There are those books who hit the ground running with story taking wide strides forward, and there are some who cling onto a moment in order to really set the stage before moving to the next stage of narrative. Tokyo Ghost is the type of story that asks for your commitment to it and sets out to deliver as long as you stick with it. Written by Rick Remender, with art by Sean Murphy and colors by Matt Hollingsworth, Tokyo Ghost tells the story of Constable Led Dent and his companion Debbie Decay, who live in the isles of Los Angeles in 2089. Resources are scarce, the poor are no more than waste, and everyone is addicted to technology, from artificial programming to artificial feelings. Dent has abused all the drugs and technology available and is constantly babysat by Debbie who is free of technology. As their last mission, the pair must go to the tech-less land of the Garden of Tokyo, which is vast in resources but closed off to the rest of the world, and exploit it.
Getting through the first couple of issues was tough. Not because it was a bad book, but there was too much happening all at the same time. Three different balloons carrying three different conversations, only two of which were worth reading, added to Murphy’s very busy paneling. It became overwhelming to turn the page. It seems it was purposefully done this way, to overload the reader as to what life's really like when you’re looking at three different feeds at the same time and choosing which one is worth paying attention to. If that was the intent, it was a well done effort that transpires the page.
What turned this out from a great story to a good one is the panel layout Rick Remender has been guilty of doing before, which is having the art take 3/4 of the page while the narration happens on the corner with no background accompanying it. It’s that exact thing what turned me off from continuing to read Deadly Class, and as soon as I saw it here, I let out an audible groan. He works with amazing artists over and over in all of his books, it makes no sense as to why there would be a need to reduce the page real estate they get to play around with in order to accommodate the narration. Luckily this was only done a couple of times for a lot fewer pages than it was with Deadly Class, so I was able to get back to enjoying the art in the full-page right away. Hopefully there’s no more of it.
The art, like I said before, it’s busy. Sean Murphy’s attention to detail demanded my attention to every one of the panels and made me stop and admire every single one of the splash pages. It’s the action sequences and the panoramic panels where he is at his strongest. With little to no backgrounds, there will be an immense line work put into the action of the characters, all which flows into the next panel, on long shots, there is so much to appreciate in the page, it’s tough to not stop mid book and enjoy the effort put into this. Without a doubt Murphy should be placed in the Frank Miller and Klaus Janson conversations whenever they arise. When it comes to close and intimate moments, it seems his shadows work with him better. Fully lit faces sometimes clash at showing a full range of emotions and although still getting a strong image in the panel, it seems there is more power on to what the characters do than what they say. Hollingsworth’s colors are just as intricate and detailed as Sean Murphy’s line work, the process pages shown to color a splash page from this book is astounding. Although it has a strong story concept, the true strength of this book lies in the art.
Tokyo Ghost Vol. 1 was a more definitive read as a trade paperback. Once that uphill climb of the first two issues, the story rewarded me with more streamlined storytelling, beautiful art and plenty of action which I otherwise would have missed disillusioned by the time issue #3 had rolled around. Tokyo Ghost is a strong start to an all-star team, and greatly shows what Image Comics is capable of delivering.
Tokyo Ghost Vol. 1 Writer: Rick Remender Artist: Sean Murphy Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth Publisher: Image Comics Price: $9.99 Release Date: 3/9/16 Format: TPB; Print/Digital