The New Ghost
By Robert Hunter
The New Ghost is another of Nobrow’s 17×23 series – 24 page comics designed to give young artists an avenue to tell a tale without necessarily needing to commit to a full graphic novel length book. Previous examples I’ve looked at are Luke Pearson’s all-ages Hildafolk and Mikkel Sommer’s decidedly not all-ages tale of a depressed, suicidal, bank robbing ex-serviceman in Obselete.
These books are short. So they really have to grab you early and do something special to make the work seem special. Hildafolk was just perfectly pitched; light, beautiful, sentimental, slightly weird. Obselete managed it by Sommers using his beautiful, disturbing imagery to slow the eye across the pages, building the sense of emotional despair perfectly and 24 pages felt like so many more.
The New Ghost simply hasn’t got the same hook for me as the others. There’s nothing really here that grabs, nothing that marks it out as special, nothing unusual to grab either the mind or the eye.
It’s certainly pretty, but then again, what Nobrow book isn’t beautifully produced with some great artwork? And Hunter uses all of Nobrow’s familiar matt subdued palette of colours to illustrate his tale in a series of lovely to look at pages. And the idea; that of a new, trainee ghost getting lost on his first mission, is rather inviting and interesting.
But a catchy idea and pretty art only works if there’s something else there, something more substantial to really back it up. If there’s not, then the comic becomes that worst thing – something merely okay, something to read, put down and find you haven’t any reaction beyond feeling relatively nonplussed. I hate that feeling. Hmmmm just isn’t what I’m after.
And sadly, that’s what I felt throughout The New Ghost.
Like I said, the central premise – a new ghost learning the ropes, finding his/her/it’s way in the world, searching for a purpose whilst trying to work out the practicalities of a new way of doing things, a new physics even – that’s good, interesting.
But if the concept is good and I’m still not engaging with it whilst reading then there’s got to be a fault in the execution. Too often I felt Hunter nearly got there, nearly grabbed me, but kept coming up short. It’s frustrating to be presented with something that’s nearly, but not quite, really rather good.
In The New Ghost, this new spectral prescence finds itself brought to Earth, seeking the help of an astronomer to get back to the stars, to find a meaning, to reconnect with it’s fellows. Along the way we get some nicely done gags regarding the manner in which ghostie attempts to fit in with humanity,
And eventually, after a series of misadventures, we find out just what our ghost’s real purpose is. It’s a lovely idea, it really is. But the very loveliness of the idea showed me that something had gone wrong somewhere. I should have been exhultant at the climactic scenes. But again, they washed over me, I realised they were a lovely idea, but their was just no connection, no emotional payoff.
A real shame, but there it is. In truth I’m struggling to explain exactly why The New Ghost didn’t do anything for me, but it really feels like an opportunity missed, execution failing to live up to the core idea.
However, since this is Hunter’s first work, it’s a staggeringly good missed opportunity. I’m hopeful, very hopeful, that next time I read his work I will get the connection I just missed here.