Graphic Novel Review – Ghostopolis
Released in 2010, Ghostopolis is one of Doug TenNapel’s several graphic novels. TenNapel’s most prominent addition to pop culture is the character Earthworm Jim. Some of his other graphic novels are titled Tommysaurus Rex, Monster Zone and Creature Tech. All are aimed at younger audiences.
Garth Hale, a terminally ill child, is accidentally transported to the afterlife by washed up ghostbuster Frank Gallows. Garth, now gifted with anti-physics powers because he’s a mortal in the afterlife, searches for a way home with the help of his deceased grandfather. Frank, desperate to fix his mistake, recruits his ex-fiancé, a ghost named Claire Voyant, to take him into the afterlife as well. As would be expected, not all is well in Ghostopolis, the afterlife’s capital. A knave named Vaugner has manipulated the many kingdoms into bidding his will. As Garth’s abilities grow, he becomes more of a threat to Vaugner, who becomes the villain.
The character designs and the occasional sprawling landscape shots are the highlight of the artwork. While the designs of the human characters aren’t particularly exciting, the book also features a wide variety of horror creatures and the undead, most of whom don’t have human anatomy, which is a niche that TenNapel excels at, as demonstrated by Earthworm Jim. Many of the skeleton creatures are also well detailed and relatively menacing compared to the other characters. One criticism that I have, which isn’t particularly strong, is that the color scheme of the book doesn’t make a great deal of sense. I’m also confused about why the sky in the afterlife is consistently in a state of sunset.
Redemption arcs are a mainstay for the characters. Given that the characters don’t experience the annihilation of their lives and instead have a seemingly infinite existence, there’s plenty of second chances to go around. The novel plays with some interesting ideas for its characters, but doesn’t really explore them to their fullest extent. Garth’s grandfather’s ghost body reflects his mental age, and as he matures throughout the story, the body matures as well. The grandfather inexplicably exits the story at the midway point, so we don’t see the full progression until it comes all at once at the end. It’s this inability to follow through with some of the original ideas that holds this book back for me.
I wasn’t too crazy about this story until it passed the mid-way point, where some of my expectations were subverted. The one nagging thought that I had going through it was that it would probably make a better animated film than a graphic novel. Nothing about the panel composition is particularly interesting and the story feels like it could have used an extra 70 pages or so to really flesh out the mythos of the afterlife world. I rented this from my public library, and most of the other reviewers that I’ve seen mentioned that they did this as well, so I would suggest checking it out from your local library, especially if you have children at a more advanced reading level.
Ghostopolis on Amazon, if you want to buy it instead.