- Publisher: Vertigo
- Story By: Al Ewing, Cecil Castellucci, Geoff Johns, Gilbert Hernandez, Toby Litt, Joe Kubert, Neil Kleid, Mary H.K. Choi, Paul Pope, David Lapham
- Art By: Rufus Dayglo, Amy Reeder, Jeff Lemire, Paul Pope, Mark Buckingham, Victor Santos, Joe Kubert, John McCrea, Phil Jiminez, Gilbert Hernandez
“There’s a ghost in my house, & I’ve realized it’s you…” –Curve
I have to say it: I adore comics anthologies, especially those centered around a particular theme. The comics medium is so damn adaptable that the spectrum of themed stories runs all over the place, and it’s very difficult to get bored. Now, given the topic of “ghosts”, one might be inclined to think that the resulting stories would be various levels of creepy and terrifying. But the myriad of talent present has given us something much, much more than just a series of ‘ghost stories’. GHOSTS is an emotional rollercoaster that offers everything from laugh-out-loud humor to seriously disturbing character study within its eighty pages.
Comic review sites have a tendency to focus on the big names, and while their stories certainly hold up—particularly Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire’s “Ghost-for-Hire” and Gilbert Hernandez’s “The Dark Lady”—I think I’ll give the other talents their due, here. Because GHOSTS opens with a story about being visited by a a ghost of your future rockstar self who is inevitably cooler than you, and what kind of creative person hasn’t had a similar nightmare? Al Ewing’s script is equal parts snark and musical riffing: “Anyway, my ghost explained stiffly, he had no choice now but to haunt himself—myself—for all eternity. Then he played a ‘Ladytron’ riff at me.” Rufus Dayglo’s artwork is appropriately exaggerated. It plays like an animated short.
Using ‘ghost’ as an entirely metaphorical, almost psychological construct, Cecil Castellucci and Amy Reeder bring a huge amount of pathos into “Wallflower”, a tale of domestic deterioration. The narration is incredibly spare, and Reeder appropriately steps up in her interpretation of lines like, “Objects became relics. Silence became loud.” So simple, yet moving and conducive to outlines, fading colors, and framed panels of personal and political history.
Mary H.K. Choi’s “Bride”, with art by Phil Jiminez, is fifty kinds of disturbing and transgressive. You’re never quite sure what’s going on in a literal sense, and yet the visual of the main character snorting his wife’s still-white dead ashes is a punishing one. Joe Kubert’s final written and penciled work, “The Boy and the Old Man”, is gorgeous and crazily prophetic in its tale of a grandfather summoning strength to take down a spirit who would rather usurp his grandson in the face of death. There is also a tale of hellish chili, an alien rescue adventure, and a whimsical nod to Neil Gaiman’s Dead Boy Detectives.
If you flinch at the $8 price tag, just think: it’s four times the material for only twice the price, and no less than you’d pay for a quality color magazine, which is exactly what GHOSTS is. Vertigo’s anthology one-shots have held up almost better than their ongoing titles in the past year, and I haven’t missed one yet. Neither should you.