Killer Serial: Tokyo Ghost
“Tokyo Ghost is a paragon of modern science-fiction, and does what only the most incredible science-fiction can do. It takes our world and it puts this crazy colored lens over it that somehow brings it hurtling into even sharper focus.“
Tokyo Ghost TPB
Comics are generally enjoyable, right? I mean that’s why we read them, for entertainment, for fun, for a momentary escape from the monotony of reality. Occasionally, though, we encounter stories that are not content with being merely entertaining. Sometimes stories demand more from us, demand us to acutely consider our reality, instead of escaping from it. Sometimes this feels like a swift kick to the happy-sacks, but sometimes, maybe that’s exactly what we need.
Tokyo Ghost is the loathsomely well-done creation of Remender and Murphy that is so horribly wonderful that it causes physical pain. Set in 2089 it follows Debbie Decay and Led Ded, constables working for Flak Corps. Essentially, they are members of a steroid-police force that maintains order amongst Flak’s audience; the entire nano-tech addicted population of the country. Led is a complete net-blank addict and is as blind as a dead bat to the world rotting around him, but Debbie wants out. The only tech-free individual in all of Los Angeles, she’s been alone in the real world for far too long. But Debbie has a plan. She’s going to escape this neon hellscape and she’s going to get back the boy she loves, because somewhere beneath Led’s newsfeeds and nano-packs, she believes that boy is still there. Aggressively captivating, outrageously clever and maddeningly touching, it’s a tragic techno-dystopian love story that is so good it will most definitely cause you internal bleeding.
“Time passes slowly when you’re not filling every second up with useless information. It forces you to sit with your emotions….to be a human.
I forgot how much that hurts.”
This comic is smart, effortlessly so it seems. Debbie’s narration is part hilarious commentary on the fucked up state of the world and part heart-rending confession of someone desperately lonely in love. Technically, it’s genius. The pacing is masterful and characterization is flawless. Every voice, every snippet of dialogue is impeccably effective. The whacked-out-techno-futurescape allows for frequent and hysterical dark bouts of humor, interspersed with painfully poignant reflections on the human experience. One moment you’re chuckling at a witty little satire of modern times when suddenly a chord strikes and your insides clench up and you can’t tell if you need a good cry or a good poop or both. It’s heartbreaking. It’s moving. Remender is exercising his ability to command the emotions of his audience and manipulate them willy-nilly. His loyal fans are more-than-accustomed to this kind of treatment but if you’re new to his comics, consider yourself warned. This is a sadistically well-executed full frontal assault on the heartstrings.
Here at FreakSugar we refer to our content as candy for your eyeholes. If that’s true, then this comic is illicit drugs for your eyeholes. Sean Murphy illustrates and Matt Hollingsworth colors and the result is absolutely lush. These guys never skimp on the pretty, but this title represents the peak of their collective achievements. Slathered in light and shade, blur and focus, motion and stillness, it’s all there in a gooey, glistening realness. The colors are emotive and the paneling is uniquely creative. The rotting expanse of Los Angeles, the verdant garden of Tokyo, the hedonistic excess of Flak’s grand headquarters, every panel is a treasure. Occasionally you turn a page and fall on your face into a glorious two-page spread of opulence. There is simply so much to take in. At first glance, the small but brilliant details may go unnoticed. Upon further inspection one can deduce the care taken to include playful intricacies in the background. Little references to other titles, like a Black Science pinball machine, diminutive jabs at the creators themselves, like a newsfeed in Led’s nano- “Remender sucks at riting comix!” “Murphy has gon downhill sinse Punk Rock Jesus.” Instead of standard issue sound effects you get quirky little descriptions like ‘spin move’ during a fight or ‘dangle dangle’ during gratuitous nudity. These little snippets are what launches Tokyo Ghost from excellent to infuriating. Each issue can be poured over for hours. Or is it my tears that pour for hours? I don’t know anymore, as the kids are apt to say, this comic has got me fucked up.
The writing is flawlessly emotive, the art is damn-near hallucinogenic, but the violently attractive aspect of Tokyo Ghost that pummels you internally is the premise. We’ve seen these techno-dystopian type comics before, think Transmetropolitan, but this one stands out. It is absolute batshit-crazy-cakes with insane-icing and psycho-sprinkles but at the core of this psychedelic joyride is the most primal, basic story. It’s a love story, it’s a struggle with addiction and lies, and it’s a quest for happiness. It is a paragon of modern science-fiction, and does what only the most incredible science-fiction can do. It takes our world and it puts this crazy colored lens over it that somehow brings it hurtling into even sharper focus. And if Tokyo Ghost has shown us anything, it is that sometimes seeing things as they are is really fucking painful, but perhaps that’s better than the alternative. This series is a doozy, folks.
But could it be any more relevant? In America alone at least 22 million people abuse or are dependent on drugs or alcohol. At least 114 people die every day from overdose, and almost 7,000 are treated daily for drug abuse. The statistics are horrifying but, they are probably not surprising. Chances are, you’ve encountered addiction at least once in your life. Maybe you yourself struggled with it, maybe it was someone you love. Maybe it killed someone close to you. Maybe you can’t relate to the struggle of addiction at all and you’re just fed up to your brain stem with a generation who would rather march blindly into a ravine of anus-eating piranha than unplug for a fraction of a fucking second. Regardless, it’s likely that most people will find something to identify with in Tokyo Ghost.
If you enjoy tragic love stories, quality science-fiction or suffering at the hands of comic creators, this title will not disappoint. It will make you think, it will make you feel, and it may well blind you with its sheer beauty. Besides the agony that it has caused me I have no criticism and no choice but to rate it 10/10. The second, and final, trade paperback of Tokyo Ghost hits the stands October 12th, Volume Two: Come Join Us. Stop scrolling your newsfeed for five minutes and get this book, damnit.
Syd would like to formally apologize for the ubiquitous use of profanity used to describe this fucking amazing comic. If you would like to give this mouthy broad a piece of your mind, follow her on twitter. That oughta teach her.