Review: Tokyo Ghost #5

Tokyo Ghost is back to form in its fifth and, for now, final issue (at least until it returns in April), and it does so by going back to what made its introductory issue so infectiously electric. Remender and Murphy have recaptured this story’s sense of urgency here, as Debbie is forced to defend the tech-free, resource-rich paradise that she and her recalcitrant beau Teddy were originally sent to destroy. Unfortunately, she must do so at odds with Teddy himself, as he has, through the machinations of the series’ returning baddie, Davey Trauma, been forced back into the technology-addled killing machine role of Led Dent.

And as Eden burns along with Debbie’s hopes for a “normal” life (or the what passes as a reasonable facsimile thereof in this dystopian hellscape of unchecked consumerism), we the reader are afforded a full-tilt thrill ride, the brutality of which is matched only by its explosive beauty, thanks in both parts to the stunning scrawl of Sean Murphy’s art and Matt Hollingsworth’s colors.

It is in that desperation and its resultantly harried non-stop action that Tokyo Ghost #5 reminds me of what I loved so much about Mad Max: Fury Road -- that over-the-top battle through anachronism (in this case, a revived Feudal Japan standing in for Max’s desert wasteland), met with a bittersweet tinge of defiance in the face of hopelessness, all set in a world where resources are being run as hard and as thin as an increasingly calcified human condition.

Tokyo-Ghost-#5-1Within that framework, Remender is able to balance an emotionally-weighty and tragic narrative with a genuinely exciting, lightning-fast paced and violent conflict, and against a sense of malicious levity. The last part comes thanks especially to the dialogue of Davey Trauma, a deeply unlikeable, Millennial-speak obsessed character who I once hated for the wrong reasons, and now hate for the right ones.

And just like his deliciously annoying antagonism, every other narrative element simply pops this issue, whether it’s the quick, but tidy background exposition about Kazumi’s powers and authoritative standing, or Debbie’s reluctant adoption of same. And yet, even if you’re not interested in those deep narrative cuts or character cues, you will be able to enjoy Tokyo Ghost #5 for its uninhibited commitment to balls-out action.

As I mentioned earlier, Murphy and Hollingsworth are doing exceptional work in this series as a whole, and in this issue particularly. Murphy paints a world beset by a prevailing claustrophobia, such that his flurry of panels feel perpetually choked by the action going on within them, only coming up for air when something explodes in a splash page of fire, blood and arrows. Every page of this book is gorgeous and terrible, frenetic to the point of panic, a palpitation of panels, and one of the most visually arresting things I have seen over the past calendar year.

Given the cliffhanger and, at least to me, completely unexpected ending, it is uncertain where Tokyo Ghost will pick up after it returns to stands this Spring; but one thing is without question: I will be there when it does. And you should be, too.

Score: 5/5

Tokyo Ghost #5 Writer: Rick Remender Artist: Sean Murphy Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth Letterer: Rus Wooton Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/20/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital