Tradewaiter: Ghost Vol. 1 – In the Smoke and Din

By | August 5th, 2013
Posted in Columns | % Comments

As part of Dark Horse’s superhero revival, Phil Noto and Kelly Sue DeConnick were tasked with reviving this old property. Given their skills, it was a no brainer the book would be interesting. However, in an industry drowning in superhero universes, their real job is too make the book good enough to justify its existence.

Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Illustrated by Phil Noto

One warm night in Chicago’s Resurrection Cemetery, paranormal investigators Vaughn and Tommy accidentally summon a beautiful transparent woman who may or may not be the legendary Resurrection Mary. Their search for her true identity uncovers a dark, hidden history of the city and a deadly alliance between political corruption and demonic science! In the middle of it all stands Ghost, a woman trapped between two worlds!

Kelly Sue DeConnick (Avengers Assemble, Captain Marvel) brings a keen new eye to Dark Horse’s ethereal heroine! From a new line of Dark Horse superheroes!

$17.99 /136 pages

“Ghost” has a classic premise at its heart: Being the only person who walk between two worlds, usually to maintain a balance or bring peace. Ghost Rider does it. John Savage did it in “Brave New World.” Neo did it in The Matrix. Shoot, Jesus did it in the New Testament. The trope exists because it has appeal and potential, but when a story exists among a saturation of similar plots, its success relies more on execution than on originality. As such, this review will be a bit more nit-picky than usual.

This first volume collects issues zero through four of the miniseries. Issue zero, which was serialized in three parts in the pages of “Dark Horse Presents”, is narrated by Vaughn, one of the paranormal investigators mentioned in the solicitation. The other four issues are narrated by Ghost. Read issue to issue, this change was minor, made narrative sense, and was easy to forget. Read in a collection, it stands out in a bad way. Through Vaughn’s inner monologue and personal troubles, he starts the series in the lead role. Then, just as you get invested in him, Ghost takes over and the guy you like most is suddenly bumped to supporting cast. Sure, he’s still there, but he’s only important so much as he impacts Ghost’s quest to find out who she is, and his problems are only as important so much as they impede said quest. While it is a given Ghost is the star of a book called “Ghost”, the trade would read easier if the narration switch occurred between volumes.

The central mystery is well orchestrated, and the various clues all hold up to multiple readings. There are a few things that seem mighty convenient – like how Tommy got his machine in the first place. The good news is how all of them are open for explanation and expansion in future issues, and not so awkward as to just be inexplicable. The only part of the story which is truly puzzling is in the first chapter. Two men come to kill Vaughn and Tommy, and one of said goons dies. The second goon seems to vanish from the scene and existence, as he is never mentioned again by anyone.

Noto’s pencils fall on the left of center on the minimalist to detailed spectrum, and hover back and forth between neat and sketchy. Backgrounds are plain if they’re included, but he usually opts for just a solid color backdrop. Most of his characters are distinct, although in the final act all the men are wearing tuxedos and the only way to tell Vaughn apart from the villain is a curl in his hair. Noto’s line work lends itself to expressive faces, but the blocky style he uses for coloring gives his panels a static look usually associated with photo referenced art. For some reason, he will occasionally leave the pupil out of someones eyes, which can give them a creepy look which seems inappropriate to the situation.

The five chapters in this volume work together to present a full story, resolving the main mystery to satisfaction and bringing subplots to a point where they aren’t so much dangling as they are pointing the direction for the next part of the series. When the ongoing series begins, it will have a clear mission.

Speaking of that mission, this brings us back to the point about a cliched premise succeeding or failing on its execution. At the end of this volume, “Ghost” finds itself in a situation almost identical to Daniel Way’s run on “Ghost Rider” from a few years ago. This isn’t to say DeConnick or Noto are stealing from Way. They probably haven’t even read that storyline, and the lens through which the story is being told is very different. But when it’s all said and done, this is a superhero story which doesn’t do quite enough to set itself apart from any other similarly-themed book. It’s very well written and very well drawn. If you read it, there’s a good chance you’ll like it, but it’s not quite good enough to recommend buying it over something else. Yet.

Final Verdict: 6.5 – Browse, but keep an eye on the book.

//TAGS | Tradewaiter

Drew Bradley

Drew Bradley is a long time comic reader whose past contributions to Multiversity include the Minding MIND MGMT, Small Press Spotlight, and Tradewaiter columns, along with Lettering Week and Variant Coverage. He currently writes history-based articles. Feel free to email him about these things, or any other comic related topic.


  • Columns
    Tradewaiter – UXB

    By | Nov 11, 2013 | Columns

    Do you like crazy? The Donnie Darko kind where you’re given only a few pieces of the puzzle, and none of them fit together? Then “UXB” is for you.Written and Illustrated by Colin LorimerIn a shattered future London, experimental “lifesuits” are grafted to the bodies of three brothers, affording the boys great power… and great […]

    MORE »
    Tradewaiter – The Unemployment Adventures of Aqualung

    By | Nov 4, 2013 | Columns

    “The Unemployment Adventures of Aqualung” is a book that probably flew under your radar. This original graphic novel from Arcana appeared in “Previews” without much fanfare, but did have an interesting solicitation:Written by Alex Schumacher & Scott TamanahaIllustrated by Alex SchumacherFor over seventy-five years, Agent Aqualung has defended the country from supernatural forces as part […]

    MORE »
    Tradewaiter – Fraction

    By | Oct 28, 2013 | Columns

    David Tischman and Timothy Green II’s “Fraction”, originally published as six issues in 2004, was first collected in 2011. For those who missed those offerings, a new printing became available earlier this month. But what is this book, and why does it still deserve attention almost a decade after its release?Written by David TischmanIllustrated by […]

    MORE »