“Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger” #11 has a wonderful set-up to the ultimate DC Comics fan nerd joke: Phantom Stranger, Katana, Deadman and Batman go to Heaven to try and bring Doctor Light back to the land of the living. Except it’s not a joke and writer J.M. DeMatteis is able to actually steer clear of goofiness as the quartet of characters searches for the disembodied Arthur Light, hoping to learn more about the circumstances surrounding Light’s apparent murder.
As the issue takes place in Heaven, DeMatteis investigates the interpretations of Heaven that await Katana and Batman. Surprisingly, the writer is able to add some levity to the Dark Knight despite the extreme metaphysical nature of this adventure, making the Dark Knight just a bit more sympathetic and a lot more entertaining. As he has done in the distant past, Phantom Stranger serves more as an observer and guide and less like an active participant in this adventure. Deadman doesn’t have as much to do as one might expect in the afterlife, but his role in “Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger” #11 is critical to the plot.
Fernando Blanco’s art is fluidly sketchy and packed with details. Colorist Brad Anderson adds more than tones and tints to the artwork, bringing patterns of leaves and textures to Blanco’s pages. Blanco does a nice job of providing a range to the cast of characters present as Batman carries a strong, lantern jaw under his cowl while the faces under the Phantom Stranger’s hat is distinctly slimmer. The art and color meld together as the heavenly host, led by Zauriel, arrives to disrupt the plans of the Justice Leaguers.
Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger” #11 doesn’t do much to advance the agenda or tighten up the plotlines of “Trinity War” (read: this issue is not necessary for the grander story of “Trinity War”) but there is absolutely no question that the developments in this issue are going to have lasting ramifications for the Phantom Stranger and his quest for redemption. J.M. DeMatteis has done a good job of establishing his take on Phantom Stranger and defining the parameters of the realms the Stranger traverses. In this issue in particular, DeMatteis is able to transform metaphysical mayhem into an adventure that remains entertaining despite the shoehorned nature of the crossover. The Phantom Stranger makes some choices here in the spirit of original mentor, but whether those choices pay off for Batman and his allies remains to be seen, as does the true fate of the Stranger.