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

 

Comic Review – Chrononauts #1

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Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week I picked up the much-hyped Chrononauts from Image Comics. This new sci-fi series was written by Mark Millar, with art by Sean Murphy, colours by Matt Hollingsworth and letters from Chris Eliopoulos. If you listen to our podcast, you may have heard me voice opinions on what I already think about Mark Millar’s work. It isn’t that I think his writing is bad, far from it. He is a very capable writer. But generally, the comics from him I have enjoyed the most have all been Marvel work. Civil War and The Ultimates in particular I enjoyed. But when uninhibited by editorial restraints, I have tended to not enjoy his creator-owned work, often finding it overly crude, violent or offensive without actually making a point, almost glorifying certain very negative aspects. But regardless, this new series caught my eye and I thought it worth checking out.

Chrononauts is the story of Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly, two doctors and best friends, who are set to become the world’s first time travellers. It starts with Quinn, hunting down anachronistic and chronologically displaced technology and vehicles, planes in ancient and cars being found buried under Mayan pyramids for example, and using it as proof of concept for the possibility of time travel. Soon after, he and his friend Reilly, with a team of scientists helping them, send a satellite back through time to the American Civil War, transmitting live video around the world. 18 months later, and Corbin and Danny are prepping for the first manned mission back in time, with the whole world watching with bated breath. Corbin goes through first, but is knocked off course. Danny insists on following, heading back to 1504 to rescue his friend.

I may have been a bit overly critical of Millar before, but this is a really nice first issue. There is none of the unnecessary crassness that has often put me off his independent work, instead here he tells an action packed opening that lays plenty of groundwork, has a decent amount of character set up. There is a big emphasis on bravado and bromance here, with the guys even calling themselves rock stars, but it is played up comically and doesn’t feel out of place. The feel of the story is a cross between the lunar landing and Black Science, without the success of the former or the horrible depressiveness of the latter.

Murphy’s art here is superb. I was already a big fan of his, and to be honest the art team was what sold me on this book more than the premise or the writer, so it was likely I was going to be reasonably pleased with anything he put out. There are some lovely set pieces, wide shots and backgrounds that work to show the normality of the setting and how routine what they are attempting seems to be, even though it is effectively stepping through a Stargate to another time in a fancy suit. The facial work is dark and heavy, but very expressive. The most impressive panels though are those dealing with the time travel, appearing as a burst of twisting energy for the most part, but looking really nice when it shows Danny actually stepping from the timestream or whatever it is called into his new destination. This is all beautifully realised with the help of Hollingsworth, certainly one of my favourite colourists in comics, who brings his pastel style and range to make the different time periods and time travel scenes really distinct.

Chrononauts is off to a good start, and while the story is very good it is really the gorgeous art that makes this worth picking up. Check this out at your LCS or digital comics platform.

Score: 8 Arrows out of 10