Rick Remender (w), Sean Murphy (a), Matt Hollingsworth (c)
It’s a bit strange to watch Tokyo Ghost’s neon-futuristic commentary on the addictive nature of instant-gratification. In fact, what’s strangest about it is how quickly what could have easily ended up being a cheap take on Blade Runner became a very well-told and readily-identifiable story about modern culture. Compared to the disjointed and confusing narrative of the first issue, the more straight-forward and serene story told here compliments the focal character’s attempts to find a more enriched inner life.
Teddy, first introduced as Led Dent, mindless slave to consumerism, was previously little more than a piece of hardware interacting with instant-access television and medical enhancements. As his girlfriend, Debbie, helps pull him back into a world without digital distraction, the reader has a chance to stop and realize exactly how similar their own technologically “advanced” life may have been to Teddy’s. Seeing how escaping into television shows and commercials served to act as a painkiller in his own life, watching him face his frailty and weakness without that relief, leads to the questions, “what am I running from when I turn on my phone?” For a comic to inspire introspection in the reader is a rare occurrence.
The fast and detailed line-work of Sean Murphy causes the eyes to move quickly through the panels. He prevents the story from feeling arduous even as the pacing slows and the plot takes a backseat in this issue. Combined with Matt Hollingsworth’s blend of bright neon and faded pastels, the work is both warm and calming while grounded in the gritty world inherent to Murphy’s pencils and Remender’s imagination. This issue goes a long way to not only develop the central characters while foreshadowing tragedy in the next few issues. Remender expertly creates scenes of violence and carnage, though it seems clear the story is poised to take away the tranquility and fulfillment they have struggled to attain.
Though sci-fi fantasy, the story easily allows the reader to live within it. The choice in issues two and three to feature long panels with condensed text to one side forces the eyes to stay in one place, slowing down the reader’s experience. This is a jarring departure from the first issue. At first, it feels like bulky exposition. However, it is precisely what Teddy is going through as he suffers from the withdrawals of his old way of life. It puts the reader through the same struggle, even if describing it as a “struggle” seems a bit melodramatic. The style improves upon the work as a whole and provides a more rewarding and profound experience for those who revisit the story when it is released in trade.
Tokyo Ghost inspires reflection upon the past, present and future. It entertains on the page while stimulating the mind.