by Stephen Hardman
Writer – Rick Remender
Artist – Sean Murphy
Colours – Matt Hollingsworth
Letters – RusWooton
As developments in robotics and artificial intelligence continue at an ever increasing pace, the inevitable concern among many people is the impact that these advancements will have on jobs, with a legitimate fear that robotics and AI will be the preserve of the rich, while the poor become more downtrodden as the inequality gap widens to an unassailable distance. These fears are brought to life in the pages of Rick Remender’s Tokyo Ghost from Image Comics. Together with the unbelievable art of Sean Murphy, the fantastic colours of Matt Hollingsworth, and the always flawless lettering of RusWooton, Tokyo Ghost is a sumptuous comic book which is well worth anybody’s time.
The story is set in the year of 2089 where the Isles of Los Angeles are populated by unemployed citizens made redundant by advanced robotics taking over manufacturing, farming, construction, and most other areas of industry and commerce. In this environment technology is a drug and mindless entertainment and advertising fills every waking moment of the listless, bored population. One of the protagonists of the story is introduced as Constable Led Dent, though we later learn he used to be Teddy Dennis until he was enlisted into the Constable Program and injected with “hundreds of nanobots”. His partner in work and life is Debbie Decay, also a constable but one of the few people in Los Angeles who is completely tech-free.
Led Dent is so far gone in his addiction to “his shows” that Teddy Dennis effectively no longer exists. Debbie is desperate to change this and bring back the boy she fell in love with many years before. She can no longer bear to spend her life with a man who is not there. The only way she can hope to do this is by removing Led from his technology, a process which will cause him short-term pain similar to going cold turkey from a heroin addiction. She and Led are given a final mission before being released from their contracts. The mission involves travelling to Tokyo, a place which has an abundance of water and food – resources valuable to the future of Los Angeles. They are tasked with shutting down Tokyo’s EMP field, which renders anything electric useless, and killing the warlord who controls Tokyo. They accept the mission, but Debbie intends for them to disappear when they get to Tokyo and never return to Los Angeles. She sees this as her and Led’s escape to a place where they can rekindle their lost lives as Debbie and Teddy, free of technology.
Debbie’s plan goes well for a short time, and Teddy re-emerges from his tech-addicted stupor. However it’s not long before figures from Led’s past come back in a disastrous way, causing Teddy to go back to his technology, and when he is fully immersed Constable Led Dent resurfaces in a deadly, destructive conclusion to the first story arc.
Remender is fast becoming one of the best writers around. He is prolific, but always puts the same amount of passion into whatever subject he is exploring at any given time.
It took me twice as long as normal to read the 5 issues of the first story arc of Tokyo Ghost because of the beautiful art of Sean Murphy. I loved his work on Punk Rock Jesus, and some of his landscapes and urban environments have to be seen to be believed.
The characters in Tokyo Ghost are exaggerated and often vulgar. These characters and the environment they inhabit present a highly stylized vision of the future where “Death Races” are the only sport still watched by people outside of their indoor tech cocoons, due to the spectacle and the high probability of seeing participants die.
Tokyo Ghost presents a nightmarish vision of a future where technology has invaded every aspect of people’s lives, to the extent that the outside world barely exists. Reading this comic made me reflect on the amount of time I spend on my smart-phone, and how generations coming after me are essentially weaned on I-Pads. Maybe we all need to heed the warnings in this cautionary tale and turn off the TV, put aside our smart-phones, smart-watches, smart-glasses, and crack open a book.
Stephen is a trainee Legal Executive Lawyer who currently resides in Bath, in the UK with his wife and their cat. Among other things he writes in his spare time. He is currently working on a novel which he hopes to finish soon, and he has written a few short stories as well, though has not had anything published yet. Stephen loves reading and is a huge crime fiction fan; George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, and Ken Bruen being particular favourites.
His obsession with comic books knows no bounds and he loves sharing news and reviews of all the great comic books and graphic novels being published right now. He also loves listening to music and seeing bands live, and is always seeking out new bands and musicians to obsess about. You can catch him on Twitter @HardDaysWrite