Graphic Novel Review: The Black Ghost

“The Black Ghost” Hard Revolution, published by Dark Ghost Comics. Photo by Denise Ruttan.

I immediately had a soft spot for the main character of “The Black Ghost: Hard Revolution” because she was a cops reporter for the Creighton Courier, and as a former small town newspaper reporter, I always have to root for journalists, especially in this era of fake news and widespread disrespect toward the media. 

You can argue with me all you want about sensationalism, incompetence, ratings and media’s part in influencing politics for the worse, but we need the fourth estate – who else do you think will hold government accountable, Facebook? – and most reporters are there because they want to help people with the power of their words, underneath the usual ambition and self interest and all the rest of the legitimate criticisms. This graphic novel is written by Alex Segura and Monica Gallagher, with art by George Kambadais, and is published by Dark Horse Comics. 

The story follows Lara Dominguez, an alcoholic still recovering from the trauma of her brother’s murder. Dominguez is a talented reporter who has become washed up and obsessed with the Black Ghost, a vigilante masked superhero who fights Creighton’s shady network of crime bosses and corrupt city officials. Her coworkers tease her that she has a crush on him. She abandons all her other assignments to pursue the vigilante in the night. 

Somehow, she also finds time to teach night GED classes, where she meets Ernesto, who becomes her unlikely partner after she saves him from a violent lesson meant for his father who won’t deal with dirty money. But then one day The Black Ghost is killed while Lara is watching, and she has some choices to make to prevent the city from falling to shambles. 

Lara is a superhero in the vein of Jessica Jones or Deadpool, someone who’s a real fuck-up, basically, and you wonder how they still function, but you keep wanting her to get her shit together and fight the bad guys, anyway. This is because the world around her is far more corrupt and evil than she and even hungover or heady with the adrenaline rush of beating a bad guy in a fight, she still knows right from wrong and she sticks with her moral code. 

I found some parts of the writing inconsistent but maybe that’s because it was written as a team; for example, Lara gets blackout drunk every night but still survives another day to fight crime at night, teach GED classes and work her day job. Drunks can certainly be high-functioning and quite often they’re people you don’t suspect, although if she was that much of an alcoholic she would not be getting hangovers anymore. In some ways it felt as if the plot was being developed comic by comic (this book collects comics 1-5) rather than one cohesive arc so maybe that is why I stumbled over some parts. I will give the writing credit for having her job fire her, however, and she is definitely a bumbling, bleary-eyed “hero.” And everyone around her wants Lara to get help except Lara herself, which is definitely realistic.

For a superhero Lara is most decidedly an anti-hero; as she says, “I’m just a reporter, after all. Not a hero.” But she’s not particularly good at either. Further, I sometimes had to re-read parts to figure out which bad guy was still running the show. I liked the setting of Creighton, though; it reminded me of Gotham, filled with colorful crime bosses all vying for power and city officials who roll over for them, until you are left wondering if there are any good guys left, and indeed whom we’ve got is Lara. 

The art was deceptively simple, like pencil sketches; I wanted to see more shadowy tones to depict shifts in mood and time of day, but it was a consistent tone, mood and lighting scheme throughout. But I still liked the art and it suited the story; it put the focus on the characters and all Lara’s many wonderful facial expressions. 

All in all, despite some rough edges, I enjoyed this book because I am partial to dark and gritty stories with flawed people who don’t have any particularly special powers but do the right thing anyway. This really delivered if you like reporters fighting crime, dark themes and unlikely anti-heroes.

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