The reluctant hero, Brody, from Dark Horse’s American manga miniseries, Brody’s Ghost, isn’t so reluctant anymore. And why should he be? Kagemura, Brody’s ghostly sensei, has whipped him into extreme shape: body, mind, and spirit. And though most heroes are bequeathed some kind of blade to aid them throughout their quests, Brody is instead granted a “kanazuchi,” a club comprised of both wood and steel. It’s all pretty enviable, even for a comic-book character.
Recall that creator Mark Crilley’s series originally began as an investigative relationship between Brody, much the loser, and Talia, the spirit of a dead teenage girl who is unable to pass the gates of heaven. She died of leukemia, though why a celestial curator would deny access to a 16-year-old for this is unfathomably unknown. But Crilley’s story is tight and precise, so there must be a surprise reason he’s waiting to reveal.
But heaven isn’t totally removed from Talia’s grasp—if she can solve the mystery of the Penny Murderer, she will be awarded passage beyond the pearly gates. Brody is her aide in this mission because he’s a psychic, a human who can affect the material and spiritual world around him with his mind. Enter Kagemura to train Brody so he’s fully up to the challenge of helping Talia, and the story is ready to catapult forward.
Brody’s training is the focus of this volume, and while it could be a tedious rundown of drill exercises and lectures of self-sacrifice and unfettered discipline, it’s far more interesting because in Brody we can easily see ourselves—we witness a young man who is not only changing, but a young man who wants to change and improve his life. It can be a frightening prospect, letting go of the comfortable (if not entirely successful) past in order to move on into the unknown (albeit exciting) future. But Brody is doing it—and with a six-pack and psychic powers on his side, it shouldn’t be too difficult for him.
Crilley is one of those rare talents in comics who can both write a compelling story and illustrate it too. When I reviewed the first volume of Brody’s Ghost, I said the following:
“[Crilley’s] style is obviously influenced by the arts-and-entertainment scene of Japan, which I sometimes find to be a lame marketing stunt on the part of American creators in order to cash in on the success of manga and anime in this country.
But not so with Crilley: he truly loves this style. The features and builds of his characters resemble Japanese-influenced characters, but his strict, geometrical panels (for the most part) are clearly of American and British inspiration. His lines are also heavier, where a lot of manga has finer strokes, adding a different dimension of detail than what Crilley is trying to do.”
Crilley’s artwork, which is the hallmark of his books, is only tighter and more precise here. Not only is his illustrative skill apparent, but he understands the fine points of sequential storytelling, enabling him to execute nearly all of his scenes in this volume with loving precision. He often strives to remind us that Brody’s story isn’t taking place here and now, but exists in a speculative future where urban decay is ever-encroaching. These scenes of dying landscapes are without words and some of the most powerful he has to offer.
The story of Brody’s Ghost will always be a simple one, but the plot is thickening: more danger waits around the corner, forcing Brody to be all the more prepared to fight and defend those he cares for. I, for one, am cheering him on.
This comic book review originally appeared on Broken Frontier.