Tokyo Ghost Vol. 2: Come Join Us by Rick Remender, Sean Gordon Murphy, and Matt Hollingsworth
Published by: Image Comics on October 12, 2016
Review Source: Personal Copy
Genres: Graphic Novel, Sci-Fi
Plot: Picking up soon after where volume one leaves off, readers see where life without Debbie has left Led. (Collecting issues #6-11) Review for Vol. 1 can be found here.
Review: It’s no secret that I adore Remender, Murphy, and Hollingsworth. It’s like they have magical comic book powers that, when merged together, knock my nerdy little socks off. Just look at it!
I die. It’s almost too good. It’s bioluminescent. However, Tokyo Ghost isn’t just a pretty face. There’s some real meat here.
Tokyo Ghost takes place in a futuristic Los Angeles where the internet is addictive, the environment is destroyed, and people have little to look forward to. It’s not exactly the palm tree paradise we know and love, but it also isn’t that farfetched. The heart of what’s happening in Debbie and Led’s world feels like a very real possibility (as least in some capacity) these days. In volume two we follow Led as he is sucked back into the digital realm. He has become little more than a killing machine for Flak, awakening from his online benders only to slice and dice on command. When the Ghost of Tokyo appears, it opens up a word of conflict. I could tell you more, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Instead, let’s look at how Remender’s dystopia is doing what comics have done successfully for years: addressing important and challenging topics to effect change and growth. There are a lot of powerful themes here to explore:
The Growth of Mankind, Unchecked and Destructive: The population has been exploding for a long, long, time. According to the World Population Clock, the it is increasing at a rate of about 1.11%, or 80 million people a year. With 7.4 billion people on the planet and no possibility of off-world colonization in our near future, human beings are living borrowed time and resources unless we make dramatic changes. When you think about things this way, Debbie and Led’s world doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. We’ve already had acid rain, a decline in air quality, and massive climate change. Tokyo Ghost addresses how mankind is often the catalyst.
Perception vs Reality: Volume one of Tokyo Ghost warned us all about how all-consuming technology can be if it isn’t checked. Volume two is no different. There is a genuine struggle for the cast of Tokyo Ghost to maintain a sense of truth and reality in their world. It is a struggle that seems to closely resemble what is happening today. We don’t completely understand how algorithms that control access and the presentation to information affect our collective understanding of the world, nor do we always have a handle on how to balance our online personas with our physical ones. The learning curve we are experiencing with these technologies tell me that at least some parts of Led’s world are a real possibility.
Addiction: Led’s physical world is overshadowed by his technological addiction and the dominant role it plays in everything he does. Sure, many might scoff at his preferred drug, but it is an addiction none the less. The codependency that exists between Debbie and Led, his suspension of rational decision making, and his inevitable penance all show how hard any kind of addiction can be on a person and their relationships, and I commend Remender for including this subject in his work.
The Damage of Social and Economic Inequality: Debbie and Led begin as two kids surviving poverty and neglect who eventually grow up drowning in the same things that crippled them to begin with. Economic mobility has always been a challenge for those with less, and these star crossed lovers represent what many struggle to overcome daily.
Love: As dysfunctional as Debbie and Led’s relationship is, there is no doubt that these two love each other. When I read volume one I felt a little queasy, because of how unhealthy their relationship is, but volume two addresses this. Remender explores both the destructive and restorative powers that love can have, self-worth, and the need for self-evaluation and forgiveness needed when we chose poorly. There is a ton of glorification of codependent relationships in comics, as well as literature in general. I was impressed that Remender called their relationship like it is.
Final Hoot: If I were to be brutally honest, I would say that many might gloss over the subtext found in Tokyo Ghost, but those who are willing to dive a little deeper will be rewarded. I was.
Rating: 5 out of 5 hoots
Who should snag it: Anyone looking for a gorgeous romp through a thoroughly troubled future will find joy in this one.