2010, Tabella Publishing
Story: Phoebe Reeves Murray
Art: Daniel Scott Gabriel Murray
The first of two proposed volumes, Ghost is not a graphic novel as such, but an illustrated novella printed in the comic book format. Those familiar with Terry Pratchett’s Eric or Neil Gaiman’s Sandman: The Dream Hunters, will have a good idea of the book’s presentation.
Pasting elements of Christian mythology and Japanese folklore onto a contemporary New York setting, Ghost chronicles the life of Jennifer Rhys, from blissful birth to orphaned adulthood. Having suffered a troubled childhood and tortured adolescence, Jen discovers that the visions of malformed winged creatures that once plagued her were indeed real (this would be an altogether different book if they weren’t), and that she is in fact a Ghost, a designated protector of humankind in a war between two feuding factions of angels.
While the premise of angels and demons warring for control of our fragile realm is something we’ve seen plenty of in recent fiction (Legion, Supernatural, Bayonetta, The Prophecy) the book has enough original flourishes to make it stand out from the crowd. The supernatural elements of Ghost’s elaborate mythos actually have serious sway on everyday mortal life, while the villainous Dark Angels are often depicted as formless creatures far removed from the archetypal winged human, whose language is described as sounding like the “scream of a dying animal.”
Ghost is a collaboration between Maine husband and wife Phoebe Reeves Murray and Daniel Scott Gabriel Murray, the latter supporting the former’s prose with some stunning visuals. The book was reportedly written by Phoebe from Daniel’s concepts and characters, and this process has accorded Ghost a very strong sense of cohesion. Daniel’s art gels with Phoebe’s writing, and feels essential to the book as a whole, rather than a means of bumping up the page count on a short story.
Phoebe’s writing is solid, though I did find the initial chapters somewhat hard going, predominantly due to the book’s large cast and non-linear structure. This is one of the few books I’ve ever read to feature a character guide that genuinely needed one. Fortunately, Daniel’s captivating illustrations, a combination of digital 3D models and digital painting, clarify the plot considerably. Several of Daniel’s more intimate scenes veer into dead-eyed uncanny valley territory, but overall the photorealistic imagery is fantastic, particularly his rendering of the story’s most dynamic and mystical moments.
Dorset based publisher Tabella were wise to pick up Ghost for their initial line up of graphic novels; though technically neither graphic novel nor comic, it will definitely appeal to the same core audience. While the book’s occasionally impenetrable prose might prove too demanding for some readers, Ghost’s slick presentation lends it the look and feel of a sumptuous coffee table attraction. Leave a copy in your living room and it won’t be long before an inquisitive soul is seduced by Mr. Murray’s mesmerising digital paintings.
Volume 1 of Ghost is now available from www.tabella.co.uk, priced £9.99/$19.95.