Title: Ghost Station Zero #1 (of 4)
Writer: Antony Johnson
Artist: Shari Chankhamma
Colourist: Becky Cloonan
Letterer: Simon Boland
Publisher: Image Comics
Image have re-entered the world of disguises, collusion and intrigue in their latest spy genre series, Ghost Station Zero. Rather than being a new title as such, this short run follows on from the popular title Baboushka: Conclave of Death. That doesn’t mean, however, that you would be at a disadvantage if you haven’t yet picked up the earlier release as this is a new, stand-alone, romp through the world of espionage and double-crosses. Baboushka is back on a new mission and this time she’s on the search for a covert team of operatives who are out to exploit the network of hidden but abandoned, cold-war Soviet bunkers. But have Image ticked the cliche box one too many times with this series?
The action starts almost immediately in Shanghai, which instantly opens us up to the fact that this is likely to be a globe-spanning plot, not unlike the standard James Bond or Bourne titles. The opening is set in the docks district where a shady deal is about head south; the violence is quick and reasonably graphic here, which rules out letting younger readers pick this up. Additionally, the artwork is dynamic and, although the characters don’t necessarily have a manga-styling, Chankhamma’s use of movement lines and blurring is very much manga-esque. The action is further ramped up with a high speed chase that all ends in a very convenient fashion for our protagonist, with more than a nod to the aforementioned 007 thrillers.
And in a sense, that’s kind of the end of the action and the emergence of a much more slippery Baboushka who snakes her way through a stereotypical casino sequence, under the title of Contessa Malikova of The House of Malikov, and ending up ‘touching base’ with an allied agent. Johnson (Wasteland, Daredevil) has clearly referenced the features of a whole host of other espionage genre favourites and it works well for a first issue as some of us may need to be held by the hand till we establish who’s who and what’s what. To an extent, this is also a downfall as we don’t get to see Baboushka’s character develop but are instead faced with a series of events that she is forced to negotiate. It would be a fair assessment to say that this would be a none-issue for those who read the first series, so it’s probably worth holding out for this. The art defers from dynamic to clean and simplistic and with wonderful colouring throughout. Soft, gentle hues create mood lighting for Baboushka’s briefing frames, which are sandwiched between the opening and casino sequences. The same pages leave the letterer with quite a tricksy job in fitting a high number of speech bubbles into some fairly tight frames, but he does so with success, though some art is compromised.
So, who’s this book aimed at? Yes, it will appeal to fans of the genre but it may leave some readers feeling that it’s all a bit old hat. However, I personally felt that the post-ironic approach to generic features was refreshing. Is Baboushka a sexed-up Bond, fit for the modern world or is she rubbing our noses in our own failings as readers, where our jaded expectations are being billed as simply too low? Either way, the end result is a thriller that isn’t necessarily high paced throughout, and does have room for character development, which no doubt will emerge in future issues. It’s got some suave styling and is quite distinguishable as a result. And with the coming 007 comic series, its timing may be just right, as espionage seems to be making something of a comeback. Could it be that our news bulletins being tinged with stories of Russian spies radiating defectors in London coffee shops finally got us all wondering just who the lady that sold us a bunch of flowers really is…?
Thank you for reading our review of Ghost Station Zero #1. We here at the Chico Comics Page appreciate your viewership. We invite you to check back with us soon, as we post often. Or, you can follow us on Facebook (The Chico Comics Page) and Twitter (@ChicoComicsPage) for regular updates on all of our posts.
Review written by Arun S.
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