Comic Review – Tokyo Ghost #1 (Image Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week saw the start of a series I’ve been looking forward to since its announcement at Image Expo last year: sci-fi series Tokyo Ghost #1 created by Rick Remender and Sean Murphy on writing and art duties respectively, with colours provided by Matt Hollingsworth and letters from Rus Wooton.

Tokyo Ghost takes place in a 2089 in a world obsessed and addicted to technology, a natural extension of the world we live in now. Debbie Decay, the last tech free human in LA and her partner Led Dent, partners and constables for the Flak corporation, are hunting down a suspect responsible for a series of horrible murders, a nostalgic video game nerd named Davey Trauma who can seemingly hack into any human being with the slightest nano tech to do his bidding. And his bidding is to kill Debbie Decay as she closes in on him, her husband and partner Dent so addicted to video streams and porn that he can’t even make himself get off his bike. This is Debbie and Led’s last job for Flak, before they head off to the only tech free city in the world, Tokyo, to get Led clean off of tech and to start a new life. But Led has to tell Flak that he wants it first…

TokyoGhostThere is a lot to take in for this first issue. Remender packs in an incredible amount of nuanced world-building, without making it centre stage, and while framing it around an incredibly action packed case for the two constables. As for the two main characters, Debbie really shines here, with her actually following up on the case while her tech-addicted partner stays glued to the screens in front of his face. We actually learn more about Dent contextually and through Debbie’s devotion to him, as his obsession renders him as essentially a blank slate here. As a partnership, this makes them fascinating as eventually they do work well together, despite the shortcomings of half of the team. The story is slick and upsettingly prescient, without being too grim or overbearing.

The only minor complaint I had was the dialogue. Not overall, as it is largely very strong without being too faux-futuristic, but specifically the dialogue of Davey Trauma, which comes across as a little painfully ‘gamer’. Maybe it’s a stab at gamergaters, much more likely it is supposed to be so over the top as the character himself is nostalgia-obsessed and so bound to actually fail to accurately represent anyone who has genuinely played a video game in the early 21st century, but as someone who falls between the Millenial and Atari age ranges all of the ‘pwned’ and ‘I ain’t no noob’ read to me a little like the try-hard 12 year olds I used to fight on Halo 2 oh so many years ago. But frankly I assume this was intentional, to read the guy as an idiot poser who barely understood the culture he was misrepresenting, and to make him that much easier to dislike.

As for the art, I find it a little difficult to be subjective here. Murphy and Hollingsworth are now my favourite art team. I suspected it on The Wake, and it was probably confirmed on Chrononauts but they just work so incredibly well together. Sean Murphy’s scratchy and shadowy style does wonders here to create a sort of tech based LA noir feel, and really most of the world building I spoke of comes from what he brings to the table, rendering a very lived-in setting amongst the familiar trappings of bleak dystopia. The car chases and death races look stunning, and the few moments of horrible bloodshed are somehow understated in their realisation. Matt Hollingsworth brings more of his usual washed out, almost pastel colour palette to round off the ‘lived in’ feeling of the world, making everything seem worn out and strained while remaining vivid and exciting. Tokyo Ghost is a stunning book.

This first issue of Tokyo Ghost has a lot going on, aggressively eschewing the usual trade off of character vs. plot for a first issue of a new series by just smashing together both. And it works. More could, and presumably will, be said about Led. To be honest, I worry that once Led starts to come off of his addiction he will start to overshadow Debbie Decay in the story, which I think would be a great shame because as it stands, she is far and away the most compelling character. The story is compelling, but the art is the main draw here for me. Remender, Murphy and Hollingsworth deliver a cyberpunk LA noir with death races, video games obsessives and explosions and it looks ridiculously pretty. This is a great first issue and I can’t wait to see where it goes. Pick it up at your LCS or digitally today.

Score: 9 Tech-free cities out of 10

 

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