Fantomah #1 from Chapterhouse -
Paz Gallego is a girl in the barrio, braving the mean streets, working full-time to help her absentee dad pay the bills. Add to all this the fact that she's acting in loco parentis for her two young sisters, and you'll find that Paz is one twenty-four-year-old with a lot on her shoulders. That might explain the horrible nightmares and headaches she's been having, dreams of a lonely bridge in the night being overcome by a creeping watery deluge. When her sisters disappear from school, Paz bravely confronts one of the lieutenants of the local gang - she ends up face down in the river for her courage. They think they'll get away with her murder. They think they won't pay. Well, they better think again. Sometimes, dead things won't rest until there is a reckoning...Sometimes, things that should not RISE, cannot REST. The screams have just begun.
Out of the dusty, dank dungeon of superhero history comes a thrilling reimagining of the FIRST female superheroine in comics...FANTOMAH!! That's right, before Wonder Woman, before Miss Fury, there was, Fantomah, a superheroine, and "Mystery Woman of the Jungle." Out of publication since the mid-1940s, largely forgotten and stuck in public domain hell, Fantomah returns in her own series penned by Ray Fawkes. Fawkes takes Fantomah out of the jungle, gives her a monstrous twist, and resurrects her in the body of Paz Gallego, a gutsy young woman doing her best to take care of herself and her little sisters on the roughest side of town. Haunted by eerie nightmares and searing headaches, Paz does all she can to survive, but the dark hand of Destiny has her firmly trapped in its clutches. Paz is likable, relatable, tough and tender - she'll do anything for her sisters, despite the fact that their father, off somewhere distant, cannot be bothered to answer her calls. Compelling as Paz may be, she is really the only character in the story that captures the eye - the others seem to be just one-dimensional characters used only to drive her story forward. The art, like the story, has its weak points too: the characters are sometimes stiff, and it often looks like heavy inks and shadows hide pencils that are wanting. But where there are weaknesses, if you look, there are bound to be strengths. Soo Lee's pencils are kinetic, unusual, and they have a light touch of contrived urbanity to them that makes them appear highly stylized. And he really kicked up the creepy at the end. Sure, Fantomah #1's got its problems, but Fawkes' Fantomah is just fascinating enough to make me want to read more - especially after the jarring last few pages. I definitely have to see where this horror/superhero mash-up is going.
RATING: 8 out of 10.
FUN FACT 1 - Fantomah is the first female superhero.
FUN FACT 2 - Fantomah first appeared in 1941 in Fiction House's Jungle Comics #2.
FUN FACT 3 - Fantomah was a beautiful blonde, whose face transformed into a frightening blue skull went she went all superhero-y.
FUN FACT 4 - Fantomah's alter-ego has never been revealed.
FUN FACT 5 - Fantomah has been in the public domain for over 55 years...Which explains why she has been known to be swiped for appearances in comics from time to time.
FUN FACT 6 - The Woman In Red is the first female vigilante in comics (1st app, Thrilling Comics #2, 1940); however, she is NOT a superheroine because, unlike Fantomah, The Woman In Red has no superpowers.
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