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There are a lot of fabulous artists working in comics today, but lately I’ve been really into the art of Phil Noto (Uncanny X-Force), which he frequently posts on his own Tumblr account. So I was eager to read the trade paperback edition of Ghost: In the Smoke and the Din since I’d missed the single issues from last year. Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel) and illustrated by Noto, Ghost: In the Smoke and Din is a riveting read that covers a lot of story, complete with twists and interesting characters.
Ghost was a character who originally debuted in the 1990s at Dark Horse Comics. She had a series that ran for many years as well as crossovers with characters like Hellboy and Batgirl. However, there hadn’t been new stories about the character in a few years. Ghost: In the Smoke and Din begins with Vaughn and Tommy, the crew of a low-budget reality television show about ghost hunting called “Phantom Finders,” accidentally-on-purpose summoning Ghost, a beautiful young woman from somewhere beyond.
The men have used a small little box but don’t know what it does or who created it. It clearly seems to have paranormal capabilities. Ghost doesn’t have a lot of information, either. She can’t remember anything about herself, but saves the two guys when some bad men come looking for the box. Vaughan and Tommy try to help her out, but soon things get out of control. There’s also a villainous mayor and evil scientist named Dr. October who knows about the box and Ghost’s origins.
Although it was Noto’s art that initially drew me to this book, DeConnick really impressed me with the script to Ghost. On one level, there’s the plot, which involves switched allegiances, romantic triangles and evil spirits galore. It’s a fun tale with suspense earned through big plot-points rather than cheap cliffhangers. However, there’s another level where DeConnick really stands out, and that’s characterization. All of the main characters are unique and interesting, especially Ghost, who believably swings from vengeful to kind to confused.
One of the nice things about Ghost: In the Smoke and Din is that the story really moves and concludes in a satisfying way. It’s almost unusual to find a story in mainstream comic books these days that advances its plot at a brisk pace without sacrificing character or suspense. At the end of Ghost: In the Smoke and Din, there is a clear wrap. We know Ghost’s identity and where she comes from. The other main characters also have their fates decided. The ending opens the door to a different plotline that is equally intriguing.
The storyline and characters in Ghost: In the Smoke and Din would make it worth a read regardless of the artists involved. However, having Noto illustrate the story really does take it to another level. Noto excels in drawing beautiful faces, and Ghost fits in that category, but she’s also allowed to show many expressions: sadness, despair, anger, and even joy. Ghost, in Noto’s hands, is curvy in an attractive but relatively realistic way. Noto handles the action and supernatural elements quite well. If there is one complaint to be made about his art, the lead male characters have similar faces. It’s not confusing because they have different hair and speech patterns, but it does seem a little odd that the men could almost pass for brothers. Alex Ross contributes a cover to the volume, which is a pretty picture of Ghost, although it doesn’t really relate to the story at all.
Ghost: In the Smoke and Din compiles Ghost #0, which was originally published as part of the Dark Horse Presents series, and the four issues that followed, beginning in October 2012. If you happened to have missed these issues, I think the Ghost: In the Smoke and Din trade is worth a look. It doesn’t require any background knowledge of the character and serves out a great combination of story and artwork that resolves in a rewarding way.