“Ghosted in L.A.” #2

By | August 16th, 2019
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

The visual aesthetic of “Ghosted in L.A.” #2 is accessible, stylish and hip with an intuitive flow. The plot, on the other hand, feels a bit convoluted and forced. (Warning: may contain minor spoilers.)

Cover by Siobhan Keenan
Written by Sina Grace
Illustrated by Siobhan
Keenan with Sina Grace
Colored by Cathy Le
Lettered by DC Hopkins

Daphne settles into her new life as a resident of Rycroft Manor, and the unique challenge of living with ghosts. Pros: they don’t steal her food. Cons: It’s the first date she’s been on since Ronnie, and her roommates keep popping up all over the place. Literally.

With series like “Avant Guards,” “Heavy Vinyl,” “Dodge City,” and “Fence,” the Boom! Box imprint from Boom! Studios has assembled a distinctive subset of titles with an immediately recognizable style. Visually, the overall aesthetic is clean, bold, and uncluttered, with lots of sharp black lines, judicious use of white space, great character designs, and the occasional pastel color-field background. Often, much of the story is told through the characters’ facial expressions, especially their theatrical, Manga-inspired eyes. Narratively, the main storylines can typically be summarized more or less the same way: an awkward young protagonist on the cusp of adulthood clumsily tries to navigate an increasingly complex maze of social and romantic relationships while simultaneously juggling other external demands, such as college, family, or work.

In other words, these are books that explore what it means to be a newly independent young adult. On the one hand you’re trying to forge a bold new path and make your mark on the world. On the other hand, you’re trying to fit in and define who you think you are. One set of forces pulls you toward an uncertain future, while the other tries to trap you in the all-too-familiar past.

On the surface, perhaps, none of this is groundbreaking. It’s nothing that we haven’t already seen in countless other “coming of age” comics and graphic novels. A few rather unique characteristics, however, tend to set the aforementioned titles apart. First off, they’re incredibly stylish, yet manage to remain completely accessible. In short, they look really cool, but they’re simple and easy to read. Second, the protagonists are unique, likable and thoroughly engaging. Of course, they all have their flaws, but they’re characters we want to root for and see succeed. Most notably, however, those other Boom! Box titles all push the envelope, take creative chances, and think outside the box.

“Ghosted in L.A.” #2 is similarly well constructed, with moments of humor and insight and a hip, breezy Normcore aesthetic, but within the larger context of the imprint’s body work, it can tend to feel pretty tepid – maybe even trite. In fact, even protagonist Daphne Walters seems mystified by the plot. After finally getting rid of the insufferable d-bag Brint, she neatly summarizes what the rest of us were thinking for the five previous pages: “I turned into the girl in scary movies,” she says, “where you’re screaming at her to make better choices, but she won’t listen.” The line comes across, in part, as a self-deprecating quip. Certainly, it’s meant to be read as a sly metacommentary. By the same token, however, it rings a little too true, an oblique apology from writer Sina Grace who seems to rightly sense it’s all a little too much.

To be clear, Grace can definitely write great snatches of dialogue. When Daphne an Brint first met, for example, she cut him down to size almost immediately. “Are you even a Velvet Underground fan,” he wonders, oozing hipster judginess, “or did you have some leftover credit at Urban Outfitters?” “Both?” she wonders aloud, throwing it right back in his face. “Also, buzz off,” she adds, “I usually take my douche pills after breakfast.” The reason Daphne does a complete 180 and gives Brint a second chance isn’t completely unmotivated, but there’s enough of a disconnect that it feels a bit contrived and narratively convenient. Either way, it doesn’t feel even vaguely organic or authentically character-driven, creating too much of a void between the protagonist and the reader.

The art, on the other hand, is absolutely airtight, especially when it comes to paneling and page layouts. I have to admit I’ve been geeking out lately about what feels like a paneling Renaissance – particularly among the indies – and the work in this book is right there at the top. The use of angular panels, insets, and overlapping is simply magnificent, dictating the flow and timing with expert precision.

Siobhan Keenan’s command of close-up facial expressions is also a joy to behold. In fact, all three artists, including colorist Cathy Le and letterer DC Hopkins are all at the top of their game, and even more importantly, absolutely in sync. There are flashbacks, ghosts and cuts between various times and places and yet everything is smooth and crystal clear. Ironically, perhaps, the art is so intuitive, so seamless and so smooth, that Grace’s script seems to stumble, unable to keep up and rise to the level the illustrations demand. That said, Grace has definitely planted several interesting seeds. Hopefully, it’s just a case of needing to rush through the preliminary plot points to get to the good stuff.

Final Verdict: 7.2 I’m still optimistic about the series as a whole, but “Ghosted in L.A.” #2 fails to live up to the hype.

John Schaidler