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Ripped straight from the 90’s 35mm raw film stock of Akira, it’s Rick Remender’s triumphant bastard child of cyberpunk, eastern mysticism and tragic love story: Tokyo Ghost. Exclamation marks, emojis, and also a porno ad follows.
Fall into a cyber-dystopia, where the internet is a drug, the real world is a blasted techno wasteland and cops roam around in tank-treaded bikes smashing heads. Debbie Decay works with her beau Led Dent (throwback 80’s names. Props.), a constable with a painful, self-destructive past. It’s a journey to redemption with Debbie dragging, punching, and fucking Led all the way to the detox green, wifi-free paradise of Tokyo. A better ironic twist, I can’t think of. It’s six-stories deep of tech and otaku obsession over there in 2016. The villain is a brilliant, anachronistic steampunk asshole. It’s like if a hipster and a toff had a child who was abducted from birth and raised by a self-righteous hacker. Somehow, in six issues the characters go through enough growth that the ending actually makes you feel something- and doesn’t that tie in neatly with Teddy’s sense-dulling information addiction? Frankly, Remender is at his best working with themes of pride, strained women who support their men, and bad decisions. Guys. This is the dude who gave us Agent Venom. You know it’s got to be good.
But a word about art. This is the team of Matt Hollingsworth and Sean Gordon Murphy, who bring us gorgeous color-pencil shades and manga penstroke textures. Every detail pops, every splotch of blood stains. You can feel the grit abrading your fingertips on every page. From the very first issue you’ve got a heavy dose of ultra-violence and gratuitous sex, but somehow, there’s also a tenderness that drips from the lines.
I had doubts about this series, frankly. For one thing, the variant covers are patchwork made from frames of the actual comic. If the lines weren’t so good I wouldn’t have picked it up in the first place. Secondly, the first issue does squeeze everything in a little too tightly, so the themes feel hollow. The prevailing theme about our growing dependence on information and technology seems preachy, almost overdone. Thankfully, Remender knows just when to throw in a true psychopath- Davey Trauma, channeling that 80s punk nihilism so well. After the first issue the anachronism starts to mesh with the anarchy.
The vines entangle around the data ports, so to speak, and the writing takes on a more measured pace. And the covers reflect that too, going from over-the-top Akira madness to a peaceful, flowing woodblock style. This is one series I was very happy to pick up as a serial, and not a trade paperback- stack up the variants side-by-side and they’re just eye candy. I’ll be looking forward to Tokyo Ghost on the shelves again soon!