November 19th, 2012 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Graphic Novels & Comics |
I used to live in a haunted house. True story. As in a ‘what’s that noise coming from the attic?’/’should we call in a priest?’ haunted house. Our ghost wasn’t that bad though (the place was a converted grain mill, hardly the stereotypical, murderous hack and slash pit that seems to characterise haunted places).Occasionally you’d hear footsteps coming up the stairs, some rooms were permanently colder than others and on one or two occasions, we’d hear scratching in the walls, which my Dad attributed at the time to birds nesting in the roof. The fact that birds couldn’t get into the roof was only told to me after we moved, but that’s neither here nor there. The idea of being in the presence of a supernatural entity scares the shit out of me.
So, with that in mind, I bought Vertigo’s one-shot anthology ‘Ghosts’, expecting a veritable feast of paranormal activity. While there is some, ‘Ghosts’ veers from the obvious titular spook fest and instead examines themes of loss, regret of lives never lived and relationships that grow apart and fade into the ether. Oh and there’s a sci-fi, ghost ship pirate story but I’ll get to that in a minute.
The stories here are strong, not surprising given the talent on board. Al Ewing’s ’The Night I Took The Data Entry Job I Was Visited By My Own Ghost’ (yes, that is the title) is a funny, almost Dickensian take on the choices we make in life whereas Cecil Castellucci’s ‘Wallflower’ is a sparsely written tale of a relationship that fades over time, the couple becoming like ghosts to each other, that lets Amy Reeder’s superlative artwork pull at the heart strings.
One of the main attractions of this anthology is the superstar pairing of Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire on ’Ghost-For-Hire’, a quirky tale of 2 brothers, one dead, scaring folk out of houses for a cash payment. Johns and Lemire tease the possibility of more whereas the other star attraction, the Neil Gaiman created ‘Dead Boy Detectives’ (literally does what it says on the tin) absolutely guarantees more in other Vertigo anthologies which left me feeling a little cheated. The hidden gems in this collection, however, are Gilbert Hernandez’ ‘The Dark Lady’, a superbly crafted story of inexplicable innocence with a satisfying ending and Joe Kubert’s ’The Boy and the Old Man’, particularly poignant as this was the last story he produced before he died. The artwork is rough, consisting of just his unfinished pencils, but the story of a dying grandfather trying to protect his grandson from an evil spirit is one of the best of the bunch.
The rest of the stories border on the gratuitously surreal – Neil Kleid’s ’A Bowl of Red’ about the creation of a transcendental chili is beautifully drawn by the ever reliable John McCrea, the slightly disappointing ’Treasure Lost’ by Paul Pope and scripted by David Lapham, included in this collection by the most tenuous of links – a ’ghost ship’, is a sci-fi, adventure romp that feels a little out of place but it is the utterly bonkers ’Bride’ by Mary HK Choi that I struggled with; the story of a rich, drug dealing hedonist’s grief at the loss of his spouse who then seemingly ODs after snorting his wife’s ashes. The artwork, by Phil Jimenez, however, is outstanding.
Is it worth 8 dollars/5 of your good pounds? Of course, it’s Vertigo after all and anything that Jeff Lemire stamps his name on is worth the price of admission. But if you’re expecting to read this looking for some brown-trouser inducing terror, I’d look elsewhere.
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