Friday, 10 September 2010
‘Ghost Omnibus Volume 1’ – Eric Luke et al (Dark Horse Comics)
It’s fifteen years ago and a summer spent cleaning toilets in a psychiatric hospital (seriously) sees me back at college with more disposable income than I can reasonably be expected to drink over the course of the year. My inability to handle the booze could well be the subject of another blog entirely! With this in mind then, was it any surprise that I found myself in the local comic shop looking for titles to get into?
I’d never really been heavily into comics previously and the choice of books on offer just blew me away. It was only a small shop but it felt like they had everything! I found myself steering clear of most of the established superhero comics purely because the sheer amount of back story didn’t make them inviting prospects for a newcomer looking to jump on board (although I did pick up ‘Generation X’ fairly early into the series and ‘Uncanny X-Men’ did offer a great place to jump on, just before the ‘Onslaught’ storyline kicked off). I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t pick up ‘Ghost’ because of the cover art (cut me some slack, single geek guy at college and all that...) but the title seemed to promise something a little more intriguing than the standard superhero fare.
My copies of ‘Ghost’ all went in the ‘Great Comic Purge’ of ’97 but the ‘Ghost’ omnibus editions offered me the chance to revisit an old favourite in it’s entirety (I never managed to find all the comics) and I found that the story was a lot more intriguing than I had at first realised...
The premise is quite simple. Its three weeks after her death before Elisa Cameron finally discovers her name; all she needs to do now is discover who killed her and why... All Elisa knows is that she was a reporter covering a story before someone decided she was getting too close to the truth, but what was the truth...?
As a ‘ghost’, Elisa can do all the stuff you would normally expect; she can also ‘warp’ over greater distances but only via another dimension where the inhabitants want her dead and she can actually die. If Elisa Cameron can negotiate this dimension and its inhabitants, as well as the streets of a city mired in crime, then she might just stand a chance of discovering why she died in the first place...
I don’t think I’ve ever read a comic where the main character’s psyche is delved into as deeply as it is with Elisa Cameron. That might not be saying much as there are loads more comics out there that I still have to read! What I’ve got in the meantime though is a character whose sheer single minded intensity of purpose drives the plot relentlessly through dark ‘art-deco’ streets that are skilfully rendered by a number of artists.
The whole ‘man hating’ thing does come across as being overplayed at the beginning (although I would say that, being a man and all...) but as events play out you slowly start to realise that it’s not overplayed at all. Elisa Cameron has a very good reason to be the person she is and that final revelation, along with the way that it gradually fits together, made me want to keep reading. There is also a much larger narrative building around this that promises good things to come and more questions that need answering. Her newfound relationship with her sister also plays out with just the right hint of pathos to make it really interesting.
What I particularly enjoyed is the way that this level of character exploration is applied to other characters as well. Villains are not just cardboard cut outs with delusions of grandeur, they have lives as well and you can even find yourself with a little sympathy for the positions that they find themselves in. I’m looking at ‘Hunger’ and ‘Cameron Nemo’ here, two characters with real depth. I wasn’t too sure about Dr. October though, a character that initially looked intriguing but ended up coming across as shallow instead. With another volume to go though, it may be that things pick up on that front.
As I said earlier, Ghost’s adventures in Arcadia are gorgeously styled although the constant chopping and changing between artists does take a little getting used to. I can see this approach working between individual issues but it doesn’t seem to flow so well when it’s all collected together. When you get used to it though, it turns out to be a lot of fun with Terry Dodson and Adam Hughes in particular really capturing what Ghost and Arcadia are all about.
Volume 1 of Ghost’s adventures isn’t without its little flaws (I really wish the Predator had featured more for example...) but, on the whole, Eric Luke has created an amazing tale that was a real pleasure to revisit. Volume 2 is waiting to be read and the weekend has arrived at just the right time!
Nine out of Ten