‘Tokyo Ghost #6:’ Comic Book Review

You can escape anything but your past.

Once again, I’m blown away by the creative vision shown in the Tokyo Ghost series.  This book is incredibly focused; Rick Remender and Sean Gordon Murphy have a well-defined story to advance to us and do so in a clear and concise way.  There are no wandering plots, no driving action sacrificed for a splash page, and no doubt about the message threading through the very core of the story.  There is an agenda at work here and we’re to know it, but it never detracts from the entertainment of the story.  This is storytelling at its best: a beautiful message of hope laid into a dystopic and myopic world that is filled with engaging characters that is impossible to put down.

We’re now a year removed from the last issue/end of the first trade paperback, and the haven of Tokyo is now well demolished under the cold rebirth of the techno-elite.  Led Dent has returned to his addicted form, and we are treated to a good intro to the running of this world and some hints as to how it came to be.  I personally enjoy how many allusions are made to a certain orange-mien individual and the ridiculous poppycock that would cause such a person to run things in a democracy such as ours, as well as the terrifying results of such an outcome.  No hiding it, there's a definite political cant to the story and I, for one, think it's done very well. There's a definite battle between governance and entertainment, and a shocking moment involving a reporter goes a long way to establish just how warped this world is.  Into this new stasis we learn what has become of Debbie, and all I can say is that as lovely and peaceful as some of the Tokyo location storyline was, it's about to go right up the other extreme on the crazy action.  Remender has laid his foundation well and is about to let all of the carefully crafted characters go full out at one another.  The first five issues gave us a well thought out and beautifully crafted story, and that foundation will inform everything that seems about to go down from here on out.

This ties into the artwork, as well.  Debbie had always had a separate physical nature from the mainstream that she interacted with, the biggest shift being between her and Led.  But now we have so much more behind her; when she enters a panel, the vibrant life exudes from the page and makes us pay attention.  Where she was once the tiptoeing outsider, she has now become the embodiment of what Tokyo was.  Instead of being a study in opposition to the world around her, she now has purpose behind every move. It's a slight difference, but it brings incredible life to the story and Debbie becomes a touchstone for all that happened before.  Murphy has created such a real presence that it highlights all of the nonsense that goes on around her. Every day seems to fall into obscurity when she's running.

There are not a lot of creative teams who have such a singular and focused story to tell, and it's the strength of that story that pushes the reader into ever deeper waters.  Once you get hooked, you'll be drawn in with no chance of getting out.

I will share one thought which strikes me in the wake of the Scarlett Johansson kerfuffle with Ghost in the Shell.  I agree with many of the Asian actors and creators that have brought up the issues with the whitewashing of certain characters.  This is also gaining some traction with the upcoming Doctor Strange casting of Tilda Swinton.  Now I can somewhat understand Marvel's move with The Ancient One, because there are a LOT of issues with Marvel (and Disney, for that matter) in the topic of race in its history, and sometimes it can be better to distance yourself from the material a bit to somewhat mitigate the racist overtones the character may have had (see the Mandarin, also why we'll likely never see Fing Fang Foom on screen).  Why am I bringing this up in relation to the review on this piece?  I sincerely LOVE this book, I think it's a fantastic story and that it's told beautifully, but as it stands now it's a bit Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai, or Avatar for me: a white person falling in love with non-white culture and taking on that culture to defend or avenge.  Now, this isn't precisely fitting into that mold, but I wonder how different it would read if Debbie happened to be Japanese or even half Japanese instead of a blonde-haired white girl?  I doubt that the basic structure would change and the story would still be kick-a*$ and engaging, but there would be another interesting character arc, and it might read a little more authentic for folks picking it up.  This is not a criticism of the work in any way, I'm just tossing the thought out there to be mindful of the little decisions that can have a big impact on certain communities and even add depth and nuance to storylines, and how it can easily be overlooked.

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Last modified on Monday, 31 December 2018 20:10

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