Friday, November 2, 2012

Ghosts #1

Written by Al Ewing, Toby Litt, Cecil Castellucci, Joe Kubert, Neil Kleid, Mary HK Choi, Paul Pope, David Lapham, Gilbert Hernandez, and Geoff Johns
Art by Rufus Dayglo, Mark Buckingham, Victor Santos, Amy Reeder, Joe Kubert, John McCrea, Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, Paul Pope, Gilbert Hernandez, and Jeff Lemire

Once again, Vertigo sends us a nice large anthology comic, similar to Dark Horse Presents, although without using any established characters or properties.  Like any anthology of this size, we are given quite a mixed-bag in terms of the quality of what's being offered.  Part of the problem with this is that Vertigo has lost a number of the writers and artists who have always been a firm part of their stable in the last year.  As such, they have cast a much wider net for this book, bringing in a number of writers I've never heard of before (Toby Litt, Neil Kleid, and Mary HK Choi), while still being able to attract some creators who are not definitely top shelf, like Paul Pope.  The theme here is suggested by the title, but not every story is a ghost story, which is a good thing, as that single note would have gotten played out quickly.

Let's go through the book, and see what's what.

  • The anthology opens with a fun little story about a man who is haunted by the ghost of what he could have been.  When he takes a job as a data entry drone, the part of him that wanted to be a rock star literally starts to haunt him, although when it becomes clear that everyone can see and hear the ghost, things change.  This is a very British story, by Al Ewing and Rufus Dayglo.  It's nice.
  • Much is made on the cover about the inclusion of a new story featuring the Dead Boy Detectives, who originally showed up in Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics.  This story is a complete disappointment - it's disjointed, childish, and doesn't even end in this volume; it is to be continued in the next Vertigo anthology, which hasn't even been solicited yet.  On the up side, it's drawn quite nicely by Mark Buckingham, whose work is the only thing I miss since I dropped Fables a few months back.
  • Cecil Castellucci and Amy Reeder provide 'Wallflower', a very nice story about a family, and how it changed with America, as the wife in the family discovers who she really is only after raising a child and looking after the house for many years.  Lovely.
  • Joe Kubert's last story is printed in this book, which alone makes it worth the purchase price.  Kubert never finished the story - only his rough pencils are reproduced here - but it is a nicely-written tale of an Aztec grandfather and his grandson, on the eve of the older man's death.  There's a lot to read in to this, if one is so inclined; for myself, I was just happy to read one more Kubert tale.
  • Demonic chili is the subject for the story by Neil Kleid and John McCrea.  It's a cute tale; there's not much more to say than that.
  • Mary HK Choi and Phil Jimenez, on the other hand, tell a downright strange story about a young man who is mourning for the death of his much older wife.  This story is full of excess and strangeness, but neither horror nor ghosts, so its inclusion here is strange.
  • The best thing about this anthology is 'Treasure Lost', a story by Paul Pope (with scripting by David Lapham).  It's a science-fiction epic about two children, heirs to a throne, who are kidnapped by space pirates, and who both undergo a form of Stockholm Syndrome.  Introspective, and beautifully illustrated, this is a good reminder of what a huge talent Pope is.  It totally doesn't fit with the themes of this book, but really, who would care?
  • Gilbert Hernandez has a nice little story with a conceit made way too obvious by the themes of the book - had it shown up in Dark Horse Presents, it may have given a bit of a surprise to the reader.
  • Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire finish off the book with a nice little story about two brothers who are in the haunting business - a task made easier by the fact that one of the brothers is a ghost.  Really, I'm just happy for any chance to see some of Lemire's art.
In all, this is a decent anthology.  I appreciate that Vertigo is giving some new talent the chance to show their stuff, and find it regrettable that none of those new faces impressed me much.  It would have killed them to get Becky Cloonan to do something for this?  Still, Paul Pope and Joe Kubert...

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