COMIC REVIEW: Ghost: In the Smoke and Din

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The original Ghost was published in 1993 (written by Erik Luke) and featured the titular Elisa Cameron and her search for the truth surrounding her death. Or did she even die? Dunno, never read it. She has been around off and on ever since, and even featured in a cross-overs with Hellboy and Batgirl. To be honest, she wasn’t on my radar until Dark Horse brought her back last year. Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel and more), In the Smoke and Din is a 3-issue collection (plus prologue).

The story begins with wannabe ghost-hunters Vaughn and Tommy. They’re investigating a cemetery with some experimental supernatural doodad, where the mythic ‘Resurrection Mary’ has been reportedly seen. As it must, the tale progresses quickly as they discover that the afterlife appears to be real, and Elisa, wearing a ghostly, yet teasing, white outfit, comes into their lives. However, she doesn’t know who she is or how she became a ghost. As in the original comics, this is a quest to find out who she is, albeit with some corporeal help.

The collection opens with Ghost #0, originally published after the main issues in 2012. It is in this prologue we meet our main characters. To be honest, chapter 1 (issue #1) didn’t really command my attention, and if I hadn’t been teased by the preamble, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed the book as much as I did. DeConnick’s writing is assured and complex. It demands attention and persistence, which eventually pays off. Elisa doesn’t always wear the sexy costume, which I hope is a result of DeConnick’s story-telling. It doesn’t rely on cliché and titillation. The plot goes to some dark places as the truth is slowly revealed both to characters and readers alike. It is a decent mystery. To be honest, however, I didn’t really warm to Vaughn and Tommy. They are the grounding characters, of course, but I found them a tad thin. The main villain is called Dr October, and while she is intriguing, I couldn’t get the image of Dr Octopus out my head whenever she was mentioned.

The characterisation of Ghost is enhanced by the art of Phil Noto. Her eyes alone are enough to show her rage. The vibrant, almost blinding white of her costume is a real highlight too. There is some very interesting panelling, with bags of non-descript (minimal back-ground detail) talking heads shots. Let’s also say that the devil’s ‘mask’ is appropriately creepy. Noto is a seasoned artist of some of the biggest names in comics, such as Batgirl, Superman, Jonah Hex and X-Men. The art in Ghost: In the Smoke and Din is classic but sumptuous. There’s nothing particularly unexpected about the drawing, but they don’t disappoint either.

This collection is a little frustrating. While it has some stand-out moments and lovely drawing, it doesn’t quite gel. It is enjoyable and just about interesting enough to stand out from the crowd, and there is plenty of potential in the heroine for more stories from DeConnick. The best thing about this run is that Elisa is a strong female lead without all those tiresome clichés a lot of super-heroines are weighed down by. She only needs to ditch the ghost-hunting side-kicks and strike out.

Rating: 3.5/5
Reporter: Ian J Simpson

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