Codename Baboushka’s new mission is picking up speed as the “Ghost Station Zero” miniseries nears it’s end, but is the adventure a satisfying experience? Check out our review to see some thoughts on this question, unless you mind some vague spoilers.
Written by Antony Johnston
Illustrated by Shari Chankhamma
Lettered by Simon Bowland
From Switzerland to Canada, Baboushka is hot on the trail of the elusive Ghost Stations! But why are people willing to kill over long-closed Cold War bases? How much did Clay actually know before sending Baboushka on this mission? And can a digger really outrun a bomb?!
We continue right off where the previous issue ended, escaping both an avalanche and a murderous croupier. This issue features all the classic espionage tropes from hacking into encrypted files to jumping from a plane. With this stuff going on the reader should stay interested, but unfortunately as a whole this issue just fails to grab attention and make you invested. Perhaps the events are too traditional for a spy story, so there isn’t anything exciting about seeing them, even if the main character is something else than a heterosexual white man, who usually stars these type of stories. If you’ve ever seen even one James Bond movie, or consumed pretty much anything that falls into the spy genre, you’ve seen everything that happens in this issue. Having more diverse characters is always a good thing, but if the plot itself is bland, it isn’t enough to make the comic interesting in the long term if the writer uses the tried-and-true formula in every aspect. Even a certain villain having a surprise comeback at the end with a ridiculously dramatic updated look feels kind of inevitable.
The white-haired Baboushka as a character is cool as she jumps away from explosions and shoots her enemy with a nail gun, but the same definitely can’t be said for her one-liners. Writer Antony Johnston has filled the issue with some very annoying, clichéd and sometimes just outright bad one-liners that make the dialogue a bit painful to read. Outside these embarrassing quips the dialogue works a bit better, that is when it’s something else than exposition. The story moves forward at a fast pace but is easy to keep along with. The straightforwardness goes actually a bit overboard. The issue goes from explaining the next part of the mission to the action and then to explaining the next part and so on, without exploration of any deeper themes or the character’s relationships. It’s hard to be really invested when the issue is structured like this.
Unfortunately the art doesn’t help to lift this book up, either. Artist Shari Chankhamma’s colouring looks smudgy in places and blocky in others, even though it can be said that the colours being used fit together quite nicely. Since the digital colouring is so deeply integrated into the artwork, sculpting parts of the images where there is no lineart, the smudginess gives a bit of an unfinished feeling to the art even when the panels have good composition. It’s a bit inconsisent when it comes to which parts have lineart and which don’t, for example Baboushka’s hair has lineart but his colleague Gyorgy’s hair doesn’t.
Chankhamma’s characters have go-to expressions that are circulated in way too many panels. What’s even more jarring about the characters’ expressions is that all of their eyes have this weird tortured look, like they’ve been awake for 72 hours and are thinking about all their deepest regrets. It makes the character artwork look unbalanced when there is so much detail on the eyes but not much on the other parts, like the character’s faces have a manga influence but the rest of the art doesn’t. That being said, the characters’ anatomy is well done in this issue and most of them have good designs. It’s easy to differentiate the characters from each other. The layouts are clear and so is Simon Bowland’s lettering. There’s good variation in the types of shots being used and nice compositions. Overall the good and bad parts of the artwork come together as a look that falls on the lower end of mediocre.Continued below
If Johnston and Chankhamma want “Ghost Station Zero” to leave a memorable impression, in their final issue they need to quickly sharpen up their work by giving the book a more original twist plotwise. Making the backgrounds more finished and coming up with some better dialogue wouldn’t hurt either. With an unconventional main character, there could have been an opportunity to put a fresh spin on tired espionage tropes but instead they’re played straight. So far, the icy Baboushka’s newest mission has sadly been a lukewarm experience, something you’re likely to forget as soon as you close the last page.
Final verdict: 5.0 Underwhelming and formulaic spy action.