When I first encountered Doug TenNapel's Ghostopolis last year it struck me as a creepy-kind-of-boy-book. However, I did take note of how well it was selling and one day while on break I began reading it and couldn't put it down. I was immediately drawn in to main character Garth Hale's story line as a kid with a terminal illness and his single mom, not your typical graphic novel hero. The plot of Ghostopolis can get a bit darker than most and is different from any other graphic novel I have read to date. Garth's storyline is quickly and almost inextricably linked with that of Frank Gallows, a once great now down on his luck investigator charged with sending wayward ghosts back to Ghostopolis, a kind of limbo/way station setting. When the skeletal ghost horse Frank is hunting down escapes through the wall of a neighboring house just as Frank is clapping the transporting ghost-cuffs on his fetlocks, the nightmare jumps over Garth in his bed, sending him back to Ghostopolis along with the horse.
The horse, named Skinny by Garth, does his best to lead Garth away from danger and toward the city when he runs into a kid named Cecil who turns out to be the ghost of his grandfather. While all this is going on, Frank heads to the desert to find his ghost ex-girlfriend and beg her to help him get into Ghostopolis and rescue Garth since he has been denied a place on the official team heading to the underworld.
In Ghostopolis the two groups meet up only to be chased down and split up by the various territorial lords meeting in the capitol to celebrate with Vaugner, their leader. The scenes in Ghostopolis are amazing, both colorful and dark and imposing, and the pages are rich with a multitude of creatures and creations populating the pages.
Ghostopolis is very fast paced and definitely calls for more than one reading to take in all the intricacies that abound in the artwork. TenNapel's characters and world building are what take this mostly standard story to the next level. Once in Ghostopolis, it becomes evident that Garth seems to possess some special powers that make it possible for him, along with a little help from Frank, to take on Vaugner for the final, very cool climactic battle scene. TenNapel brings a satisfyingly happy ending to his story as well as some nice closure for his mother and Cecil, her father.
Although less menacing in tone, readers who liked Ghostopolis might also enjoy:
Amulet series by Kazo Kibuishi