Every single time I see the world ‘Phantom’, I think of two things. That weird, early seventies film starring the kid that played Eddie Munster which was based on Norton Juster’s book The Phantom Tollbooth and Lee Falk’s jungle based, pulptastic costumed avenger. Not that either has anything to do with Phantom Limb or Iron Fist, it’s just the way my brain works and the kind of hurdle that it likes to put in my way from time to time. And I suspect that Clay McLeod Chapman’s mind works in a similar sort of fashion, as Phantom Limb doesn’t follow the usual Iron Fist formula or conform to any of the long-established mythology, history and cannon that the character is steeped in. There are no threats to, or from, K’un-L’un, just Danny having to face his own, and a horde of body swapping just escaped from Hell, demons.
Chapman definitely marches to the beat of his own drummer, and having spent an afternoon submerged in the pages of Phantom Limb I can’t help but wonder why his name isn’t being whispered in every single comic shop everywhere in the same hushed, reverential way that Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Jason Aaron and Geoff John’s are because he was born to write comics. Seriously, he really was. It’s his calling and it’s about time that he and everyone else realised that.
Effortlessly fusing street-level heroics, folklore and legend, Phantom Limb is tale of self-doubt that finds our hero battling monsters both real and imaginary to save himself and the city, and its residents, that he loves so much. Struggling to find a sense of self-worth and purpose in the aftermath of tragedy, Danny Rand is thrust into the heart of a demon invasion of New York that results in him being cast into, and having to escape from, the deepest, darkest bowels of Hell. It’s a unique, highly personal, engaging and endlessly readable and enjoyable tale that’s steeped in metaphor which takes Iron Fist out of its tried, tested and true comfort zone and changes it from something special into something wonderful. But like all comics, the story is only as good as the artists who bring it to life and in this case, the cats responsible for putting the extra into extraordinary are Lee Loughridge and Guillermo Sanna who create the whirlwind of dynamic and detailed energy and action that allows Chapman’s story to thrive. Fantastic… Tim Cundle