Tokyo Ghost, Vol. 1: Atomic Garden
Rick Remender (Writer); Sean Murphy (Artist); Matt Hollingsworth (Colorist)
Image Comics, 2016

Co-creators Rick Remender and Sean Murphy get their dystopia on with Tokyo Ghost. They've both done stories in this kind of setting, notably Remender's Low and Murphy's Punk Rock Jesus. So it's not completely new territory, but their combined storytelling sensibilities make for something novel. The opening setting is the Isles of Los Angeles, 2089, a degenerate place run by gangsters with a human population completely addicted to technology. Robots are doing all of the work, so the only thing left to live for is digital kicks, which tend to revolve around senseless violence.

The enforcers are called Constables--kind of a riff on the Judges--and our "heroes" are a couple named Led Dent and Debbie Decay. The story begins with them chasing Davey Trauma, a kind of evil hacker who can control people via their personal tech. Being dropped into the middle of the action is disorienting at first, but they're doing the job in exchange for the freedom to leave the Constable job and get out of L.A. They want to escape to the Garden Nation of Tokyo, the last tech-free place on Earth. When their boss Flak sends them there instead of accepting their resignations, alarm bells should have gone off.

But the couple finds themselves accepted in Tokyo, and Led (real name Teddy Dennis) gradually detoxes from his tech addictions. There's even a brief period of idyllic joy, the lovers united in a garden paradise. But then Teddy's past reasserts itself, in the form of a gang he took brutal vengeance on as a Constable. Turns out they do not subscribe to the neo-hippy vibe of the place. In the ensuing battle the Garden Nation is left leaderless and in ruins...which was Flak's plan all along.

Murphy is really firing on all cylinders here. It's a visual feast, beautiful and wildly inventive. Even the fight scenes are complex, and full of crazy energy. The look of the place is kind of steampunk (reminds me a bit of the movie Bladerunner). Motorcycles are a recurring motif for him: he once again designed a futuristic bike for Led, which figures in climactic scenes at the beginning and end of this collection. When he gets a chance he also shows an affinity for animals. Tokyo has horses, birds, and an especially expressive raccoon.

So it's good stuff, but I have to say that with the creative star power involved I was expecting more. It's a reasonably coherent world created here, but it sometimes feels like a patchwork of dystopian tropes. Great twist at the end, though. It will be interesting to see where it goes next.

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