Saturday, January 4, 2014

Ghosts In Space!

Just finished reading again, after several years, the DC Comics six-part origin story by Joe Kelly and Ariel Olivetti for Hanna-Barbera's classic animated superhero Space Ghost. Reading it for the first time in trade, I tried to let go of my preconceptions of this tale, and of my previous opinions and give the story a fresh tumble.

It proved worthwhile. Ariel Olivetti is still not my first choice to illustrate this tale. Both Alex Ross (who does provide covers) and Steve Rude are better suited, especially the latter. But I don't want a desire for the perfect to become an enemy of the good in this case. Olivetti is far from the worst choice, in fact given the seemingly endless drones who sketch comics in the modern day, his lush images at the very least have real character and a boldness.

His Space Ghost is overly muscled, a bit too thick for my tastes, but I suggest this is a work in progress. He will become sleeker over time, less a body builder and more a spaceman.

There be spoilers beyond this point so tread carefully if you have thoughts of reading the story for yourself.

Space Ghost's face and name are revealed. He is a cop named Thadeus Bach, a married man who aspires to be the best cop he can and the best husband and father. His dreams are at once fulfilled and dashed when he gets invited to join "The Wrath", an elite special ops team for the interplanetary police force. He quickly discovers they are corrupt, especially their leader Temple, but before he can report what he's discovered they take action, killing his wife and their unborn child. They left Bach for dead on a distant planet ravaged by an ancient plague. Bach does survive, nurtured by the last living resident of the "Ghost Planet", an engineer who specializes in weapons, the plague which wiped out the planet was violence and war. Bach rejects a lifetime of penance and reflection, choosing instead revenge using the equipment the planet provides. Armed this new Bach seeks out and destroys the Wrath, but the leader escapes. Bach's vengeance is forestalled by the arrival of the Bugs on a slave world the Wrath operate.  The Bugs, led by the hive-mind named "Zorak" exterminate humans and anything else living they chance upon. Bach rescues two orphans named Jan and Jace who dub him "Space Ghost" after a faceless myth from their culture. He eventually realizes his quest for vengeance is inferior to his original search for justice and takes the orphans with him back to the Ghost Planet to begin his work.

It's not a bad tale at all. Full of classic tropes from scores, if not hundreds of similar tales from practically all adventures genres. A single man seeking vengeance is the classic tale, but often he is demolished by his quest. Space Ghost survives and is transformed into something greater and more hopeful. Straightforward and not what I've imagined all these years, but noteworthy.

They could've done much worse.

Below are Alex Ross's outstanding covers for this series.

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