I’m not the biggest fan of Lee Falk’s classic comic strip character The Phantom, but I do enjoy it a lot. At a convention a couple of years ago I came across this anthology of prose stories based on the comic. I won’t go over each individual story, because there are about 16 stories (well, 15, really), but you can see the individual reviews at my other site. This is merely an overview of the entire book, with the question of “do I want to read it again?” deciding its future in my novel library.
The stories in this book contain no theme or timeline. Written by numerous authors, the Phantom goes up against a lot of Nazis, the usual warlords and smugglers, and even a trip to the obligatory secret underground city or alternate dimension–I’m not really sure which. Only one story contains the modern Phantom’s wife, Diana Palmer. The rest take place in different periods of time with no references (save one or two stories) which of the Walker bloodline is currently assuming the mantle of the Ghost Who Walks.
Some of the chapters begin with artwork by Stephen Bryant, and it’s pretty good but not really spectacular. There isn’t anything wrong with it, but it doesn’t it “do it for me”. The stories alternate between good to OK, nothing ever bad but if you read the individual reviews some gems pop up. The biggest disappointment is the final “story”, “The Soul of Solomon”. An intended team-up between the Phantom and radio and TV character The Green Hornet (there have also been comics over the years, the current ones produced by Dynamite Entertainment), writer Harlan Ellison instead posts the one section he wrote while going on and on about the planned story and how it turned out that it was too big or too hard to do and maybe nobody can pull it off. Personally, I think he just wanted to put too much in, but under a different writer who would just have fun with it, it could work. But I discuss my problems with Ellison in the review of that story.
With a few average stories, there are still some good tales here, and it’s worth keeping the entire book around. I may want to read these again someday. I can easily recommend it to fans of the Phantom or just good pulp action stories.