Title: Brody’s Ghost: Collected Edition
Author: Mark Crilley
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Genre: Sci-Fi, Mystery
Publication Date: March 10, 2016
Love can do many things to a young man. For one named Brody, it meant sending his life into a spiral of depression. Brody didn’t take the breakup with his girlfriend Nicole all too well. Letting his hair grow out, refusing to shave, and neglecting his job in order to peddle for pity money on the street corner with his guitar shows what kind of man Brody had become. That all changed one day when he met a young girl named Talia. Talia was a bit different from most girls and she is definitely the kind of girl that Brody has never encountered before.
This is probably because Talia is a ghost.
Naturally, Brody felt like he was losing his mind, but the brash and straight-forward Talia didn’t have time or patience for Brody to let it all sink in. Talia was denied access to heaven and can only get in if she can do one good deed on Earth. She chose Brody to help her do that one good deed which involves catching a serial killer going by the moniker of The Penny Murderer. Brody’s life, now in shambles, gets turned on its head one more time. Could this odd and supernatural event be Brody’s way out of his current situation?
I really enjoyed the story of Brody’s Ghost. It takes the classic “Who Done It?” murder mystery and adds a sci-fi flair to it. The story itself does offer some twists and turns throughout… some of which you could see coming and others that weren’t as apparent, but even with the predictable swerves and plot twists, it was still a highly enjoyable read that was hard to put down. The story was supported by a relatively small cast of characters; however, less is definitely more in this situation because every single character not only aided the story perfectly, but they were all given enough time to develop and become a character you genuinely care about. Not a single character felt like a throwaway and they all received some excellent backstory which only helped further enhance and enrich the story.
I will try not to delve too deep into the characters themselves as I don’t wish to spoil anything in the event that you still haven’t read Brody’s Ghost and wish to do so, but I believe that Mark Crilley set up these characters in such a way where I can still talk about them without giving away too much!
First off we have our main protagonist, Brody. Due to the breakup of his girlfriend, Brody has a careless attitude when it comes to his life. He feels that there’s nothing left for him, but at the same time he’s conscious of the poverty he put himself into. It’s kind of an odd balance, but it’s because of that odd balance you can see that deep down he wants a way out of this life that he put himself into. This is pretty evident when Talia mentions the $500,000 reward for catching The Penny Murderer and Brody’s face lit up brighter than Talia’s ghostly aura. It kind of made me feel that Brody did this to himself as a form of self-punishment for the way he ended things with Nicole.
Brody’s character goes through some significant development on his path to self-redemption. It’s because of this path that even though he tries to get over Nicole, he just can’t. For the reasons he cannot completely get over her, it drives him towards a sense of purpose which propels him forward. Nothing is more motivating than pure burning determination! Because of this, he ends up as a pretty well-balanced main protagonist that comes away from this entire ordeal in a peculiar way, but still an overall better man.
Of course, every main protagonist needs a good counter balance and that’s where Talia comes in. She’s sassy, she’s in your face, and she’s very persistent in her goals to catch The Penny Murderer. I guess being locked out of heaven and forced to roam the Earth until you do a good deed would do that to anyone seeking eternal peace. Can’t really blame her there, I suppose.
I liked the way she interacts with Brody, though. From the very first time they meet you instantly get a grasp on her personality. She didn’t even have the consideration to let anything sink in after revealing herself to Brody. She just assumed Brody would accept the fact that he came face to face with a ghost in the middle of the street and seemed really disappointed when Brody was too shocked to say anything back to her. Eventually, the two of them do collaborate and work together, but there is never any real cohesion between them. Brody and Talia each have their separate agendas, but their goal is the same… to catch The Penny Murderer. Of course, there are some twists to the Talia character which I will refrain from spoiling, but those twists do cause you to feel for her as the story progresses and I think she ends up being a very likable character. Despite her attitude problem, her likability comes mainly from her backstory as it kind of validates the reasons why she is the way she is.
With that we come to the support characters. Gabe is the first and he is one of Brody’s few true friends. In fact, aside from Talia, he may be Brody’s ONLY friend. In a murder mystery, it’s kind of a trope to have a police officer as a friend to the main character, but Mark Crilley finds a way to make this work really well. He’s not heavily relied on by Brody in every situation, but he does play an integral role in helping Brody get closer to resolving The Penny Murderer case. Outside of playing the role of the “detective friend,” Gabe is, at his core, still just a good friend to Brody. He seems like the kind of guy who you could tell anything to and he’d still have your back. Good thing he’s like that because he does end up swallowing a pretty big pill that most people just wouldn’t take.
Next up is Nicole, Brody’s ex-girlfriend. The only issue I had with this character was the fact that her mere introduction alone foreshadowed the fact that she would eventually end being the target of The Penny Murderer. It’s a classic setup in which the girl Brody can’t let go of ends up finally getting let go, but just when Brody thinks it’s completely done and over, the plot kicks in and it keeps her in his life. Saving Nicole by unraveling the mystery ends up becoming Brody’s determination, but let’s be a bit honest here. If it weren’t for the obvious plot point, we wouldn’t have had a catalyst to Brody’s character development. Without this, it’s kind of hard to imagine a reason for Brody to want to catch The Penny Murderer and help Talia. It kind of makes you wonder what kind of interactions Brody and Talia would have if Brody didn’t have his own reasons for solving the case.
Finally, we have Landon, Nicole’s new boyfriend. He’s a member of a respected financial institution and very protective of Nicole. Going further would venture into spoiler territory, but you can pretty much imagine that Brody and Landon do have their run ins with each other. It adds quite the explosive element to the story and also makes solving the case that much more difficult for Brody.
There is one other major supporting character and another minor supporting character, but talking about them would reveal some pretty huge plot points and I want this review to be as spoiler free as possible.
I’ve been watching Mark Crilley on YouTube for years so I’m already very familiar with his art style. Even while being familiar with it, I still found the artwork in this book fantastic! Flipping through the pages, I can just imagine him drawing each page with his Dixon Ticonderoga pencil, going over the lines with his trusty black Prismacolor, and maybe adding some highlights with his favorite White Gouache. Every page popped and the cityscape backgrounds were just so amazingly detailed. Sometimes I stopped reading so I could just sit there and stare at some of the backgrounds. Dark Horse Comics also did a fantastic job on the production of the book. The pages had a semi-gloss sheen to them and had a pretty solid feeling… much different than the rough textured pages you would find in a Japanese manga.
600 pages seems like a lot for anyone to read, but the well-nurtured pacing of this story and the quality of it keeps you flipping from page to page. Time flies when reading Brody’s Ghost and it does a great job absorbing you into the story with its believable and relatable characters. It really was hard to put this book down. My only complaint was that the book was rather stiff so your hands could do a bit of cramping when trying to read through this in one sitting… at least until you get to the middle of the book where the weight evens out. I know the obvious solution is to put the book down on a table or not read it all in one sitting, but hey, to each their own!
If you’re interested in learning more about Mark Crilley, he does a “How to Draw” video in time lapse each and every Friday on YouTube and then circles back with a narrated version the very next day. He has hundreds of videos to watch and even has two books in his Mastering Manga series which teaches you how to draw step by step! Brody’s Ghost is not his first series though, as he has produced another series called Miki Falls which contains four volumes, each named for the different seasons.
All in all… great story, great characters and an all-around great experience. Brody’s Ghost is definitely a book anyone should pick up whether you’re a fan of Japanese manga or American comics. I guarantee you that it is well worth your time!
Follow Mark Crilley on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/markcrilley
Purchase Brody’s Ghost: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1616559012/ref=cm_sw_su_dp
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