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Comic Review: Tokyo Ghost, Vol. 1: Atomic Garden

Written by: Neil Davies, Special to CC2K

Ghost Addicted To The Machine.


Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Sean Murphy
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth

Tokyo Ghost Vol. 1 is a five-issue story arc set in the year 2089 and begins in a futuristic nightmare of Los Angeles. The story revolves around two main characters, Lou Dent and Debbie Decay, who are part of the now privatized police force. In this story by Rick Remender and artist Sean Murphy, we are introduced to a world brimming with life and a tale that revolves around the themes of addiction, recovery, insecurities, revenge, relapse and love. Together the art style and story of this comic are the best mixes of Akira, Mad Max and a demented version of Wall-E.

Remender’s vision of the future shows a society literally addicted to technology and distraction. At any given time a person is watching 3+ television shows, pornography, ads, uploaded YouTube videos and more. People have become so hooked onto technology that they will spend their entire lives unaware of their surroundings. Dent himself has nano-bots coursing through his system and handling all of his movements, allowing him to be sunk deep into his shows and distractions even in the middle of high-speed motorcycle chases through the city.

From the get go, this story is an action-packed adrenaline-fueled thrill-ride (if I could think of more synonyms for “fast” I would’ve). The reader is thrown head first into the action when they meet Debbie and Dent while in pursuit of (High octane – ha, thought of another one!) a low-level goon who can help them work their way up the chain to their target, Davey Trauma. Trauma is a villain who can inhabit and control the mind of anybody implanted with a kind of neuro chip, which in this tech-addicted society is literally everybody.

Debbie is one of a few, if not the only, remaining individuals who lives completely tech and enhancement free in a world full of people addicted to their devices and distractions. Her and Dent have been best friends since childhood and at the beginning of this tale are shown to be romantically involved. Together, Dent and Debbie have one of the most beautiful and tragic love stories that I have ever read in a comic. Debbie’s love for who Dent used to be overcomes her hatred of his current addiction to technology. Her affection for Dent leaves her longing for the day when they can both travel to a fabled place in Tokyo where technology doesn’t exist, in order for Dent to detox and recover. Dent, on the other hand, is equally as tragic. His addiction to technology and body enhancements is fueled by his insecurity and desire to be able to protect Debbie, the only person who has ever cared about him. Their love is beautiful, complex and tragic.

This first story arc in Tokyo Ghost is great. I’ll admit that after the first issue, I was all in on a purely artistic level. The story was falling a little flat and at times dialogue felt forced and underdeveloped. The initial villain quickly felt over the top and the story felt overly complicated, making it difficult for me to understand basic plot points. However, as soon as I began reading issue #2, I was hooked. Once the story took the time to slow down and allowed me to truly learn about whom these characters were, I fell in love with them and wanted to immerse myself in every drop of this universe that Remender and Murphy had created.

The concepts in Tokyo Ghost are extremely clever. By taking our modern-day worry that people are becoming addicted to their smartphones and devices, and extrapolating that into the future, Remender shows that technology and distraction doesn’t make us any better. Reliance on technology has become so prominent, people have lost the ability to connect with others, and experience the natural emotions they have been biologically programmed to feel. In turn, people no longer use vicodin, heroin or cocaine as ways to escape their lives. Instead, they use synthetic feelings of love or self-esteem to create what they can no longer naturally feel, an idea I found simultaneously tragic and genius.

Through the evolution of this story, Remender and Murphy have elegantly shown the contrast between the harsh uber-metropolitan that “the isles of Los Angeles” has become and the naturally grown haven that exists in the Tokyo paradise. This book brilliantly shows the ever-growing conflict for man to embrace either technology, or nature.

I truly loved this first story arc of Tokyo Ghost and after taking the time to soak in this world, examining every nook and cranny of the pages and diving deeply into these complex characters, Remender and Murphy have still left me wanting more. I highly recommend this comic for its high intensity action scenes, beautiful love stories and outstanding visuals; this comic is a definite win, in my book.

Tokyo Ghost, Volume 1: Atomic Garden is currently available in single issues. However, the compiled volume published by Image will be available in trade paperback in comic book stores on Wednesday, March 9th and bookstores on Tuesday, March 15th.

4.75 out of 5