By Doug Tennapel
Scholastic Graphix, 267 pages, $12.99
Doug Tennapel recently wrote on his blog that he cannot begin drawing a graphic novel until he has written the story and worked hard to ensure the story is a good one. He wrote, “It has to be tight, read well enough and come to a point of being finished before I can move on to pencils.”
It could be that emphasis on story that has propelled him to fame as an acclaimed creator of works such as [[[Earthworm Jim]]], [[[Creature Tech]]], [[[Tommysaurus Rex]]],[[[Monster Zoo]]], and now [[[Ghostopolis]]]. The recently released graphic novel from Scholastic’s Graphix imprint is a well-paced adventure taking familiar themes and ideas and making them feel fresh.
Garth Hale is a terminally ill adolescent who is accidentally transported to the spirit realm known as Ghostopolis. The living doesn’t belong there and Frank Gallows, a Supernatural Immigration Task Force agent and the man responsible for the mishap, wants to retrieve him. His superior, though, fires Frank for incompetence but he feels guilty enough to want to complete his mission.
Once he crosses over, accompanied by his ex-fiancé and current ghost, Claire Voyant, the adventure kicks into gear. Across 267 pages, Tennapel swiftly moves across a sprawling landscape of the hereafter, which has its own rules, few of which apparently applying to the living. While Frank seeks Garth, so does the realm’s vile ruler, Vaugner (another of Claire’s exes). There are secrets revealed, families reunited, and love in the fetid air.
We could pretty much guess how this will end, but there are enough twists on the expected outcome that it is far from anticlimactic. What Tennapel nicely does here is give us a fantasy world but never strays from the emotional ties between members of Garth’s family, which transcends the realities. Additionally, the various lead characters have nice arcs so what happens to them has meaning.
In addition to the drama, there’s action aplenty including a climax that is epic in scope and visually appealing. Tennapel also doesn’t skimp on the humor (including some well timed puns), which will keep younger readers rapt.
While Tennapel wrote and drew this epic, Katherine Garner and a team of colorists do a nice job making things feel otherworldy. I do wish, though, she used different palettes for the real world and the other realms, which could have enhanced the story a bit.
This is a welcome addition to Tennapel’s works and well worth the time of readers.