A “Shaggy Dog” Story is a plot with a high level of build-up and complicating action, only to be resolved with an anti-climax or ironic reversal, usually one that makes the entire story meaningless.
According to author Tony DePaul the just concluded “Wrack and Ruin” story began two and a half years ago:
The Wrack and Ruin saga started sixteen months ago, on May 24, 2021 [link added]. The Phantom sets out to free Savarna Devi from Gravelines Prison. There, on the trail to the Rhodian frontier, Old Man Mozz stops the Phantom to warn him of a vision he’s had: if Savarna goes free, the Walker line of Phantoms will end. If he tries to free Savarna, the Phantom will be shot by a Rhodian soldier and in a fever he’ll say something to Savarna that leads her to go to India where the Phantom’s son is studying. There, Savarna will gun down the city’s chief constable, an enemy she’s been searching for ever since she was a child slave held aboard a ship he had hijacked. The Phantom’s son will be implicated in that revenge killing, a foreign power will bomb the city, innocent people will die, and Kit the younger will devote his life to a Himalayan guerrilla war, ever seeking vengeance for his dead friends, his dead tutor and the lost city. In the words of Mozz, the Phantom’s son will become everything a Phantom must never be.
It concluded yesterday on January 13, 2024.
Maybe there should be a question mark following “concluded” for nothing was resolved. Tony has left the story unfinished for possible later exposition, as is his wont. The expectation of a grand finale after all the twists and turns is undone. We are left with disappointment.
Well, it did end with a great Jeff Weigel portrait.
Perhaps Monday’s January 15 strip* is meant to wrap up the Wrack and Ruin novel in a Newhartian way:
For those who don’t subscribe to Comics Kingdom Joseph Nebus provides quarterly summaries.
*Beginning Bret Blevins‘ turn on The (daily) Phantom as signed artist. Jeff remains on the Sundays.