It’s Wednesday, and that means new comics. Let Deadshirt steer your wallet in the right direction with reviews (and preview pages) of titles out today from Image, Dark Horse, IDW, BOOM! Studios, Archie, MonkeyBrain, Oni, Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Action Lab, and more!
Tokyo Ghost #1
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Sean Murphy
Colored by Matt Hollingsworth
Lettered by Rus Wooton
Debbie Decay and Led Dent are lovers, or used to be, and also constables who work for a corporate-run government, trying to keep some semblance of order on the Isle of Los Angeles. In this grim, dystopian view of the future (not 75 years away), Flak Corp rules over this shamble of a city by pumping into the populace a highly addictive, drug-like nanotech (referred to as nanojuice) that moderates your emotions and your physical appearance based on your preferences. The nanojuice and constant overexposure to “the feed” also makes you a disconnected zombie, as is the case for Led, a potential lead character type who is boiled down to basically the muscle for Debbie, his girlfriend and partner who constantly laments the veritable loss of her boyfriend in her inner monologuing while she works the detective beat.
That’s actually what surprised me most about Tokyo Ghost: It’s a love story. Sure, it’s set in a cyberpunk future that’s peppered with a hefty amount of violence and social commentary, but at it’s heart, the real tragedy and meat is the relationship, or lack thereof, between the two leads. Led is presented as an addict of sorts, only semi-sentient, and while he’s disconnected emotionally, he’s still present physically – able to drive a motorbike and beat up a perp and therefore still function as a constable. Despite his inability to even acknowledge her, Debbie is still very much in love with Led and promises to get him to the Isle of Tokyo, where it’s rumored to be green and lush and without technology. There’s a push and pull relationship between these two characters, and Sean Murphy seems hyper aware of that in his artwork, constantly juxtaposing Debbie’s tiny frame with Led’s hulking mass as they physically interact with each other. And that’s all they really do, physically interact, as Debbie can’t seem to get through to her lover in any way.
By coincidence, I’ve reviewed nearly every Image title Matt Hollingsworth has colored in the past year, and I’m impressed with his range and ability to adapt to each world. In Tokyo Ghost, I like his restraint with the bright neon colors, even in a holographic future setting, as well as his proclivity for letting Murphy’s grit and grime show through with the shading. This is an action-heavy first issue, with a lot of forced angles and movement and explosions, but you definitely want to take a moment and appreciate the backgrounds of this city, because they’re gorgeous.
The big downside about being on this nanojuice, you know, besides losing yourself as a person, is that you’re vulnerable to mind control by a psychotic murderer named, of all things, Davey. This sociopathic supervillain has the ability to control the citizens of the Isle like characters in a video game, but he’s a little too on the nose, like there’s some kind of residual resentment towards millennials and certain gamer types in the subtext. He says things like “YOLO” and “noob” and comes off as more annoying than terrifying even as he blows up hundreds of people. Luckily, Debbie and Led just need to get through this guy to move on, which just makes me cheer for them harder.
Lame villain aside, Tokyo Ghost is tragic and compelling as hell. It’s beautiful and sad and trusts the readers to keep up with the show-don’t-tell storytelling. This is a potential heartbreaker, so read at your own risk.
– Sarah Register
(Click thumbnails to enlarge)
The Paybacks #1
Written by Donny Cates and Eliot Rahal
Art by Geoff Shaw
Colored by Lauren Affe
Lettered by Michael Heisler
Paybacks is the best kind of parody, one that’s both a pastiche of existing tropes, and a funny engaging story in its own right. The comic follows the Paybacks, a team of superhero repo men who hunt down caped crusaders and vigilantes when they fall behind on the loans that bought their gadgets and lairs. It’s a fun, broad premise that allows for all kinds of parodies, from Liefeld-style team member Bloodpouch to the Hit Girl-esque Miss Adventure.
Visually, the book is a treat, with plenty of solid visual gags. Pretty much everything about Night Knight, a British Batman homage who writes his brooding commentary in a diary and workshops it out loud, is a delight. When Night Knight comes across the bloody massacre of police at his Night Signal, he immediately ignores the dead and the dying to go battle a supervillain. It’s a clever gag that helps establish the world of the book, one where superheroics are just another commodity to be bought and sold.
The one downside of the issue is that it’s so jam-packed with stuff that some of the leads get shortchanged. Team leader Emory Rains seems interesting but we don’t get to see much of her personality, and combat-wise, a lot of the team is given very little to do. But I’m sure that will be rectified in the coming issues, and as it stands, Payback is a fun send up of superhero comics, reminiscent of the better runs of Suicide Squad or Great Lakes Avengers.
– Joe Stando
(Click thumbnails to enlarge)