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Ghost Spy #1
Writer: Steve Albertson
Artist: Jacob Elijah

There are times when I want to cry out from the rooftops that comics are a unique and powerful medium generating all the inspiration movies, television, and video games latch onto and exploit these days.

This is not one of them.

In fact, the situation seems a bit reversed here.

Ghost Spy starts us off in a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk world of tomorrow. A pair of killer cyborgs (though one may be a man covered in gadgets while the other’s just a robot) launch missile loaded with anthrax at the local water treatment plant, but Keico, bounty hunter for hire, manages to take one of them down and nab the missile before it impacts.

The next day, her boss forces her on yet another mission with a pair of bumbling robot bounty hunters: A precious cargo needs to be escorted through the most war-torn area of town. Unfortunately, a major battle with tanks and heavy artillery just broke out, and there’s no way around it.

From the get-go, Ghost Spy’s title had me thinking of Ghost in the Shell. You’ve got your robots, you’ve got your tanks, you’ve got your giant techno-city; what else do you need?

Well, actually, a bit more story would’ve been nice. As is, the issue roughly breaks down into two action scenes and two significant conversations that still don’t really tell us what the hell is going on.

Keico is that mean lone wolf type of hero rather true to the main archetype of futuristic bounty hunters. But what do we really know about her after this first issue? She’s a smart efficient killing machine? Great. I think we got that much from the cover. So, where’s the characterization? Other characters pop in and out of the story to further the plot along or flesh her out a little more with dialogue, yet it still doesn’t add up to much.

While I can accept a book that’s pure plot, a story like this that’s pure action needs better paneling and fight choreography. Jacob Elijah’s art has a great euro/manga/punk/toon look to it, but I found myself reading numerous pages over and over again to figure out what just happened. Characters seem to move insane distances between some panels and the shots tend more toward parallel viewpoints rather than true continuity of action during the fights. If you read it over a few times, it eventually makes sense, but it’s just not the kind of visual language we’re used to (good luck finding it in your copy of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics) and will end up confusing the hell out of readers.

The concepts for most scenes seem lifted from cyberpunk literature in general and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone/Complex and The Road Warrior specifically. For years now I’ve been saying that we need more tank battles in all entertainment mediums, but if you’re gonna do it right, you have to focus on the three main traits of tanks: speed, armor, and firepower. The “battle” in Ghost Spy serves more as a chase scene than a slugfest, but I still can’t forgive them using tanks with turrets that never traverse. Honestly, what’s the point of having a turret if you don’t turn the damn thing around to fire?

Before I completely trash this comic, though, let me say that the art caught my eye right away and makes a great case for this euro/manga/comic hybrid style we’re seeing more and more of these days. The characters have an elastic quality that heightens the visceral feel of the action, and the technology comes off as futuristic yet practical. The color assists by Barret Smith and Mark Tyrrell and additional production by Noel Jacob elevate the work beyond the typical black and white or grayscale work of this style and really make it come to life.

If only it were a stronger story that didn’t depend so much on the trappings of its parent genres. I’d like the book to succeed, but, unless the story develops in the next issue, it’ll be hard to stay with it.



Jason Schachat

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