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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Phantom Stranger 32 - witch vs witch, and how Black Orchid works

Bill Draut joins Drake on the Phantom Stranger story from issue 32 (Aug/Sept. 74).

Draut's art gives a very different feel to the story, almost like a romance comic. The story centres on a young librarian, being romanced by the town undertaker. There is an elderly lady who keeps taking out books about witchcraft, and the undertaker insists that the woman is a crazy old witch.

The townspeople start to harass and threaten her, but the Phantom Stranger comes to the old woman's aid. Still, the undertaker insists that the lady is dangerous, and organizes a book burning at the library, to get rid of all books on witchcraft.

The climax of the tale has the librarian discover that the undertaker is hundreds of years old, a witch who keeps posing as his own son. The old lady also suspected this, and though the undertaker tries to kill her and frame her for a fire, she and the Phantom Stranger turn the tables on him. The wax figure he uses to stay young melts, and so does he.

Mike Fleisher and Nestor Redondo take over the Black Orchid series, and turn in an interesting story that takes place more from her perspective than most. We actually get to see, for the first time, how she operates on a case. This happens because, at the top of the story, a Black Orchid impersonator has been committing crimes. The police are now out to catch her.

We see as she adopts various disguises to hang around assorted unsavoury locales, until she overhears people involved in the scam discussing it.

Then she takes the place of the woman who has been impersonating her, and goads the pilot the woman was working with into talking about how they pulled off the scam, all of which is being broadcast to the terminal on the ground. Brief, but effective.

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