Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #67 by Drew Barth
It’s about mid-way to Halloween, so you know what that means: it’s time to talk about ghosts. The history of ghosts in comic fiction is long, storied, and paved with some of the best characters the medium has to offer. Everything from House of Mysteryand Eerie to characters like Gentleman Ghost and Deadman have created this wonderful canon of spooks. And we’re coming upon that again with a bit of a twist. Spectre Deep 6 is the first in a fresh series of graphic novels by Jennifer Brody and Jules Rivera.
Spectre Deep 6 takes the idea of ghosts and weaponizes it. We’re introduced to Captain Bianca Vasquez and the Spectre Program—a secret military program that takes the recently deceased and transforms them into spectral covert operatives. As a team, they get their orders, complete their missions, and receive “day passes” for just a few hours to exist near their old lives. And while it could just be ghosting around Brody and Rivera incorporate what all good ghost drama needs: restraint. The six members of the Spectre Program are still ethereal—if they are not contained by means of a personal bell jar, their operative suits, or the “day passes” they receive, they can simply dissipate into nothing.
These restraints are what create some of the most interesting character aspects in Spectre Deep 6. Through the characters initial introductions, we get small glimpses into who they were before the Spectre Program. But once they’re given their day passes, who they are starts to unfold and much of the personalities we had been introduced to originally begin to fall away. We have characters like Bart Bartholomew, someone who on introduction exudes a surfer-slacker archetype. But then we see what he does with his day pass and how he died. What we know of him is stripped down to its core where Brody and Rivera reveal this sadness and longing that we wouldn’t have seen in his original introduction.
And much of this emotional weight is helped along with Rivera’s expert paneling and composition. Many of the strongest moments in Spectre Deep 6 are when traditional panels fall away and the page is allowed to become as ethereal as the characters. Many flashbacks use this style and it really helps to create this sense of the world being intangible—the characters are cut off from the past completely and must exist in this ghostly present.
Spectre Deep 6 is a haunted sci-fi spectacle and this is only the first volume. There is such a massive depth of character and setting throughout, and with the story ending on a cliffhanger, you immediately want to reach over for the next volume. But that’s going to be a bit of a wait: 2021. That wait, however, will probably be worth it.
Get excited. Get ghosts.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.