Originally intended to be published by Genesis West, PHANTOM FORCE wound up with two issues published by Image. It’s a bit of a mess, with eight inkers working on the 23 pages of Kirby artwork (a cover, 20 pages of story and two pinups). Most of them, not surprisingly, don’t work out too well (although, to be fair, not nearly as bad as I imagined when it was announced these artists would be inking Kirby), although Jerry Ordway does some good work on his two pages, and Jim Lee is surprisingly good on his story page and pinup.
As for the story, co-written by Kirby with Michael Thibodeaux and Richard French, it’s as much of a patch job, with the second half being taken from a 1970s proposal Kirby did for a Bruce Lee comic, modified to be a character with the kind of sad name Gin Seng, grafted onto a separate group concept, which looks like it was penciled some time in the 1980s. The first chapter has most of Phantom Force (Apocalypse, Probe and Bobby) trying and failing to break into a lab to steal a cylinder. In the second chapter we meet their leader, Sensei and Tadsuki, the person who sent them on their mission to get the cylinder, which contains an antidote to a government created plague.
Tadsuki then goes to try to enlist Gin Seng, a former student of Sensei, who refuses. In the final chapter (which has the pages Kirby did for the Bruce Lee proposal) Gin Seng is talking to some neighbourhood kids and is kidnapped, along with his girlfriend. He fights in captivity until finding out his girlfriend is being held elsewhere.
There’s some decent art down below the surface here, in particular the martial arts scenes, but there are also parts that seem more like someone doing a Kirby imitation. Hopefully if this stuff is ever reprinted we’ll see it closer to the original form.
There’s also an ad in here for an still-unpublished Genesis West book RUSH, featuring a cosmic snowboarder by Kirby inked by Marty Lasick.
The back of the book has several pages of the various collaborators on the book writing about Kirby.