ADVANCE REVIEW! Ghost #0 will go on sale Wednesday, September 19, 2012.
Dark Horse Comics' attempt to create a superhero universe — known as Comics' Greatest World — was pretty much a failed experiment. Appearing during the Dark Ages of Image-spawned '90s excess, the superhero line featured bad girl atrocities like Barb Wire and dark avengers like X. But the one bit of cream that rose up from the mix was Ghost.
Ghost really shouldn't have been that cool. Like too many characters of the era, Elisa Cameron was designed costume first, story second. Granted, it was a pretty cool costume; a dual-gun wielding woman in white who wore a flowing white hood over a white corset. But Ghost also had a solid story to go along with her looks, some brains behind the beauty. I didn't follow Ghost for all 36 issues of her original series — the ever-rotating teams of writers and artists meant the story lacked cohesiveness and quality could swing wildly — but as a character, I knew she had potential.
So I was pretty excited to see Ghost "resurrected" in the pages of Dark Horse Presents. If there was any character worthy of being revived from Comics' Greatest World, it was Ghost.
Like they have done with The Massive and a few other titles, Ghost #0 collects the Dark Horse Presents storyline that re-introduced Elisa Cameron into the comics world. The storyline revolves around one of those ghost-hunter type reality TV shows, where a producer /talent and a cameraman accidently summon up a real-live ghost, and find they got more than they were expecting. Because this isn't just a ghost, it is Ghost. The TV crew find themselves in some trouble with the mob, and Ghost reaches right into on of the mob enforcers and pulls out his heart. Now they are in even further over their heads, and the game is afoot.
It looks like I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up about the reappearance of Ghost — her potential is going to go unfulfilled again. I wasn't impressed with this storyline when it first appeared in DHP, and I am even less impressed reading them all together. Everything about this comics — the art, the story, the coloring — is just pedestrian. Plain. This is about as average as a comic gets. It isn't bad, and maybe back in the days of 50-cent comics it might have made it onto the pile, but at three bucks an issue a comic book had better be pretty damn impressive if it wants to come home with me. Ghost just doesn't clear the bar.
The main problem with Ghost is the writing. The story has an interesting hook but no follow through, and the dialogue is clunky to the point of being unreadable. One of the two TV types talks like a stereotype of a stupid frat boy. "Get in Bro. I'm not messin' around" and "I will end you bro. I will end you." I am tempted to do a "bro count" to see how often it pops up, but I don't think my brain could take it. Writer Kelly Sue Deconnick tries to make a joke out of her characters way of speaking, but it doesn't help. This isn't ironic hipster lingo — it is just painful to read.
Phil Noto's art doesn't really work with the story either. I know Ghost has gone through a cavalcade of artists, but she started with people like Matt Haley and Adam Hughes who gave her a light, ethereal quality that set the book apart. Noto's art is good, but too solid. When telling a ghost story, you need some mystery and something of the sublime to pull it off. Noto's art is too light-of-day realistic, and Elisa Cameron just looks like a girl in a costume instead of a ghost you can believe in.
This zero issue is being followed by a four-part mini-series, In the Smoke and Din. I will pick it up to see if the team improves at all over this first try, but I don't have high hopes. At least I hope Deconnick will tone down the "bro" talk, as that would make the story immeasurably more enjoyable to read.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the '90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.