Ghost Town #2 Review

Cover by Justin Greenwood and Jordie Bellaire
Ghost Town #2 from Action Lab Comics

Script by Ryan K. Lindsay
Art by Daniel Logan
Colors by Brian Dyck
Ghost Town created by Rob Ruddell and Dave Dwonch

I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers, but I make no promises.

Ghost Town is a miniseries centering around events an area encompassing “a 25-mile radius” around Washington D.C., which has been termed The Rad. This area has been pretty much abandoned by the whole of American society after a bomb was sent through time to an undetermined point in the future, leaving the few people left in the area in a perpetual state of fear as to when, if ever, the bomb will go off, taking the whole area with it.

At least, that’s what I’ve been able to glean about the setting from the sparse amount of exposition offered. This comic does not do a very good job introducing the reader to its world. This is the second issue of a 5-issue miniseries that is also the first issue of a multi-issue arc. There’s no indication how many issues may be in this arc, just that there is at least 1 multi-issue arc in this 5-issue miniseries that also has a first issue, which I assume lays out the setting and its history. There is no recap page that gives a quick overview of the events that happened earlier in the miniseries, and all the detail about the setting was basically gleaned from one speech bubble of exposition in the first panel of the issue. Through its failure to explain or recap an explanation of where the story takes place, this issue simultaneously fails at being a good first issue or a good second issue. There’s no allowance for those who came in late, and for a comic that directly advertises itself as a Part 1, that’s an important failing.

The lineart, credited to Daniel Logan, which I will assume means pencils and inks, does an alright job of getting across the dilapidated setting. Everything has a sense of damage to it, both in the sense that it’s been around long enough to build up some scratches and dings and that the locals have lost enough hope not to bother fixing it up. The coloring adds to this, with a morose, gray color scheme that gives the impression of the city being perpetually covered by a cloudy, overcast sky that never breaks to sunlight, but never quite rains either, fitting for the sort of dragging, fatalistic dread the locals live with. However, his human figures are not as well-crafted, with stiff posturing, occasionally wonky anatomy, and unclear facial expressions.

The writing isn’t helped by that last one. The bulk of this issue focuses on two stories. The first follows a burglar/reclaimer/whatever you call a guy who infiltrates buildings, takes items, and delivers them to people who claim to be their owners whose name may or may not be Nate Lawson as he retrieves a particularly precious item from a somewhat-but-not-really-abandoned hotel. He’s a cipher of sorts, never showing much emotion except when he’s manipulating people to do his bidding. On the first page, he describes his profession as follows:

Page 1

From the decision to place captions “explaining” his profession in these panels, you’d expect the content within, showing a restrained woman, a bloodied knife, and a shocked expression to hint at some ulterior meaning to his words, possibly that the “retrieval” he’s talking about isn’t necessarily retrieval of objects, but of information, and he’s acting as an unreliable narrator, with the content of the panels putting the lie to his words.

No, that’s not what this turns out to be. Perhaps from the limited color scheme of the flashbacks, you’d expect it to be a flashback to be explained later? Not from what I can tell. What this seems to be is a flash forward, as when we first see this character, in the cliffhanger of this issue, the knife pictured is clean, and she is not restrained. Given that this is a multi-issue arc, I can’t blame the writer for not following up on all the unclear plot elements in one issue, but this flash forward could have been communicated much more clearly.

The other story follows gang boss Tyrell Desmond as he searches for something to “shake that Preston bitch’s cage,” whoever Preston may be, it’s not explained, while trying to build an empire in The Rad(allow me a bit of a tangent, but that’s such an uninspired name. I get that The Capitol Wasteland was taken, but The Rad sounds like an extreme sports-themed post-apocalyptic society where only those who take the biggest risks and nail the baddest stunts survive) among the cast-off possessions of the former rulers of Washington DC in the Potomac Boat Club. He’s introduced in a sequence where he has his henchmen kill a junkie who has stolen drugs from him by stabbing him and dumping him into the Potomac in a somewhat confusingly-drawn sequence. You see the henchmen stab him, but it’s not the emphasis of the panel, it’s somewhat muddled in the distance. And right after that dispatching he delivers this little bon mot:

The first panel is clear enough, but the second panel is where the art fails the script in a major way. “Fuck” is a word that can be used a thousand different ways with a thousand different inflections to mean a million different things, and Tyrell’s look of mild annoyance while looking somewhat to his right doesn’t really shed any light on what he’s intending to convey. Is he angry that the junkie, who he seems to have trusted at one point in the past, has betrayed his trust? Is he ashamed of himself for having the junkie’s blood on his hands? Is he just irritated that his drugs were stolen? It’s very unclear what this means for Tyrell, who at this point is the most interesting character in the issue, trying to build something of some worth in this doomed city.

The dialogue isn’t really any great shakes. Every character speaks with a sort of fatalistic snark. Every once in a while there’ll be a bit of comic relief, for example a disheveled hobo screaming at the hobo he’s just stabbed that he still owes him a cheeseburger, but for the most part it’s mostly filled with a sort of gritty nihilistic whinging, like so:

I’d like to shine a special little light on that sign there. I’m not sure if the writer or the artist thought that up, but whoever thought “Yes, let’s put this in the comic, this sign so on the nose regarding the tone of the comic that it’s impolite to pick it in public” should be marked with a scarlet letter for the rest of their days: O for Overwrought.

What little isn’t hard-nosed cynicism is filled with jokey referential humor, as when Nate says that a great man said that he loves it when a plan comes together, or when he caps off the issue by quoting “a line from the greatest movie of all time.” Last I checked, “My name is Nate Lawson and I’m here to rescue you” never showed up in Rushmore. The dialogue is weak all around, which, combined with the lack of place-setting and poor facial acting on the part of the artist, presents the reader with a serious dearth of interesting characters to populate the somewhat interesting world.

Critical Mass: The setting, while underexplained, has promise and is depicted well, but poor dialogue and character art leave a lack of interesting characters to interact with it, resulting in an only somewhat interesting story.

Ghost Town #2 can be bought from Action Lab Comics and wherever Action Lab Comics may be sold. A review copy was provided by the writer.