You know how it goes. You’re out of high school, and suddenly you’ve infatuated with the first person who might seem slightly attracted to you. You drift away from your friends and family just to impress this person, and suddenly, they’re not all that they seemed. That’s the premise of Grace, Keenan, Le, and Hopkins’ “Ghosted In L.A.”, only this story involves a haunted L.A. manor and ghosts who just want to be cool again. If you’re still not hooked, read on as we look through this charming college tale.
Written by Sina Grace
Illustrated by Siobhan Keenan and Sina Grace
Colored by Cathy Le
Lettered by DC Hopkins
In Los Angeles, finding an apartment is killer—unless you live with the dead. Rycroft Manor may be old. It may be abandoned. It may even be haunted. But Daphne Walters doesn’t care about any of that—it has a pool and the rent is free. New to LA, coming off of a bad breakup and having a pretty terrible week, Daphne might need to crash on this haunted couch for a while, but having undead roommates might be more than she bargained for! Will the dead be able to help Daphne find the life she’s been missing in the big city? From GLAAD Award-nominated Sina Grace (Iceman) and illustrator Siobhan Keenan (Clueless, Jem and the Holograms) comes a story about learning how to make friends, find love, and live to the fullest with a little help from some friends whose lives didn’t end at death.
Grace is highly adept at writing characters who feel totally compelling and utterly human, and that is certainly the case with the protagonist Daphne here. At the beginning with her conversation with her “former BFF” Kristi we get shades of Leslie Knope and Anne Perkins of Parks and Recreation as the pair bickers over how much Daphne imprints on her boyfriends and takes on parts of their identities. This argument is the driving force for most of Daphne’s actions, so it’s great that Grace establishes it so early to have it hang like a dark cloud for the rest of the issue. However, it’s Daphne’s little speech quirks and mannerisms that make her so endearing. I love that when she bursts in on her roommate’s bible study, she says “Hey, ladies. Or, as the cool kids say: Holla!”. I especially love that when she sees Agi, the matriarch-esque ghost of Rycroft Manot, she faints saying “Can’t–deal–“. She’s both out of touch and blatantly teenaged and I love her!
The plot is deceptively simple, that in any other hands it might feel trite and cliche. When you lay the inciting incident out on paper, it’s fairly straight forward: girl falls for boy, boy spurns girl, girl acts out. Yet the way that Grace sets everything up and positions the readers, it’s hard not to get swept up in Daphne’s fantasy. Smartly, Grace has it that we never see anything of Daphne’s boyfriend Ronnie only hearing of him through the way she fawns over him, leading to the readers doing the same. By the same token, when we hear Ronnie speak the dreaded phrase “…I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”, it’s just as heartbreaking and wrenching as one might expect. By the time we get to Rycroft Manor and the ghosts, we’re so on board with Daphne’s frustration with her situation that the speech she delivers to the ghosts feels heartfelt and relatable. Apparently, the ghosts thought so too, as she compels them to let her help out around the house, in what could again feel like a throwaway plot point that is actually charming and genuine.
Siobhan Keenan handles art here with assists from Grace in the prologue story, and both give the book a breezy, slice of life buoyancy. I love how clean-lined Keenan’s art is, especially how it renders the immaculate streets of LA. Rycroft Manor is a delightful highlight. It showcases all the usual tropes of a haunted house: spires, twisting hallways and ornate architecture, but with a modern, trendy L.A. flair: it’s fairly well lit, apparently smells like jasmine and has a dang pool. There’s some more subtle detailing going on with the art at points that makes pacing and immersion work really well. When we see Daphne hanging out in the commons, Keenan populates the room with different people in each panel from the same camera angle to cleverly indicate to us that hours have passed while Daphne remains by herself. It works so well visually that I feel like the point would be clear even without the clock indications in the corner.Continued below
Just like with the script, the visuals really accentuate character work here. Keenan’s style feels similar to Lissa Treiman of “Giant Days” fame but with a little more detail and realism, which adds to the suave L.A. chic, while Grace’s style harkens more to that sketchy, light-hearted style, in the beginning, to give levity to a dire situation. There are some great character interactions throughout that really show off Keenan’s artistic chops, such as the first meeting between Daphne and her new roommate Michelle. Daphne looks encouraging and desperate to please the other time, while Michelle looks dismissive and bored, only rising to become stern when Daphne suggests bringing her boyfriend back to the dorm. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are some great moments where Daphne is left alone to reflect with her thoughts that Keenan does wonders with. When Keenan is in the Rycroft’s pool, we see her at peace as she owns her agency, before realizing that she is trespassing and her face becoming a mixture of distress and gasping for air.
Like any good slice of life comic, Cathy Le’s colors pop with vibrancy throughout most of the book. I do enjoy the melodrama that is added in the prologue, however, where Le desaturates the whole scene between Daphne and Kristi to the point that it is dripping in soap opera. Getting into the meat of the story, Le has some great storytelling techniques up her sleeve, especially in the commons scene. Each panel, the colors fade from early evening to late at night, and not only does the exterior lighting suggest this, but the interiors do too, as the colors in the evening are more naturally lit while the lit-up night time is more saturated and robust feeling. Le also handles some great storytelling in using flat colors during highly emotional scenes. The array of harsh reds and pinks during Daphne and Ronnie’s breakup is very high stakes, evoking classic pulp romance comics whilst giving it a light modern pastel tone.
For those in need of their next feel-good story, “Ghosted In L.A.” #1 is the perfect place to start. Grace takes a decidedly simple premise and infuses it with quirky supernatural elements, all while keeping the high stakes drama believable as we see everything through the eyes of our painfully young protagonist. Grace, Keenan, and Le give the books some beautiful visual presence with clean, elegant linework that uses great storytelling techniques whilst popping like comic book rock candy.
Final Score: 8.9 – “Ghosted In L.A.” #1 is a delightful slice of life debut, with killer character work and charmingly detailed art.