“Read a Damn Book – 120: Ghost Stories”

Here’s a book I found in a “closeout” bin at I Like Comics in Vancouver, Washington, USA.

ghost stories - (peg)

Marilee Hord & Lynn Adair (eds.) and others – Ghost Stories (1995)

There once was a time when Dark Horse Comics (famous for their books based on licensed properties, like Star Wars, Terminator, Aliens, and Predator—and for a few quirky books that broke into the mainstream, like Hellboy and The Mask) decided they wanted to try their hand at a superhero universe, and they unleashed the “Comics Greatest World” campaign to try and capture the popular imagination. (I think I had an issue or two of their psycho-killer book, X, and maybe one or two others—but if it says anything, I can’t remember much about them…) Ghost Stories is a collection of three different tales from this superhero universe, which are all centered around the character, Elisa Cameron, an amnesiac ghost who believes she was murdered, but doesn’t know by whom or for what reason, and she spends each of these stories trying to piece together why she was killed and attempting to bring the killers to justice—I’m just kidding, she shoots the hell out of anyone who she suspects was even slightly involved in her death, or anyone who is a man, or anyone who she thinks looks at her funny. (How a ghost can shoot a gun is never explained—or how she reloads her ghost-gun… Where do you buy ghost-gun bullets?)

Essentially, Ghost is a vengeful spirit packing heat, as well as a hardcore, feminist-esque man-hater, who is constantly berating the READER, who she assumes is male and therefore a sexist, horndog, womanizing asshole. It’s weird to have the narrator of a story constantly badmouthing the reader, but I can honestly say that I’ve never really seen this done before, so the creators get a few points for the sheer novelty of it!

What I like about the book is that it has a solid, noir, detective feel to it. Ghost is trying to solve a murder—and the fact that it’s HER OWN murder that she’s investigating gives the book an uneasy, macabre atmosphere, which is pretty interesting. The writing isn’t too bad. The art is decent, and the tone is consistent throughout. It’s not a bad book, overall, and if you were a reader of Dark Horse’s “Comics Greatest World” series of books, it would probably be a decent addition to your collection—but this brings us to the irritating aspect of the book…

What I’m bothered by (or MOST bothered by) is the fact the book feels like three disconnected snapshots, and that’s because it IS. The book is a patchwork of various stories that all just happen to have this one character in them, but which otherwise really don’t work as a cohesive whole. The first story, where Ghost is introduced, starts with some alien characters hunting somebody—or something—and they stumble across Ghost, who is hunting somebody else, and then there’s a fight and blah blah blah… We never learn anything more about the aliens (because they are part of a different storyline,) and this story just stops without tying up any of the disparate elements. The next tale is focused on Ghost (it was originally a stand-alone comic,) and it makes the most sense, although it’s pretty depressing. (Ghost discovers who she was, and learns that she still has a family that misses her, but she is too consumed by her quest for revenge to care anything about those she left behind.) And then the third story starts, abruptly, as somebody we don’t know is fleeing from something in a helicopter—and then the pilot’s dead—and then we’re on a big ship and there are soldiers everywhere, and there are hints of some big conspiracy, and we probably would think all of this was pretty neat if we had read all the rest of the books in this continuity—but without the context, it’s all just noise.

So overall, Ghost Stories wasn’t too bad of a find (for super-cheap,) but it doesn’t really work as a “graphic novel.” It’s not a cohesive story, just a collection of fragments, with an angry, feminist main character who assumes the person reading her story is a horny male, and the whole thing leaves the reader with a lot of unanswered questions (which won’t be answered next week because this line of books has been cancelled for almost twenty years.) This book MIGHT be enough to inspire folks to seek out the Dark Horse superheroes titles—but I kind of doubt it. The noir atmosphere, particularly in the second story, is good, and the art is pretty good, as well, but the book really just doesn’t hold up overall—not a cohesive or complete enough story to be particularly satisfying… (They can’t all be winners…)

—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)

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About richardfyates

Compulsive creator of the bizarre and absurd. (Artist, writer, poet, provocateur...)
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