"Tokyo Ghost: Volume 1 – Atomic Garden" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Originally released as Tokyo Ghost #1 - #5
Written by Rick Remender
Illustrated by Sean Gordon Murphy
Colored by Matt Hollingsworth
2015, 138 Pages
Trade Paperback released on March 9th, 2016
It's easy to imagine a future where humanity is addicted to technology because we're basically already there. Tokyo Ghost from Rick Remender, Sean Gordon Murphy, and Matt Hollingsworth takes it to an extreme. Set in the year 2089, mankind is little more than those fat people at the end of Wall-E, shuffling around looking for their next digital fix. Technology and entertainment are drugs controlled by gangsters, and Constables Led Dent and Debbie Decay serve as their enforcers. All that glitters is not gold though, as the pair are sent to the one tech-free country on the planet for one last job that could tear them apart literally and metaphorically.
The future presented in Tokyo Ghost is both beautiful and tragic. The opening pages feature Led whizzing through the Isles of Los Angeles on his motorbike with an informant in tow. Debbie sits casually behind him while Led watches dozens of holographic screens, not unlike what is seen in Idiocracy. The backdrop of what's left of LA is gorgeous. Murphy's artwork is filled with fine lines and minute details that give you an immediate sense of the world these characters live in...or what's left of it.
Hollingsworth's color brings Tokyo Ghost to life in crisp features. While just about everything is neon and glowing, it has a muted tone to it, like you're seeing it through a fog. Where Los Angeles is dreary and dark, Tokyo is bright and vibrant, teeming with life.
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The relationship between Led and Debbie is a driving force in Tokyo Ghost. Debbie is perhaps the only tech-free person in LA, while Led is pumped so full of nanotechnology he can barely function without being plugged in. He'd probably throw up at the mere thought of going camping. Debbie holds on to him, even though the man she loves is buried so deep beneath all this tech and distraction. She hopes to someday put Led through a detox and bring back her old flame. That's easier said than done.
You get the sense that Led still deeply cares for Debbie, although he doesn't outright show it. He's quick to come to her rescue, but when she tries to thank him with some impromptu loving, things don't go quite as planned. It's a heartbreaking scene to witness as Debbie is reminded of the inhumanity her love has become.
Murphy's designs for these characters are perfect. Debbie has this light, casual look to her that hides the sadness lurking just beneath the surface. Meanwhile, you can tell that she's tough as nails and ready to jump into a fight if need be. Where Debbie is full of life and energy, Led is bulky and immobile. He's a rock focused on his shows beaming right into his eyeballs nearly every waking moment. When his helmet is removed, it reveals a pair of sunken eyes that probably haven't blinked in hours if not days. It's a cold, emotionless mask of a face.
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Tokyo Ghost features what could be my favorite villain of recent memory in Davey Trauma, a millennial douchebag who had his mind downloaded into the internet, giving him the ability to jump into anyone with nanotech in their system. He leaps around like a homicidal imp, literally moving people around like a video game while yelling stuff like, “YOLO, Bitches!” He goes on a murder spree on a hoverboard with spinning blades on the bottom that leaves behind a mess of gore a mile wide. The whole action sequence is exciting to read. It has a terrific pace with some brilliant visuals.
Led and Debbie's trip to Tokyo has a glimmer of hope to it, like they just might escape the awful existence that was Los Angeles. Of course, nothing is ever that simple and the horrors of that place will haunt them wherever they go. Tokyo is a stark contrast to LA, filled with peace and tranquility. This makes the startling events in the final chapter all the more shocking. Everything rushes to a crescendo that will leave you with your jaw hanging open.
The future presented in Tokyo Ghost may seem dire and downright depressing, but the fact of the matter is that it's not all that unrealistic. You can kind of see this happening and that makes it all the more frightening. This is a smart, character-driven comic with gorgeous artwork in every single panel. I cannot say more good things about this book. Just read it.