Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Comic Review -- Brody's Ghost: The Midnight Train and Other Tales / Mark Crilley

I've only read the first volume of the main story of Mark Crilley's work, Brody's Ghost, but having worked with him in the past at Teen Book Con, the cover to the related one-shot Brody's Ghost: The Midnight Train and Other Tales immediately caught my attention, and I picked up the issue.  The composition certainly does a good job of selling the series premise, it being that there's a guy named Brody, and he can see ghosts and has one that is guiding him through the world.

This collection, as best I can tell, doesn't really further the plot in the main series, but instead serves as a group of humorous filler and character pieces.  In the titular first story, Brody uses his training to stop a group of thugs from robbing a woman on the subway.  In "The Scene of the Crime" Brody unwittingly gets into a scuffle with the husband of a murdered woman when he goes to the site of her murder to look for clues.  "The Test" shows Brody during a small portion of his training, and how his senses have developed to superhuman levels despite all of his complaining.  Finally, "The Big Game" shows the antagonistic relationship between Brody and his ghost, Talia, whose ability to shatter glass is used to bully Brody into leaving his friend Gabe to go investigate a murder suspect instead of watching football on Gabe's new flatscreen television.

The stories are alternately humorous and poignant, giving the reader shades of the characters of Brody and Talia, and to a lesser degree Kagemura, Brody's spectral sensei.  They all seem to enjoy tormenting one another in their ways, but there is an undercurrent of respect and even a little affection with it.  While it is of course helpful to have read the main series--indeed it's probably essential to have read some of it to have any real investment in these characters--the stories can stand alone, and do a serviceable job of serving as introductions to their personalities and motivations.

There is almost no mention of the main series' plot--Brody's purpose is to help Talia find the Penny Murderer so they can apprehend him and she can pass on into heaven.  It's an interesting omission, one that is probably aimed at readers unfamiliar with the series so as not to overburden them with a lot of exposition in a single-issue one-shot.  I personally think that's a smart move, as it gives the comic the opportunity to just focus on developing their personalities, which come off clearly and demonstrates Crilley's knack for witty humor.

Artistically, Crilley's manga-influenced style works well for the story, allowing for plenty of expression from his characters without delving into the overdone and silly.  His depiction of a futuristic, run-down city as the backdrop for his story also works well, and the fairly simple line work in his style keeps things accessible and memorable for the reader.  It does a good job of setting up the visual presentation for the main series, suggesting correctly that Crilley knows both how to tell a story and draw it in a way that will intrigue the reader.

Overall, this is definitely a wonderful companion piece to the main series Crilley has put out.  As a standalone, it may initially cause wonder and/or confusion as people unfamiliar with Brody's Ghost question what it even is, but if they give it a chance, they'll find accessible, humorous stories, clean, crisp artwork, and exposure to a larger story they'll enjoy.  Recommended.

No comments:

Post a Comment