Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Phil Noto
Review by Bob Reyer
Resurrecting neglected, abused or otherwise under-appreciated super-heroines is fast becoming Kelly Sue DeConnick’s speciality, as her amazing work on Captain Marvel will attest (and just wait until you see who’s guest-starring in up-coming issues of that book!), but with Ghost, a character that has not head-lined a title since the 2001 Ghost/Batgirl crossover, she has hit the equivalent of a walk-off, grand slam home run.
In her original incarnation, Elisa Cameron returns from the dead as the avenging “Ghost”, searching for her murderers and her identity, before eventually finding a new role as the guardian for the mystically-active city of Arcadia over the 36 issues of writer Eric Luke’s gritty film-noir styled run. (For more on the original series, see my piece “Ghost Stories”, here at Talking Comics!)
Ghost #0, which collects the recent stories from Dark Horse Presents, and is the precursor to a 4-issue mini-series entitled Ghost: In the Smoke and Din, is a fine jumping-on point for the uninitiated, as we’re introduced to the character of “Ghost” as for the first time, with none of the previous series’ supporting cast (as yet) present. Here-in, Tommy Byers “professional ghost hunter”, and ex-journalist Vaughn Barnes, both now of the low-rent paranormal TV show “Phantom Finders” discover the real thing whilst investigating the case of “Resurrection Mary”, the restless spirit of suburban Chicago’s Resurrection Cemetery, as she rises into the night sky, only to vanish into some form of “spectral trap”.
When she fails to materialize during a press conference to publicize the discovery of the “astral world”, the partners bicker, and Vaughn heads home with the “box” to wash his pain away with alcohol, but discovers that he is not drinking alone as the ghost re-appears in his living room. Vaughn quickly realizes that this is not the stuff of “haunted house” movies, as this cloaked-in-white woman has the ability to become solid, and touch and hold objects, as well as pass through them, and after using these skills to help him out of a tight spot, Vaughn, Tommy and the other-worldly ghost take to the road in search of her identity, and Vaughn, through helping others, hoping to find a bit of his own lost humanity.
Vaughn Barnes serves as our narrator, as well as being the ghost’s tether to her new circumstance. At times, Vaughn is the archetypical tough-as-nails reporter, but it’s obvious that life has taken it’s toll on him, so he is also the conscience of the piece, and perhaps senses a kindred “spirit” (ouch!) in this newly-risen apparition, and there-in a reason to aid her in a quest to find herself.
Ms. DeConnick’s decision to begin this “Ghost” story as a mystery harkens back to Eric Luke’s original series, as does the re-introduction of the once-again nameless lead character. As depicted through the realistic dialogue by Ms. DeConnick and artist Phil Noto’s subtle yet sublime facial expressions, this awakening is a sequence of such deep emotional impact that as she comes to the realization that she has returned to some form of life, I found myself alternately thrilled or saddened for her new condition, with both feelings conspiring to start the tears flowing. As with Captain Marvel, Ms. DeConnick’s love for this neglected character shines through, transforming what in other hands could have been just another unnecessary revival into something truly special. My kudos to Ms. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Mr. Phil Noto for infusing this book with such genuine emotion, and for returning this Ghost to life!
Ghost #0 is a wonderful jumping-on point for those unfamiliar with the character, but for those of us with affection for the previous incarnation, who have pined in vain for Elisa Cameron’s return, the Ghost’s re-awakening will undoubtedly bring the same emotions to bear for you as it did for me. In either case, whether you are a Ghost rookie, or a veteran, This book is a must buy, and highly recommended!
(As an nod to our Mr. Steve Seigh’s great addition of citing the “soundtrack”, this review was written whilst listening to the album “Home Sweet Mobile Home”, by the amazing chanteuse Nellie McKay, whose live band is called “The Phantom Strangers”, and when I asked Ms. McKay about the comic book roots of such an appellation, she nodded knowingly! )