Recently I gave my wife my copy of That Texas Blood #1. I had really enjoyed it, and since I know that she is a lover of crime and western stories I thought it would be right up her alley.
After she read it, I asked for her take, and she seemed a little put off. When I asked her why she told me that the comic had really confused her, and she wasn’t a fan. It’s not that she thought it was a bad story, she actually liked it overall, but she was confused as to why I would read something like that.
See, like a lot of people, my wife thought that most of what I read is superhero beat-em-ups, and when I gave her a comic to read she thought that was what she was going to be diving into. Instead, she got a deeply compelling meditation on age and dying, and it kind of took her aback.
Honestly, I don’t blame her for that reaction. One of the biggest hurdles a lot of comic fans have when it comes to sharing their love of this hobby is overcome prejudices that people who don’t read comics have about comics, i.e. aren’t they just books for kids? Aren’t they just men and women in spandex fighting each other in ridiculous battles over meaningless jingoism? Are they actually able to have more depth beyond just setting up the next fight scene?
In fairness, my wife hasn’t really read a comic since the ’90s, when she was a big X-Men and Catwoman fan, and if the last time I picked up a comic was 20 years ago I’d probably have the same reaction. If the only books I read today were from Marvel and DC I might also have that reaction.
This is just another reason why I made such an effort to branch out into independent comics years ago because I wanted more depth to the stories I read. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good superhero fight now and then, and I love me some Batman and Harley Quinn, not to mention Wonder Woman, The Flash, and even Aquaman. I can and do read and enjoy that kind of book every week, but when all you eat is desert, you really start to yearn for something more substantial. And there is perhaps no better example of a more substantial book than what I’ll be reviewing this week, Ghosted in L.A. by Sina Grace. This outstanding maxi-series wrapped up this week with issue 12, and so I wanted to take some time today to really reflect on why this book is so important, and why you should go out and grab this trade today if you have not already been following the story.
Let’s dive into it! Here’s the blurb:
In Los Angeles, finding an apartment is killer—unless you live with the dead.
Rycroft Manor may be old. It may be abandoned. It may even be haunted. But Daphne Walters doesn’t care about any of that-it has a pool and the rent is free. New to LA, coming off of a bad breakup and having a pretty terrible week, Daphne might need to crash on this haunted couch for a while, but having undead roommates might be more than she bargained for! Will the dead be able to help Daphne find the life she’s been missing in the big city?
From GLAAD Award-nominated Sina Grace (Iceman) and illustrator Siobhan Keenan (Clueless, Jem and the Holograms) comes a story about learning how to make friends, find love, and live to the fullest with a little help from some friends whose lives didn’t end at death.
The best way to describe Ghosted in L.A., to me, is also the most unfairly reductive way to describe it: it’s a comic for people who maybe don’t like comics. Let me explain what I mean by that. If you know someone who likes a coming of age story that has elements of mystery, drama, the supernatural, and a hunt for identity, but maybe has expressed hesitation about picking up and reading a comic book, then this is absolutely the book I would recommend for them.
If you love comics like I do, and also like those elements than you will also love Ghosted in L.A. So maybe instead of saying this is the comic for people who don’t like comics, I should instead say this is the comic for people who like stories with depth and personality regardless of the medium?
Every character in Ghosted in L.A. is on a journey of discovery, and what that journey entails varies greatly from character to character. Our lead, Daphne (whose name I think might be a pun on Daphne Blake from Scooby-Doo but maybe I’m wrong) is a young woman on a quest. She sets off for L.A. after a terrible fight with her best friend, who has accused her of only following her boyfriend because she loses herself in relationships. Daphne is outraged, offended, and ultimately proven guilty of that charge when she discovers her boyfriend has now come out of the closet and wants to break up, leaving Daphne alone and lost in a new city.
She quickly finds new purpose in becoming a caretaker to a group of ghosts that haunt the mysterious Rycroft Manor, whose name might conjure up thoughts of the Haunted Mansion but in actuality looks much more like Melrose Place. Through helping the ghost at the mansion, and uncovering the mysteries that are connected to it, Daphne is not only able to finally find her own identity, but also her own direction in life.
So let’s talk about what works in this series.
First, the artwork. Siobhan Keenan does a fantastic job in Ghosted in L.A., with art that is visually pleasing and yet approachable, especially for people who are newer readers of graphic literature. The characters are distinctive and creative, and each one has a look that both reflects their personality and fits their character identity. No one feels like a caricature or a strawman, and that gives a real sense of purpose to a work like this that has such a serious set of discussions at its heart.
The characters themselves are interesting and unique. There are real philosophical differences between the characters in Ghosted in L.A., and because of this, they act like real people. There are no easy resolutions in the story, and the relationships at work are just as difficult and messy as they are in real life. With a book like this, it would have been easy to make caricatures instead of characters, but Grace avoids that by giving his characters believable motivations and solid justifications for the things they do. These characters feel like real people facing real problems, not just stand-ins for the author’s own soapboxes.
And that’s really the strength of Ghosted in L.A. It clearly has a message, but it also doesn’t beat you over the head with it. The messages are allowed to unfold organically, and the reader can choose to agree or disagree with what the lessons are. This is a book that invites conversation, instead of demanding you agree with it. Each character has their own point of view, and even those characters you might personally disagree with are allowed to be fully fleshed out individuals who are given agency and realistic motivations. It’s rare in a comic that characters are allowed to have so many shades of grey in them, and it’s definitely something I hope to see more of in the future.
What doesn’t work?
The only complaint I have about Ghosted in L.A. is that it is too short. 12 issues just don’t feel like enough for the magnitude of some of the things happening in this work, and I very much hope that a sequel series is on the way. Ghosted in L.A. is part of Boom’s Boom Box line of comics, a line specifically meant to give creators the freedom to really push the line when it comes to creativity and addressing difficult or controversial topics. I’d love to see a follow-up series that delved even deeper into the issues that several of the characters are still dealing with. A glimpse at how this world would look in 10, maybe even 20 years would be fantastic, and I would be very much on board for.
Yet another comic where the only thing I think they need to fix it to give me more. That’s my favourite kind of problem.
Who would I recommend this for?
Well, I’ve already spoken about this a great deal so far, but if you really had to nail me down to a single group I would say that Ghosted in L.A. would be a great comic to share with teens. As someone who works with teens for a living, I would have no problem offering this book to teens who are struggling with difficult issues in their own life. Watching how the characters in the story deal with their issues and traumas, and seeing how they learn to live with those issues, and not just hand wave them away as far too many characters in this kind of work tend to do, would be a tremendous help for a lot of people.
That being said I also think that there is a lot of good stuff here for adults, especially people who have suffered their own losses or are trying to come to terms with others who have. Don’t get me wrong, Ghosted in L.A. isn’t going to fix all of the world’s problems, but it definitely could be the starting point for a conversation that could really help some people down the line.
Is this a comic for people who don’t like comics? Absolutely, but it’s also a comic for people who do like comics, and a work that is perfect for anyone who likes well-written books about interesting characters drawn with style and quality. I highly recommend Ghosted in L.A. to everyone.
So that’s it for me this week. Stay safe out there folks, and don’t forget to hit up your LCS to request a copy of Ghosted in L.A.!