Tokyo Ghost Volume 1 Review

Posted March 11, 2016 by Josh McCullough in Comic Books

Written by: Rick Remender

Art by: Sean Murphy

Publisher: Image Comics

Tokyo Ghost may be the first Remender series that absolutely clicked with me. I tried before with Black Science and keep putting it on the back burner, I found his Captain America run ok and found Low to be a little bit too preachy for my tastes. With Tokyo Ghost though, Remender hits the sweet spot between trashy action, social commentary and just an all round fun comic to create something that completely absorbed me while reading it. Perhaps it’s in no small part due to the gorgeous artwork of Sean Murphy who creates a beautifully ugly landscape, like a gaudy Blade Runner, yet makes it work. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but for my money Tokyo Ghost is something every Sci-Fi action fan should at least try.

The story of Tokyo Ghost starts out like many other Dystopian Sci-Fi stories; humanity has become addicted to technology, with many people living in slums, plugged in in order to avoid the degradation around them. In this world, Constables are used to keep the peace for those up top, with the most fearsome (and technologically addicted) of them, Led Dent, serving as one of our central protagonists. He’s largely led (no pun intended) by our other main character Debbie Decay, a constable who has managed to remain technology free her whole life who has known Led since childhood. The two are given a job to retrieve technology from Tokyo in order to help resupply LA’s dwindling resources, which from there leads to a story full of twists, revenge and heartbreaking violence. There’s a lot more going on in the plot than at first glance, leading to an exciting story that really draws you in.

Tokyo Ghost Sample 1

From the description and my experience with the first issue, I will admit the set up felt a little bit tired. The technologically addicted humans angle felt like little more than a grown up Wall.E at first, with it serving as little more than Remender pointing at the reader and yelling “CHAAAAAAAAANGE!!! BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!!!” but as the story progressed, so many layers are revealed that I started really unironically liking the story. The trashy feel to the action and characters in the first chapter actually become quite likable and sympathetic people, as they slowly reveal their past you feel bad for your initial judgement, and the story reveals itself as not just another edgy future story about technology gone bad, but as a well told tale that meshes dystopian sci-fi and action packed anime to create something that has it’s own unique tone and feel.

It must be said, a large deal of the book’s charm and personality come from the gorgeous artwork of Sean Murphy, and the insane amount of detail he and Remender pack into the book. In the first issue alone, there are so many easter eggs and details placed at the edges of panels that you could spend hours pouring over them. Every splash page assaults your eyes with a grotesquely detailed cityscape capturing all the grim decadence and over the top violence that really shouldn’t work but absolutely does. Even more impressive are the later chapters set in Japan, the reveal of which being one of the most impressive splash pages in comics I’ve seen all year. Murphy’s style has a real rough edge to it, able to capture rare moments of tranquil beauty among chaotic violence. The script can get quite wordy at times, though the book is so well designed, and the script enjoyably written, that it doesn’t at all feel a chore to read, giving you good value for money and a lot of material to engage with.

Tokyo Ghost Sample 3

While I don’t want to give away too many plot details, I will say that it manages to upset your expectations and go in unexpected directions without ever feeling like it’s unsure of where to go or as if it’s improvising. Everything ties together so well, bringing up plot elements you’ve largely forgotten about for an emotional gut punch of a finale. The ending being such a jaw dropping reveal that you’ll want the second volume in your hands straight away. For something that started off feeling a little cliched and overdone, Tokyo Ghost firmly etches out it’s on identity, hitting that perfect sweet-spot being trashy but fun action and giving the reader real meat to chew on. While it can still be a little on the nose in terms of social commentary, it works well with the context of the story and proves to be a highly enjoyable read.

In terms of the collection itself, it’s great value for money. It has the standard Image reduced rate of only $9.99, which gets you the first five issues in a good quality softback, along with a bunch of extras at the back including variant covers, character sketches and a breakdown of Matt Hollingsworth color process. On that note, as I’ve neglected to mention him, Hollingsworth’s colors are some of the most gorgeous I’ve seen in a long time, switching between bright, gorgeous landscapes and shaded, gritty violence. It’s top notch work which highlights the true importance of a good colorist.

Tokyo Ghost Sample 2

Overall, Tokyo Ghost was, for me, an incredibly fun intro to a series that revealed itself to have a lot more depth than it originally seemed. While the heavy handedness of the script and the pulpy feel may not be to everyone’s tastes, it gets a very high recommendation for anyone who enjoys these kind of stories. If you’re a fan of Remender, it’s some of his better stuff. For fans of dystopian sci-fi stories, it does enough different to make it stand out from the pack and make it well worth a read.

About the Author

Josh McCullough

A writer at WTN Josh is a huge comic fan whose tastes edge towards the strange and surreal. If there's one thing he loves more than comics then it's Doctor who. Never try and argue with him that there's a better doctor than Sylvester McCoy. Any fedoras that would make good press hats should be sent to his PO Box.