I used to work at a camera store with a young woman who would occasionally tell stories about a ghost she was having sex with.
As she described the encounters, it became clear to all of us who worked in the store that the “ghost” in the stories matched the exact physical description of her boyfriend; and that she was, for some reason, relating sexual encounters with him that would have been entirely normal if she wasn’t framing them as assignations with a spirit.
To this day, I have no idea why she told these stories — though I suspect it was her way of talking about sex from a safe remove, of verbalizing sexual thoughts through a layer of fiction.
Ghosts — or at least, stories about ghosts — provide us with a unique opportunity to rationalize that which we cannot (or are unwilling to) explain, from a bump in the night to a bang in the dark. In our narratives, they take whatever form serves a purpose; and even when they’re unhelpful in the moment, it seems as though ghost stories always end with a spirit’s unfinished business contributing to the needs of the living.
I thought about that coworker and the need that her stories might have filled when reading one of this week’s more intriguing comic book releases, which involves an artist begging to be haunted. Thanks to Phoenix Comics for helping to sort through the numerous new releases this week, only some of which involve wayward spirits.
LOST ON PLANET EARTH
The introduction of this paperback explains that it began as a critique of Star Trek’s politics, but author Magdalene Visaggio found that to be too much of a polemic until she pivoted to focus on one character’s story of self-discovery in a setting that is clearly Trek-inspired without being entirely infringing. Perhaps Lost on Planet Earth might have benefitted from a bit more time baking in the story-oven; as it is, the book sometimes still feels like polemic in lieu of plot. But that doesn’t make for an entirely unenjoyable read, particularly when it poses its most intriguing questions involving the unavoidable links between science and colonization. We often think of curiosity, learning, and space exploration as an unassailable good; but who gets to explore and who gets left behind? What happens to those new lives and new civilizations once they’re sought out? These difficult questions are posed — and not entirely answered — as our cast of characters embark on more personal journeys of self discovery, asking an entirely different set of questions about how best to live an authentic life. Is this story personal or political? It is, in fragments, both; but seldom does one focus illuminate the other.
Rating: 🚀🚀🚀 (3/5)
Writer: Magdalene Visaggio. Illustrator: Claudio Aguirre. Letterer: IBD’s Zakk Saam. Editor: Joe Corallo. Designer: Tim Daniel.
THE ME YOU LOVE IN THE DARK — ISSUE #1
Not only is this a book with, for the majority of its pages, a single character talking to herself; but it is also almost entirely contained within a single house. A one-character bottle-episode is the reddest of red flags, but The Me You Love in the Dark is a fine start to a darkly meditative story about how, when we’re alone with our thoughts, our thoughts can become a character of their own. A frustrated artist struggles to compose new work after renting a house that is, she was promised, haunted. Plagued by artistic blocks and a morbid drinking habit, she finds herself pleading with whatever reluctant ghosts might be present to torture her back to creative fulfillment. What she may not realize is that she’s doing a thorough job of torturing herself. “Artist running on empty” is a fine first-half of a premise, and “ghost with an unknown agenda intervenes” is an intriguing twist; but that twist comes on such a late page in this first issue that some readers may find themselves flipping ahead to find the part where the action starts.
Rating: 👻👻👻 (3/5)
Story: Skottie Young. Art: Jorge Corona. Colors: Jean-Francois Beaulieu. Lettering: Nake Piekos of Blambot. 3D Modeling: David Stoll. Editors: Joel Enos & Went Wagenschutz. Production artist: Deanna Phelps.
AMELIA ERROWAY: CASTAWAY COMMANDER
A lavishly illustrated, lovingly told story, Amelia Erroway is every bit as delightful as the best Pixar films. It is a world of steampunk airships and massive flying beasts, where the young daughter of a wealthy commander yearns to break free of the strict confines of her military life and to embark on airborne adventures of her own. Our hero Amelia is both brave and reckless — a dangerous combination, particularly when combined with her father’s desire to over shelter his daughter. (His reasons for concern make more sense, and become more complex, as we learn more about the family’s past.) When a storm grounds her father's ship, Amelia sees an opportunity: She steals the vessel and heads out into dangerous weather, nearly dying before she’s rescued by a scrappy family of explorers and adventurers living deep in an uncharted jungle. It is there that Amelia discovers the freedom she’d always sought, and also the responsibilities to others that come along with it. An engrossing adventure on every page, Amelia Erroway is perfectly paced with scenes of soaring swashbuckling mixed with tender family drama. The book is targeted to ages 8 to 12, but is likely to be a great joy for readers far beyond that range. I can't wait to give a copy to every kid I know.
Rating: 🔧🔧🔧🔧🔧 (5/5)
Story and art: Betsy Peterschmidt.
ALSO: THE ADVENTURE ZONE, JOKER’S MURDER MYSTERY, and AN UNHELPFUL DEMON
There’s a whole host of promising Issue #1s this week, and a few more trade paperbacks: The next installment of The Adventure Zone’s graphic novel, The Crystal Kingdom, is back in stock at Phoenix. A new series provocatively entitled Not All Robots begins, concerning human dependence on untrustworthy mechanical labor. And there’s another future-dystopia landing this week, entitled We Promised Utopia. Fans of Rick and Morty will want to investigate a new series called Trover Saves the Universe. DC brings us a new Joker series that appears to be a murder mystery that readers are invited to solve. In Lucky Devil, an exorcism gone wrong leaves an ordinary man with demonic powers, which he harnesses to gather an unexpected following. And there’s a new book by someone named Paul Constant about a comedian named “Snelson,” I wonder what that’s all about.