Phantom Volume 5
By Ki-Hoon Lee/Seung-Yup Cho
Publisher: Tokyopop
Age Rating: 13+
Genre: Action/Mecha
Price: $9.99
ISBN: 9-781598-167740

Rating: ★★★★½

K and his team, after their all-out battle against Iron, are left battered and bloody.  Dison calls in the Solbalow, Athena’s flying aircraft carrier to evacuate the crew when they’re suddenly under attack by Iron forces.  They barely manage to escape to their base in Guam.  Once he awakens, K is told where his power came from, apparently the Meteor Shower wasn’t actually a meteor shower, it was a shower of alien nano-symbiotes that invade the human body and grow in the brain.  Those who cannot handle their symbiote die, the others can develop special powers, like K’s ability to imitate or react to anyone else’s battle tactics.  Dison and Eaimi, on the other hand, are products of Iron’s Ice Project, altered human beings just like the female cyborg found by Eric.

We jump ahead one year and the tide has turned against Iron.  Repeated attacks by Athena and Rynus Corporation have cost them not only land but public opinion but Iron has a few tricks up it’s sleeve.  First, the return of Colonel Kas Stein, now a cyborg in his own right and leader of a trio of psychic girl pilots who can perfectly interact with his new and most powerful TC, the Diablo.  Second, it’s ruthlessness as it nukes Rynus, reducing it’s forces to near zero.

But Athena hasn’t been sitting on their laurels for the past year either, they have a new secret weapon, the Phantom, commanded by a much more powerful and confident K, that heads out to save the day from certain doom.

In the end, I suppose I am relatively satisfied with their explanations for the psychic powers.  I don’t really like them, but it’s a lot better than saying “there are just magical pixies running around giving people power” or something ridiculous like that.  The aliens in the brain, while a bit hackneyed, is at least remotely plausible, I suppose.  Still, I think the story would have been better off without it, it lowers my overall score a bit.

Back in the review for Volume 2, I mentioned the harem manga angle and to be honest, I don’t know why they brought it up at all, it’s never referenced again.  None of K’s admirers ever mention being attracted to him at all, even Sara, who came off as very jealous, simply goes back to being a mechanic and in the end, TC pilot.  The whole subplot with Yura seems tacked on as well, she wakes up at the end of Volume 5, suddenly healed and goes off to look for K.  The end.  It’s just not convincing at all.  Lily and her mother?  Well Lily shows up once more in the story as a tagalong character  but her mother is nowhere to be seen.  The whole romance angle is completely dropped and I’m not sure how I feel about it.  On the one hand, I detest harem stories, but on the other, since they brought it up in the first place, they should have gone somewhere with it.

Overall, Phantom is an interesting, albeit very cliche mecha story.  It’s got plenty of action, plenty of drama, lots of giant robots smacking each other, but none of it is very original.  If you’ve read a lot of mecha manga or seen a lot of mecha anime, you won’t come away from Phantom with anything new, but for the time you’re reading it, it’s a fun ride with good characters and a lot of twists and turns along the way.

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