Remember when you were a kid and you would rush downstairs on Christmas morning, eyes wide with excitement and anticipation? You’d pick up that beautifully wrapped parcel in your hands, watch how the light would catch the paper just perfectly, and reflect on the sheer joy of the moment as it practically burst out from inside you? Do you remember how you felt after tearing through the parcel like a rabid dog, only to discover that your 'dream-gift' was in fact nothing more than just a ruddy pair of black socks? That’s exactly how I would sum up the most recent issue of Tokyo Ghost: disappointment wrapped in a pretty package. Both Rick Remender and Sean Murphy closed out the first arc in brilliant fashion and hopes were high that they’d pick up right where they left off. It would appear for now that what finished on a roar has returned with a whimper - so let’s take a moment and discuss! It’s been six months since the death of Kazumi and the devastation of New Tokyo. Led Dent has returned home to New Los Angeles and is responding on Flak’s behalf to a terrorist media broadcast, sent out by Miss Muffet and Little Jack Horner of the Infantilized Nostalgic Nursery Justice Warriors (I know, WTF?). Jack and Miss Muffet are threatening to kill all of Flak’s highest executives (in song and limerick no less) and reveal Flak’s true intentions to flee NLA for the now debunked haven of New Tokyo. As if out of nowhere, crashing through the ceiling appears relapsed tech-junkie Const. Led Dent to neutralize the terrorists and ensure that Flak’s name doesn’t get caught up in any kind of controversy. After a job well-done, Flak sends his prodigal soldier to ensure safe delivery on a shipment of emo-packs: a mind-numbing tech-drug that allows the user complete control over their emotions - instant gratification. At the docks lying in the shadows, a haunting figure of Led’s past is waiting to enact retribution. She’s deadly, she’s dangerous – she is the Ghost of Tokyo.
Is it just me or does Rick Remender need a hug? I mean seriously, as of late the guy makes Schopenhauer look like Sesame Street. His inner monologue of rebellious cynicism oozes flagrantly through even his most tertiary of characters and it makes for a truly boring, preachy and unexcitable read. Tokyo Ghost has always been an outlet for Remender’s disdain towards the integration of technology in our daily lives but seriously – pump the brakes. There is one particularly disturbing and confusing sequence that shows Flak giving a television interview, totally naked below the waist. He finishes giving the interview and the reporter, so moved by the brilliance and empathy of this ‘great man’, sets himself upon Flak’s rock-hard cock - completely enveloping himself in it. This is clearly a very crude commentary by Remender towards news media as a whole, one that’s hard-to-miss: “they’ll swallow anything that those in power feed them and be thankful for it.” I know Remender never denies himself or his characters the opportunity to rage against the machine or climb up on a cross but he needs to dial-back; lose the anger and edge. Make an attempt to rediscover the characters and stop treating Tokyo Ghost like his own personal diary entry for everything that he feels is wrong with the world.
Equally disappointing is the artistic effort put forward by Sean Murphy. Lately SM has been cranking out some of the most incredibly creative panels of recent memory – many of which can be found in Tokyo Ghost back-issues. His most recent contributions however show a noticeable lack of effort and quality (sad because the dude has some of the most epic sequences in comics that I’ve ever seen). It's almost as if he exuded all of his efforts on the cover-art, a few select panels towards the end of the issue, and then decided to completely phone-in the rest. The character rendering is so skewed and incomplete that I first wondered if I was looking at a dream-sequence or perhaps seeing through the teched-out eyes of Led Dent; sadly neither outcome proved true. Suffice it to say this is Murphy's most regrettable effort in the series to date and only serves to compound both a lackluster story and weak dialogue.
Matt Hollingsworth’s beautiful colour pallet is truly the most redeeming quality of the issue; lucky that it’s on every page. He has a knack for making Murphy’s art really pop and his distinction and range when using dark solid colours and backgrounds might be unparalleled. Flip to the final two pages of the issue and you’ll get a good example of what I’m talking about: hues of brilliant pink and electric-blue, draped over a backdrop of midnight-black helps to really add to the emotion of the situation. He does all he can to breathe life into the panels but it’s not nearly enough to resuscitate.
This definitely has been the biggest letdown of the year, so far for me. I still have tremendously high hopes for Tokyo Ghost but I no longer wait with bated breath; my expectations are lesser. Remender and Murphy left on such a high-note before the hiatus that the return simply comes up wanting in comparison. Several technical reasons attributed to an overall lack off success but at its root this was just a bad issue. When you forego the fundamentals the result will always be a half-cocked attempt of your true potential. Remender and Murphy have a lot of ground to cover to get Tokyo Ghost back in high regard but I am confident that in the issues to follow we will see them begin to settle back in to their winning ways.
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