Written by Rachel Freeman
Fantomah is published by Chapterhouse comics. It is written by Ray Fawkes (Batman Eternal) with art by Soo Lee (Fight Like a Girl).
A comic by Ray Fawkes already has a really good chance of being excellent. This series shows that the trend will continue. Plus, he has Soo Lee as his artist who did an AMAZING job on Fight Like a Girl (which if you haven’t read, you totally should). Basically, I saw these two names and was like…yep. Gonna read that.
You may recognize the name “Fantomah” and that is because it is that name of the first female comic superhero. While this new version of Fantomah is reminiscent of the original, she is still very unique and very much a new character. For instance, the original Fantomah was Caucasian, blonde, and also lived in the jungle, where she protected it’s people and the animals. I don’t really know much of her backstory (or if she had much of one) outside of that. Probably the most defining characteristic of Fantomah is her face, which turns from beautiful to a pale blue skull (her skin turns blue as well) when she activates her powers. She also has some pretty cool powers that aren’t all quite defined. So far, what I can tell has carried over to this comic is really only her physical appearance as Fantomah: the blue skin/skull and the mysterious powers. Otherwise, Paz Gallegos is a completely original character with her own story to tell.
Now that that’s all out of the way, let’s talk about this new comic. Wow. Eerie doesn’t even begin to describe it. I literally got chills reading some of the narration. Plus, I can already tell I love Paz. It’s been one issue and even without becoming a creepy skull-lady who kills bad people, she’s a total badass. Paz is the older sister of two Elementary-aged twin girls named Maria and Isabel. Their dad is apparently in the picture, but not quite “in” the picture and mom is not even mentioned, leaving Paz as their primary caregiver. Not only does she take care of her sisters, but she has a job to juggle as well. Even so, she’s a good sister – helping them get ready, walking them to school even though she’ll be late for work, picking them up from school, essentially everything a parent would do – and she loves them.
So when a weird headache leaves her unconscious, causing her to be late picking up her sisters, who have mysteriously vanished, she searches everywhere for them and then pretty much goes on a war path. She goes after two men she knows to be sex traffickers and isn’t even remotely afraid. Despite their size versus hers she holds her own incredibly well….until one of them shoves her over a rail and off the bridge. They drive away, leaving her for dead…but that’s not what happens. What happens is WAY more epic.
And that’s where I’m going to stop myself because otherwise I’ll get in to spoilers and no one wants that.
So, in short, this is a fantastic first issue. And I expect nothing less from Ray Fawkes. The unknown narrator is and their creepy dialogue sets the tone right away. Speaking of dialogue, we get some great character dialogue, not just from Paz, from everyone. The way characters use slang, the way the pronounce or phrase things, you can hear the way they are talking in your head. Plus, we have been given a great new female character to read (I’m all about those) that is based off of an older character, but who is ultimately totally unique so it’s not like we’re going to get a repeat story we’ve read a million times over. I love the art style for this comic as well.
I love the colors and the way the shading reveals poverty and an area plagued by gangs and violence. It’s not over the top, in your face, trying way too hard to look like the slums. You can just look at the image of Maria sitting on the couch and tell. I also love the way Soo Lee uses reds and blues to contrast each other in different panels. It’s just a genuinely good set-up.
OVERALL SCORE: 9.8 / 10
Ok, I had to dock a little bit because there is one thing in the comic that bothers me…What’s with the little boy’s photo on the bridge? I mean, it’s clearly a place where this child died, but we see it several times so it’s obviously relevant. But why? There’s no overheard radio or tv news story about it, no one mentions it. It’s just this picture of this little boy. On a bridge. With flowers and candles.
Make sure you pick up a copy of Fantomah #1 from your local comic store!