Tokyo Ghost #1
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Sean Murphy
I cringed when Alan gave me today’s assignment. My exposure to Rick Remender has generally been with his Marvel work on titles like Uncanny X-Force, Uncanny Avengers, Axis, and the Secret Wars miniseries Hail Hydra. His ideas have been good, but his understanding of the characters he writes… Well, it hasn’t always shown any previous reading he has done about them. I’m looking at you, suddenly-racist-suddenly-all-enraged Rogue. But I just finished Sean Murphy’s gorgeous Chrononauts series, and I remembered Rick Remender wrote that amazing Night Mary series I loved a few years ago, so I swallowed my pride and approached this new Image series with open eyes.
And I have converted.
Tokyo Ghost is a fantastic science fiction dystopia book about the very real-world nature of addiction as it occurs in family systems and social units. If that sounds boring, I will also say there are many pictures of bare breasts and blood, so hey, multiple levels. The setup is that in the future, everyone except Debbie Decay has been implanted with technology that lets them stay in the Internet forever, downloading modifications to simulate actual emotion so they can just sift through their newsfeeds and run pornography in the side of their screens. Debbie and her partner, Led Dent, are enforcers for one of the crimelords, pulling one last job so they can leave the ruins of Los Angeles for the potential paradise of Tokyo. That last job involves racing motorcycles through an amazingly detailed cityscape on the run from the henchmen of gangster Davey Trauma, a lunatic pulling A Clockwork Orange into the Facebook generation.
This book was incredible. The story was engaging, with tons of creative swearing but never to the point of making it unpleasant to read. The curse words were there to provoke but also to set the gritty tone, and I applaud Remender’s restraint. Sean Murphy’s Los Angeles is futuristic and dark, and the team pairs brilliantly when it comes to jokes like a pop-up ad for “Roofies that also make her lose weight instantly” or Tweets like “Remender sucks at riting comix!” The character names pull a sense of noir gang movies without coming across as affected.
The main reason I loved this, though, was the shockingly sensitive way Remender wants to explore addiction. In the back of the book, he writes a letter showing that he is intentionally telling this story as a caution about our addiction to social media and technology, but that’s been done before (See Vaughan’s Public Eye, see Luna’s Alex + Ada). What makes this better is that Remender wants to look at the role of Debbie Decay, working her butt off to support her boyfriend Led. She remembers the great man he was, and she appreciates his role in her partnership, even if he only interacts with her through the foggy lens of his data screen. It would be easy to write her off as codependent, but Remender is looking deeper than that. She loves him. She hates his addiction. She respects herself. She doesn’t see a lot of options. I have no idea how this story is going to end for Debbie, but I trust Remender to help us to understand the complexity of loving an addict.
For fans of science fiction, for people who care about someone in trouble, for people tired of going to dinner and having everyone staring at their phones, for readers who want something honest and new, head on down to Ultimate Comics and pick up this hot new series.
-Matt Conner for Ultimate Comics & NCCOMICON