Phantom Stranger arrives in Gotham City sensing that someone is about to crack open an ancient power, from the lost civilization of Lemuria that could have massive ramifications if it falls in the wrong hands. Batman seemingly catches the killer of a local professor in the act, but the young suspect professes his innocence. These seemingly separated incidents unite the Dark Knight and the Phantom Stranger as they work to stop a local crime boss from using ancient magic to his advantage.
As stories go, this clearly an anti-nuclear analogy using what destroyed Lemuria and what could happen to Gotham City in the future. That being said, it is well-written. Batman appears to be in a slump, frustrated at his inability to make a dent in Gotham’s crime, but the Phantom Stranger assures him that one small act of justice can a positive impact on the world. The two make a good pairing and Alan Grant was one of the best writers for Batman, having co-created Ventriloquist and Ratcatcher.
Grant’s longtime partnership with iconic artist Arthur Ranson harkens back to a time when DC Comics cared more about preserving their characters than messaging. Yes, the allegory that I mentioned earlier is there, but it does not bog down the story or get lost in the weeds. Modern comic book writers should take their cues from their predecessors especially when it comes to the Dark Knight.
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