Canadian comics publisher Chapterhouse has been steadily expanding its superhero lineup since it debuted in 2015 with a new interpretation of Captain Canuck. Over the last two years, established Canadian heroes like Northguard and Freelance and new faces like The Pitiful Human-Lizard have taken the spotlight in their own series, and they are joined this week by a new Fantomah. Created by Fletcher Hanks in 1940—one year before Wonder Woman’s debut—Fantomah was the first female superhero, a jungle woman with a variety of supernatural powers and a face that turns into a bare blue skull when she uses them. The new Fantomah series holds on to the character’s central design element, but the context surrounding her is completely different, taking her out of the jungle and into an urban environment.
Written by Ray Fawkes with art by Soo Lee and letters by Andrew Thomas, Fantomah #1 introduces Paz Gallegos, a 24-year-old college dropout that has to care for her twin sisters when she’s not working at the local café. This exclusive preview of this week’s debut issue sets up Paz’s home and work life, but there’s something creepy lurking under the surface of Paz’s domestic stress. Fawkes has considerable experience in superhero comics, but his strongest work has been his creator-owned projects. Fantomah gives him the opportunity to build a new superhero from the ground up, allowing him to bring his distinct point of view to the story.
The most powerful moments of this preview are the horror-driven pages spotlighting the spirit influencing Paz, which have Lee using widescreen panel layouts and a chilly blue pallette to differentiate them from Paz’s everyday routine. The first page creates a strong sense of dread as it builds to the reveal of Fantomah’s signature skull, and the last page establishes the power of this spirit inside Paz with rushing water imagery. The moments between are much more subdued, and that contrast adds tension to the story. Readers can discover how the rise of Fantomah changes Paz’s life by picking up the Fantomah #1 tomorrow, but in the meanwhile, here’s a peek at Chapterhouse’s newest hero.