Edited by Kaitlin Campos
Ghost is the revival of a old Dark Horse mini-series of the same name from a while back, whose graphic novel I once reviewed on Comic Station, and as such, I feel qualified (and even excited) to see the character return to the print medium with this new series. In case you missed that graphic novel (despite my recommendation), the plot is neatly summarized on the inside cover of this new series, but the long and short of it is this: demons have discovered a way of getting into our world by inhabiting the bodies of the living.
As such, there has formed a massive demon conspiracy throughout various important individuals in the city of Chicago all run by his dishonor the Mayor. But one such attempted victim, named Elisa Cameron, became trapped between the world of the dead and the world of the living, her memories scrambled or lost but for one driving, instinctual purpose: to banish the demons that condemned her to her current state. Joining with an ex-reporter turned paranormal investigator, Vaughn, and his Michaelangelo-esque side kick, Tommy, Elisa became Ghost, banishing the demonic mayor (who escaped into a new host) and assuming the mission of busting every hidden demon in Chicago.
The new series picks up “months” after the finale of the previous one, with Ghost still hunting down and busting demon impersonators while looking for clues to her previous identity. There’s some additional background noise about a serial killer subplot and the Mayoral demon returning as the malevolent Dr. October (as was teased at the end of the first series), but that’s all just window dressing to be paid off at a later date.
The meat of this issue revolves around building Ghost’s character, and what her arc will be in this first story of the new series. I like the central concept— that even though Ghost knows who she was before her pseudo-death, that’s not the same thing as knowing what she was really like as a person. It makes the concept feel very real and grounded, and adds a solid foundation to a series that could easily end up lost in its own mythology. It also helps Ghost stand out from the surprisingly large amount of mystical characters with unknown personal history, like Spawn or the Crow.
At the same time, this idea adds a frustrating wrinkle for Elisa, as she’s in essence already found her answers; they just weren’t nearly as helpful as she would’ve hoped, leaving her struggling to define her identity. This comes even more into focus as becomes somewhat unsatisfied with her previous persona. All this adds to up to a really engaging and interesting character, because we’re drawn into the mystery of who Elisa really was before she died, but at the same time we, much like Elisa herself, don’t really want to see her go back to being that person, as the Ghost we currently know is a lot more interesting, every bit of which is intensified by Elisa’s growing desperation in her search for answers.
All of that would be enough for me to recommend Ghost #1, but, feeling unsatisfied with just being a good read, Ghost really makes the effort to be a genuinely great one. As I mentioned in that earlier paragraph, the book goes out of its way to set-up some dangling subplots to be touched upon later, but it does so in a really great and unobtrusive way. The most interesting one on display here is the set-up with a serial killer named the White City Butcher; it’s obvious there’s some supernatural element to the cases with how impossible the murders seem, but it doesn’t fit into any of the mechanics we’ve seen in the world so far.
That, and the implied brutality of the crimes, creates a truly chilling undercurrent with this storyline and I’m really looking forward to seeing it paid off. Even more so, though, is the impact it has on Tommy, the burn-out character of the trio. In previous stories, Tommy’s been a fun distraction with only brief flirtations with usefulness or importance, but here the viscous murders actually push him to try and get Ghost to go after the White City Butcher, and we actually see him (albeit briefly) standing up to self appointed leader Vaughn. Vaughn’s role has been substantially decreased in the series, which is for the best, as he never made that interesting of a character anyway, and his washed-up reporter shtick wore thin pretty quickly.
The artwork is overall pretty cool for this comic, though I wish it would go a little further in definition of style. The demon designs and action sequences are all really striking, unique, and imaginative and make good use of the character’s powers, but by contrast a lot of the scenes of Chicago and the design of the city in general can feel a little too flat. The biggest problem is that Chicago really lacks a sense of design and identity and feels too much like generic McCitysville; it’d be nice to see some more personality injected into the setting, but that’s a minor nitpick when there’s so much else to praise.
I’ve reviewed a lot of opening issues in my time doing this job (like Clown Fatale or The Occultist), and almost every time, the series has been almost the complete opposite of its introduction(like Clown Fatale or The Occultist); I really hope that’s not the case with Ghost because this was a superb first issue. Ghost herself is interesting and well characterized in a way that draws the reader in and makes you root for her, the supporting cast are enhanced and perfected from previous appearances, the story and additional plots are all expertly constructed, and it’s chock full of awesome action scenes; highly recommended.