Saturday, 17 May 2014

Ghostopolis - Doug Tennapel (2010)

One of the advantages of working in a library is being able access a whole range of media I’d not normally encounter on an every day basis. When I saw Ghostopolis handed back at the returns counter I was immediately attracted to the cover artwork and the concept. I grew up in the 1970‘s reading comics; buying them for 0.10c each at the local second-hand book store across the road from Boans department store in Bunbury (now those were the days). It was time, I thought, to channel the past and read something different.

The premise of Ghostopolis is simple: ghosts are real and Frank Gallows, as a suitably disheveled anti-hero, is employed by the Supernatural Immigration Task Force to track down wayward ghosts and send them back to the afterworld. Due to unfortunate circumstances involving a wayward nightmare horse skeleton Gallows sends teenager Garth Hales into the afterlife, namely Ghostopolis. Ghostopolis is ruled by a suitably evil character named Vaugner, and is populated by mummies, skeletons (ruled by the noble Bone king), will o wisps, specters, zombies, boogymen and goblins. Ghostopolis is a brilliantly rendered freaky supernatural world. The artwork is superb, the colours and shadings are beautiful; a fine example is the eerie gloaming of a werewolf’s tea house. That’s right, a werewolf’s tea house; owned by a creaky old werewolf obsessed with tea who freaks out when Gallows dares to say that he’s “More of a coffee guy.” 

Aside from the brilliant artwork, it is the characters that help make Ghostopolis an above average graphic novel. The tea obsessed werewolf is only part of the fun. Vaugner’s bug-eyed insect army are simply fantastic, in particular his top hat wearing enforcer who is bent on eating Garth and his nightmare horse. Gallows makes for a convincing hapless hero who has to imagine that he has an imagination in order to unleash his earthly powers in Ghostopolis. Just to complicate matters he’s also in love with a ghost, the beautiful Claire, who is a strong character in her own right. However it is Garth Hales who really makes Ghostopolis something special. He’s not just a typical teenager, but a complex character who has to cope with some serious issues; not just how to deal with freaky insect enforcers flying around in bee-copters.

Ghostopolis has such a strong narrative flow that by the time you get to the climax, in which the eerily slender Vaugner engages in an apocalyptic battle with Garth, you are totally hooked. Ghostopolis is a great blend of action, snappy dialogue and emotional pathos. Despite the blockbuster climax and the cast of freaky supernatural characters the ending of Ghostopolis is very human, which is a real strength. I’d love to see a sequel be published, but in the meantime apparently Hugh Jackman owns the rights for a movie version and if Tennapel has anything to do with its production then it will be brilliant.

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