'The Ghost in You' Takes the 'Reckless' Relationship to the Next Level
We review the new Reckless graphic novel from 'Criminal' collaborators Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.
Depending on how much Reckless you've already read, The Ghost in You will provide a unique experience. If this is your first dip into this particular Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips universe, the new graphic novel will deeply satisfy as a melancholic mystery featuring rich character, charm, and devilish behavior. If you're up to date and coming immediately off Destroy All Monsters, The Ghost in You weighs heavy in your hands. The melancholy felt by the uninitiated is actually an intense dread for those in the know.
No spoilers for the last volume, but certain readers carry tremendous baggage into The Ghost in You, and such luggage causes an uncomfortable anxiety. Brubaker and Phillips are very much aware regarding what you want to see, but they're not necessarily interested in dishing it out upfront. The Ghost in You opens as most Reckless comics do, in media res. Someone is in trouble. What's different for Reckless book four is we knew that already.
Ethan is out of town, leaving Anna to run the El Ricardo movie house. One afternoon, former scream queen Lorna Valentine walks up to the counter. She has a case, and she wants it off the books. Her dog is missing, and the house she recently inherited might be haunted. Anna thinks she can handle this one on her own, and she's right about that, but it will come at a cost.
The Ghost in You behaves similarly to previous Reckless books: a tiny question exposes a troubling, unsavory history. The involved players are desperate and broken people. The Ghost in You does for Anna what book one did for Ethan. The tiny question drills into a smaller, personal hurt, exposing an ache that Anna's been suffering and suppressing for years. What's different is how the comic's revelations arrive not at a badass climax, where a brute like Ethan can will his way through, but at a somber, relatable relief. The final punctuation landing with a soft sigh, followed quickly by a gulp. Bad things still await.
Brubaker and Phillips take Reckless to the next level with The Ghost in You. Giving us some time away from Ethan, and exposing his impact on Anna, strengthens their relationship. Now, their bond is genuinely solidified, making whatever's coming all the more intensely powerful and undoubtedly more painful.
With the Reckless comics, it's easy to take Sean Philips for granted. His illustration never fails, with his acting fooling you into thinking these characters are acquaintances and not fictional creations. It's almost embarrassing the number of times I muttered, "Oh, Anna." And Phillips' paneling, staging, and composition continue to be top-tier.
There is a punch thrown in The Ghost in You unlike any other punch thrown in Reckless or Criminal. The wallop's impact is sold tremendously by Jacob Phillips' fiery colors. Yes, you feel this hit in the person's dented face and crumpling body, and in the sender's knuckles. However, it's the metaphorical flourishes radiating from the meaty crash site that elevates the action.
So much of The Ghost in You's emotion is tied to what Jacob Phillips is doing. He's the artist modulating the mood and easing the reader through the timeline. He doesn't fall into Noir expectations, preferring to chase the passions of the scene, not the reality, and he creates a signature Reckless style in the process. The book feels pulpy and in conversation with its genre influences, but it's never dusty. A glorious used bookstore graveyard is many years away for this utterly vibrant 2022 comic.
When you love a series and are in the middle of it, you're often on edge waiting for a chapter to fail your enthusiasm. Surely, this next one won't be as good as the last one - blah, blah, blah. When dealing with Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, you don't have those worries. Their partnership is seemingly on a forever incline, The Ghost in You rising above Destroy All Monsters with Reckless book five (Follow Me Down), probably already many yards ahead of this new one.
With The Ghost in You and Destroy All Monsters, you realize that Reckless is a massive story. They're not one-and-done tales, even though many people could pick them up at one airport and plop them down in another as if they were so enjoyably disposable. Brubaker and Phillips are building toward something. That should delight us and make us nervous. You can sense an ending. I'm not ready for it.
Quickie Review: The Ghost in You is a quieter, sneakier entry in the Reckless saga. Brubaker and Phillips gift us an Anna solo adventure and, in doing so, secure the best character relationship they've concocted so far in their creative partnership. The comic is a gorgeous, must-own title. 10/10
The Ghost in You: A Reckless Book
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
On Sale: 4/13/22
Synopsis: The fourth book in the bestselling RECKLESS series is here! Crime noir masters ED BRUBAKER & SEAN PHILLIPS present yet another original graphic novel starring troublemaker-for-hire Ethan Reckless.It’s the winter of 1989 and Ethan is out of town, so this time, Anna has to tackle the job on her own. When a movie scream queen asks her to prove the mansion she’s renovating isn’t haunted, Anna will stumble into the decades-long mystery of one of Hollywood’s most infamous murder houses…a place with many dark secrets—some of which might just kill her.Another hit from the award-winning creators of PULP, MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES, CRIMINAL, and KILL OR BE KILLED—and a must-have for all ED BRUBAKER & SEAN PHILLIPS fans!