All My Ghosts #3-4
As a reminder, the comic focuses on Joe, who’s about to sell his family business, a small-town newspaper. As issue #3 opens, we’re a month out from the transaction, and he still hasn’t told his employees. Instead, inspired by a one-night stand in issue #2, he’s decided to shave his head. Perhaps this is more meaningful to guys than I realize, but I didn’t really get the symbolism.
Joe is on his way to cover the opening of the huge new Bargain Market in town, another sign of the changing times and traditions. He’s feeling reenergized, now that the burden of carrying on the family legacy has been lifted, and it shows in his work, as he is once again able to write. He’s found freedom in not caring about playing it safe.
This would be more enjoyable to read about if I didn’t feel Joe was being self-centered. There’s an argument to be made for letting go of worries and concerns being a necessary precursor for creation, but I’m not sure if Joe gets over writer’s block by learning to care or by no longer caring about anything. He certainly doesn’t demonstrate much sympathy for those whose jobs he’s coming close to destroying.
I was disappointed that some of the questions I thought the series raised weren’t addressed. For example, what happens to the co-workers introduced in issue #1 after the buyout? Was Joe really seeing ghosts, or just memories? Instead, the series turned out to focus almost exclusively on getting him to feel better.
(The bit about the ghosts may have been intended to be addressed by a short scene in #4 where wannabe ghost hunters show up in the offices, but they instead end up reading like an unnecessary distraction during the wrapup.)
I was also mixed up by Billy in issue #2 and Billy in issue #3 looking like completely different people, with different heights and facial hair. Billy #3 doesn’t seem to know about the paper, while Billy #2 works there. They’re both described as his brother, I think… but I’m not sure. If they just have the same name, that’s a bad creative choice, since with so few named characters, this is unnecessarily confusing. Regardless, I hope it gets cleaned up for the eventual collection.
Overall, what attracted me most about this story — living up to generational expectations and family responsibilities, plus the changing nature of media and small-town living — faded away by the end in favor of a more familiar tale, that of a man’s mid-life crisis. It wasn’t helped that the big revelation was told graphically, a good choice for comics, but not clearly. I wasn’t sure what it was intended to symbolize. I can guess that it was about not letting the past weigh you down, about setting out on one’s own road, but I’d like to have more of a guide that I’m going in the right direction. Instead of satisfaction, I’m left with uncertainty — which may be more realistic, but I prefer different approaches from my fiction. Still, the story is told strongly when it comes to the art, and I would check out Massie’s next project. (The publisher provided digital review copies.)