Wrath of the Phantom Army

Posted: Tuesday, January 31, 2006
By: Steve Saville

Cover of Wrath of the Phantom Army Writer(s): Dougald O'Reilly
Artist(s): Y Lydia
Publishers: Heritage Watch
From: org
Price: 5.00 + S/H

Wrath of the Phantom Army is one of those comics that needs to be supported not because it is a great comic but because it is a serious attempt to address an important issue. This comic is concerned with something bigger and ultimately more important than an attempt to produce a worthwhile comic. It is drawing the reader’s attention to the vandalism and destruction of Khmer temples and structures.

To quote the comics introduction:

Cambodia’s heritage is being destroyed at an unprecedented rate, entire temples have been hacked to rubble by looters seeking prized statues, destroying unwanted artefacts in the process. With each plundered artefact smuggled out of the country and onto the international art market untold knowledge of the past is lost.
In reality Wrath of the Phantom Army is a plea to the people of Cambodia to stop cooperating in this plunder, it is also an attempt to inform the international community about the gravity of the situation [the panels that feature photographs of desecrated sites provide ample evidence of this]. In purchasing this comic you are taking an active step to assist in this situation since the cover price will help fund a Khmer language version to be distributed free across Cambodia.

If you believe that we are what we were, if you believe that a nation's heritage is its spine, if you believe that humanity is capable of very callous acts inspired by greed then you will feel good about buying this full colour, beautifully presented comic.

It is important to note though that it has not been produced for the comic purist, it has been produced to make a point. It is not long [20 pages] nor is it complex. In fact the story line is simplistic and lacking in subtlety. It merely says that this plundering is destroying a proud and rich culture so stop it. .

One of the many appealing aspects of Wrath of the Phantom Army is the fact that the creators have avoided the temptation to portray the main looter as an ugly foreigner instead he is an ugly Cambodian who is trying to be an ugly foreigner. In other words he has been corrupted by greed. The painted panels work well, they capture the feeling of a simple rural life far better than any technologically enhanced art could do

The narrative does amble along a bit but is saved by the arrival of the Phantom Army, the disturbed long dead warrior ancestors enraged at was is happening return to haunt the looters. It is very "Jason and the Argonauts" but does bring some much needed action into the story. I also admired the very optimistic ending. Despite what is happening to their heritage the characters see a way to solve the problem that will bring increased prosperity for all. So from the bleak situation portrayed initially through to the dead coming back to life the comic finally ends with smiles all round and a positive view of what the future could hold.

It was a genuine treat to read a comic from a culture vastly different from my own, but more important than that, it was thought provoking.

In a Word: Proud.

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