‘Ivory Ghosts #1:’ Advance Comic Book Review

“Converting scientific concepts into narrative stories helps me see patterns in nature that I hadn’t realized were there. It also helps bring a fantastical character to life that has gotten under my skin and won’t stop itching until I reveal its true nature to others…” ~ Catlin O’Connell

Debuting at C2E2, Kymera Press released the first issue of Ivory Ghosts: A Catherine Sohon Elephant Mystery. Scientist and writer Catlin O’Connell adapted her novel, which was nominated for an International Thriller Writer’s Thriller Award for Best eBook Original Novel, into her first comic book. In addition to the nomination, this title has the distinction of being the publisher’s first series set in a contemporary, real-world setting. Being a subject matter expert in the scientific study of elephants in Africa, O’Connell brings first-hand knowledge of the dire issue of illegal ivory trade and poaching to her fictional mystery. Set in Southwest Africa, a woman pilot, Catherine Sohon, arrives in Namibia to conduct an elephant census, as well as covertly investigate the black market ivory trade with the Orient.

With a science background, O’Connell proves she is a talented storyteller and instead of rattling off lots of factoids, she builds an engaging and thoughtful story that subtly conveys the sense of urgency of the issue, as well as educates readers. The tone of the writing works well, and O’Connell’s main protagonist Catherine who recently experienced tragedy and is processing her grief, provides a welcoming and safe conduit into the unfamiliar world of the bush and the majestic elephant. O’Connell also does not overburden the reader with too much text. In fact, the first eight pages of the issue are devoid of any dialogue beyond a few sound effects, and, instead, the writer finds a balance between narrative text and the visual art form.

Joining O’Connell are inker Laurie Foster and colorist Liezl Buenaventura who worked on Kymera Press’ Pet Noir, as well as Said Temofonte, the publisher’s resident letterer. Also joining the creative team is artist Débora Caritá whose artistic style brings to life the realistic story. Each artist brings their A-game to the table. Caritá is a perfect choice to illustrate this story and matches her artistic style with the realistic nature of the Ivory Ghosts. Her panel layouts establish location while propelling the action forward. Catherine is portrayed with a natural beauty, and the locale is exotic and tempered with a dangerous tone. Caritá is obviously right at home drawing human and animal forms which is crucial for this story. Buenaventura heightens the illustrations with a warm palette of colors that match the terrain (and muted when indoors), while Foster’s line work is masterful. Temofonte’s lettering is easy to read, clean, and balanced within the speech balloons. The location narrative boxes stand out, and the motif of them is perfect.

Jodi Picoult is quoted as stating, “The scientist that Caitlin O’Connell is shines through her first work of fiction, a thriller set against the illegal ivory poaching trade in Africa. With descriptions and dialect so real you feel as if you might be turning pages while sitting deep in the bush, and a skillful narrative that teaches while it thrills, this novel is a win for any animal lover or reader with a conservationist’s heart.” I would hasten to add that O’Connell excels as a storyteller and, along with the creative team, this is truly an extraordinary title!


Creative Team: Catlin O’Connell (writer), Débora Caritá (pencils/cover art), Laurie Foster (inks), Liezl Buenaventura (colors), Saida Temofonte (letters)
Publisher: Kymera Press
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