DC Confirmed Its Most Terrifying God – and It Isn’t Darkseid
Are You Afraid Of The Darkseid #1 confirms what makes the enigmatic Phantom Stranger such an inherently frightening figure in the DC Universe.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for “The Endless Staircase” from Are You Afraid Of The Darkseid #1, on sale now from DC Comics.
The DC Universe is full of mysterious figures and forces, the likes of which even experienced heroes like the Justice League have no true understanding of. The most enigmatic of these is perhaps the Phantom Stranger, who has been thoroughly consistent only in his mysterious purpose.
In the story “The Endless Staircase” from Are You Afraid Of The Darkseid #1 by Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing, Jesus Hervas, Eva De La Cruz and Clem Robins, Kid Flash recounts a story about the Phantom Stranger that cements just how terrifying the mystical force for good can appear to others in their universe.
The Phantom Stranger is one of DC’s most mysterious and powerful figures. Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, the ethereal figure has gone through many reinventions of his origins over the years. The cryptic and mysterious figure has always been portrayed as a heroic force, but one that operates on a larger, ethereal scale as opposed to other major heroes — with the full nature of his powers and forms not entirely clear. Even other heroes aren’t entirely sure what to make of him, which is why he makes such good fodder for the Teen Titans to use while sharing scary stories around a campfire in Are You Afraid Of The Darkseid? In particular, Kid Flash’s story delves into some of the more notable encounters the Phantom Stranger has had with people over untold centuries.
Each time, he encountered someone or something for a different reason — a blacksmith had forged a blade of Nth Metal that would have caused chaos across the globe, a man whose not-yet-born child who’d have started a massive war, a comics creator in the apparently real world, even mighty aliens and the last of the Dodos. To each one, the Phantom Stranger appeared alongside a seemingly endless staircase that led into the sky and some other realm unknown to the mortal world. And each one, after a moment, went along with him. To some, the Phantom Stranger whispered of forgiveness, and in others, sympathy. To the few who witness him but do not take the stairs with him, they feel nothing but shock and confusion and pain, witnessing as their loved ones were taken for the betterment of the entire world.
He’s even revealed to have taken Joe Chill — the mugger who shot Thomas and Martha Wayne and inadvertently set the groundwork for Bruce Wayne to become Batman — in an attempt to ensure Batman became the hero the world needed instead of finding justice and closure by locating Chill. The story propositions that most life is lucky enough to find death at the end of their story. But for the betterment of all, some must be taken into pure oblivion by the Phantom Stranger, lost forever and always for the sake of those who’d never be fully aware of what has happened around them.
While remaining perfectly in-character for Phantom Stranger’s commitment to the overall good, it also clearly shows how the Phantom Stranger could become someone even fellow heroes have grown to fear. His arrival on any given scene might not help them, but instead cause the final end for the heroes, cast into oblivion that no resurrection can restore them from. He doesn’t even seem to explain himself and his purpose, just acting as a genuine force of nature and change. The Phantom Stranger might truly be DC’s most terrifying figure, and even his heroic incarnations can make for strong horror fodder.
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