One of the fundamental questions that ultimately pops up when discussing horror-based pop-culture is “do you believe in ghosts?” Now you have three options when answering this question. You can say:
- I do believe in ghosts and provide a compelling argument to go with;
- I don’t believe in ghosts, and provide a compelling argument to go with; or,
- You can deny the question altogether.
Depending on how you answer, the question can say a lot about who you are. It can say that you’re a follower who will believe whatever they are told, or it can say that you’re a naturally cynical skeptic, or it can even say that you just like to avoid challenging concepts altogether. What Ghosted has asked in its three issue tenure so far is whether a team of ghost-catchers actually believes in Ghosts or not. And although some of them have very different answers, there is only one single right answer so far and that is yes, they do exist, and yes, they are highly murderous.
Ghosted #3, written by Joshua Williamson and drawn by Goran Sudzuka, continues in this exercise of characters questioning the physical existence of spectral figures inside of a mansion. For those who don’t know, the book is about a con-artist of sorts named Jackson Winters who is hired to put together a team to capture a ghost from a mansion for unknown reasons. He assembles a crew of agents, TV ghost catchers, a magician, a gypsy fortune teller, and more. The reasons for each member being on the crew are very specific, and they each do their fair share of work. #3 puts us on the path towards belief in ghosts, as one member gets (spoiler warning for those who didn’t read, but why are you reading this if you haven’t read it yet) brutally slaughtered by a ghost in a clever storytelling twist that I should have easily seen coming. What surprises me is that the story isn’t moving at the glacial pace most comics tend to move at. Sure, it’s part of a larger arc, but it moves the story along faster than it would be. Artifacts are stolen, crew is killed, and an ending cliffhanger leads us closer to a conclusion about the motives of the guy who hired the crew. It’s stuff like this (adding questions while closing them out) that keeps this sort of story alive, where it could be very boring if nothing was solved or if nothing was added.
The characterization is quite compelling as well. For a bunch of original characters with zero established motives or personalities from the get go, Williamson excels at making everyone seem well rounded. Winters isn’t just an asshole con-man; he gets genuinely worried when something goes bad and he knows when to ask questions about something that seems reasonably suspicious. The same goes for the crew, especially the non-believer among them. While completely cold and cynical, he offers to help because he’s been hired and he provides a unique look on what would happen if ghosts existed. It turns him from a flat, static figure-piece to something more developed and rounded.
The art by Sudzuka, to me at least, evokes the ghostly, ethereal qualities of Rafael Albuquerque’s art without being derivative. Pages are embellished with thick, black inks that add a certain dramatic weight to a scene. Ghostly figures are surrounded by shadows in order to bring the eye’s focus to their stark-white contrast. Old mansion hallways actually look old and seem to be covered in rot and ick. Sudzuka’s art has a dry, spectral quality with lots of thick lining and darker colors to enhance the experience of the horror.
Ghosted #3 keeps up with the inherent question of “do you believe in ghosts?” and to that I add a fourth option: I’m undecided. There’s a possibility they could exist, and there’s a possibility they couldn’t. However, something like Ghosted keeps me questioning. If they were real, what would they do to us? What could they do to us? The powerful central conceit behind the comic isn’t the story itself, but rather the fundamental questions it asks, and the implication of those questions, even if those questions are rooted in something as trivial as pop-culture.