Saturday, 25 September 2010

Phoenix #3. The Deiei Devil and the bullet-proof Batman.

Atlas Comics Phoenix #3, Satan and the YetisInspired by the Phoenix’s futuristic suit powered by atomic transistors, I’ve made myself a set of dungarees powered by nuclear valves. Granted, it doesn’t give me the power to defeat my enemies but at least I can fix my vertical hold by repeatedly hitting myself on top of the head.

That’s right. With the kind of logic that’s made this blog what it is, I’m reviewing issue #3 of The Phoenix after issue #4. That’s how anarchic (not to mention unfocused) I am.

The truth is, having abandoned my attempt to review issue #2, due to apathy, I wasn’t going to review this at all. But seeing Andrew Wahl’s piece about it on Comics Bronze Age reminded me just how loopy it is and also that it has a vaguely interesting back-up strip. And so, brace yourself because, nuclear valves at the ready, I’m going in there.

Phoenix #3’s where the strip descends into total madness as Ed Tyler sets out to save a Nepalese Himalayan village from the Devil and his horde of yetis. This being The Phoenix, it turns out the Devil’s yet another of those pesky Deiei aliens who seem to infest his pages like bed bugs. I swear to you that if the Phoenix had his car clamped, it'd turn out the wheel clamper was an alien.

In fairness the idea of our hero coming up against yetis and the Devil isn’t necessarily a bad one. The Silver Surfer, after all, encountered both in the original run of his mag and it never did him any harm. On top of that, given the strip’s milieu, and Ed Tyler’s Jesus complex, the idea that the Devil’s an alien makes perfect sense.

What doesn’t make sense is that, having captured our hero, the Devil decides to kill him, by…

…throwing him…


…the Loch Ness Monster.

You see, you might think the Loch Ness Monster lives in a big Scottish lake and plays bagpipes but writer Gabe Levy knows better. He knows it lives in a cave in Nepal. No wonder all those researchers at Loch Ness can never find him.

Still, it all ends happily when the Loch Ness Monster eats Satan.

Leaving aside its sheer stupidity, and the continued attempts to draw ham-fisted parallels between the Phoenix and Jesus (he gets strapped to a cross at one point), a major problem with this issue is artist Sal Amendola. It’s clearly pencilled with a degree of workmanlike elegance but his inking’s a very odd thing in which some lines are as thick as your fist and some so thin you can’t even see them.

I have a terrible admission to make. Despite its idiocy and poor ink job, this is actually my favourite issue of the run because, daft as it might be, it has yetis and the Devil in it. It’s dumb but rarely dull.

Still, as though to signal Atlas Comics were already starting to lose faith in the Phoenix even before they reinvented him, he doesn’t even get the mag to himself. This issue, unlike the others, he has a back-up strip.

It’s always fun trying to work out who Atlas' characters are rip-offs of and I assume, from his costume and name, that the Dark Avenger’s meant to be a kind of bullet-proof Batman. It’s a pleasant little tale that quickly introduces us to this new hero and tells us how he came to have a suit of flexible armour lying around just ripe for the moment he might need it. It would’ve been interesting to see how this strip would’ve developed had it continued but, sadly, we were never destined to find out.


Andrew Wahl said...

"It all ends happily when the Loch Ness Monster eats Satan."

It sounds even better when you write it! Try as I might, I can't help but enjoy this comic. It's like a time machine making me 10 again.


Steve said...

Let's face it, comics are like no other art form. Ideas that'd be disastrous in other branches of literature often merely serve to lend a comic its charm.

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