TIPPIN' HANCOCK'S HAT-Reviews by Tommy Hancock
"The Hungry Swamp" a tale from the anthology THE PHANTOM CHRONICLES, VOLUME ONE, Moonstone Books
Written by Martin Powell
There are lots of great things to say about Lee Falk's The Phantom. If you know of him at all, you know most of the tropes: the jungle setting, the tribesmen that both respect and fear the Ghost who Walks, the pirates always menacing Mr. Walker and his friends. Yep, those are the things most would likely remember from Phantom stories.
Except this one. But it is probably one of the best Ghost Who Walks portrayals I have ever read.
This story, pretty much a prequel to Powell's two issue comic miniseries, THE PHANTOM UNMASKED, takes our hero out of the jungle and puts him in Louisiana during a vicious hurricane, one reminiscent of Katrina. The jungle natives are exchanged for a courageous veterinarian and her teenage companion, a deputy sheriff desperate to save those in peril as well as his own self respect, and a father and daughter who needed saving and provide a moment of realization outshining any reveal I've seen in awhile. Throw in a corrupt sheriff turned looter instead of pirates and all the traditional pieces of a Phantom tale are there, with a special twist that Powell pulls off successfully and sincerely.
The dialogue is urgent and crisp and the action throughout ebbs and flows as it should, nicely so. What is done within this story, though, that pushes it over the top for me, is how the range of emotions people have is explored. Powell deftly navigates courage, fear, sadness, anger, grief, and even happiness in a seamless way that makes this story of a purple clad jungle hero in Louisiana more believable than the bad news we hear on the tv every day.
Five out of Five Tips of Hancock’s Hat (Five tips are reserved only for those who have channeled Dent, Gibson, Page, or one of the long gone, but not forgotten greats.)