“Ghoster” introduces us to a high-stakes, legacy supernatural battle in which humanity seems to be losing, and a new initiate struggles to find his way. Warning: minor spoilers ahead.
Creators: Thom Burgess & Toby Meakins
Art: Joe Becci
“Ghoster” follows the brutal initiation of James Tallier and William Munitas into a secret, dwindling elite force of ghost hunters – though as we see from the combat in this book, it’s more like a war than a hunt. James and William make it into the most haunted house in England, but making it out again is a different story.
Burgess and Meakins drop us right into the action on page one. There’s a bit of lore to digest as we go, but it’s woven into the plot without any overt explanations or expository dumps to bog everything down. We develop earned sympathy for our two main characters, as well. There’s good tension and some serious stakes throughout the story, and enough mystery to ensure that we want to keep reading when the first installment is done.
“Ghoster” may be Victorian in its trappings but it doesn’t stint on gristle or grotesque detail, and Burgess and Meakin make a point of amping up the desperation and darkness. Pushing grit can often be a mistake, but “Ghoster” gets away with this by prioritizing action above lore. A capsule experience is a good way to kick off a first issue, especially when a tale hinges on intrigue or horror. We’ll likely learn more about our mysterious savior and the Ghosters themselves later on – right now, all that matters is a simple little life-or-death struggle.
Becci’s art shoulders and delivers on an impressive world-building load. The scenes that feature the ghosts (or malevolents, as they’re called here) are creative and eye-catching, and the boys’ gear-up scene is creatively done. Becci plays with a clean, contained line and a ton of digital shading that, thanks to the color palette, doesn’t stand out as too slick or forced. We expect a lot of texture and period-appropriate art in a story like this, and Becci works hard to deliver that patina and roughness with modern tools. James’ and William’s costuming is likely inherited from their forefathers, and the mask details and coats are a good blend of fantastical and historical flourishes. The ethereal journey to the haunted house contains good spooky mist and blueish glows on top of a few moments of domestic comedy.
Becci makes a good choice to keep layouts and panels straightforward, given the tone and nature of “Ghoster.” The weirdness comes through in the grisly details and fun, hand-drawn sound effects, and the comic’s easy to follow as a result. Becci’s palette is muted and sophisticated. There are a lot of picked-out details in the house – a malevolent’s hands and cap, a grisly face – that pop against the blues, greys and inky blacks of the dim interior. We cut to an exterior shot on one page for a small beat that amuses thanks to the auditory gag of the spirit world’s volume versus our own, and Becci uses street-lit greens and browns to lengthen a narrative pause that might otherwise fly by.
There are a few minor lettering blips, like a weird space between two lines in an early balloon, and some unforgiving padding in others, but “Ghoster” excels in the visual department and there’s nothing egregious or unreadable. The font could be a bit smaller, but the choice to eschew ornamentation is a blessing. Again, aesthetic matters in stories like this, but lettering has to be readable first and stylish second, and the team chooses a font that does the job. As mentioned above, Becci’s hand-drawn sound effects are integrated and creative. The BOOM!s are scratchy and fun without breaking the book’s serious tone, and Becci does a lot of work with framing that pays off.
Overall, “Ghoster” is stacked with good concepts, even pacing and a unified aesthetic. The creative team put a lot of consideration into the level of detail and grim horror into this comic, and it shows. Gothic horror fans should definitely give this one a try.
The Verdict: 8/10 – “Ghoster” combines immediate gothic horror with good world-building and an intriguing story. You can learn more about “Ghoster” on Twitter, and purchase digital copies on Comixology.