Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Sunday, March 18, 2007

I Like This Comic: The Iron Ghost

Gotta give Chuck Dixon credit: in The Iron Ghost, he not only gives readers his usual rip-roaring, action-packed comic book thrill ride, but he also manages to find an utterly and astoundingly unique "take" on the slouch-hat/two-gun pulp vigilante. Instead of another blatant Shadow or Spider rip-off (like my own Brother Grim), The Iron Ghost only superficially resembles those characters. Okay, he also employs their brutal, ruthless methodology, but the character's motives and – more importantly – the environment in which he operates, is truly something different in the genre.

Structured as a mystery story, The Iron Ghost: Geist Reich, is set in Berlin, 1945, as World War II approaches its end and Germany's inevitable defeat. The city is in ruins, pounded day and night by Allied bombers. Fires burn, and the civilian citizens of the crumbling metropolis struggle just to survive, foraging for food and water amid the rubble.

Into this smoking hell on Earth comes a masked figure in a pea-green overcoat, wide-brimmed hat and Iron Cross medallion; an imposing apparition with one, blazing red eye and a pair of highly unusual Luger automatics. He is The Iron Ghost, and he's hunting down and murdering prominent members of the Nazi party. The solving of those murders falls to two civilian police detectives, Inspectors Tannhauser and Volz, and their questions – and those of the reader – are the same: who is The Iron Ghost, why is he killing these particular Nazis, and why do his German Lugers fire American .45 caliber bullets?

You all know that I'm a fan of Dixon's comics writing. His best work is unpretentious, visual, and story-driven, with strong enough characters that he doesn't find it necessary to bury the action in endless exposition. With The Iron Ghost, he's found a premise and setting uniquely suited to his strengths as a writer, and I can't imagine anyone else even coming up with the idea of this book, never mind writing it as well. From its intriguing opening chapter to its fiery climax, Geist Reich is one of the best graphic novels/miniseries I've read in the last three years.

Artist Sergio Cariello is a remarkable talent, a young artist with Old School sensibilities: an emphasis on clear storytelling, drawing fundamentals and research. There's no cheating here – the uniforms, clothing, weapons and vehicles are period-appropriate and look authentic to my untrained eye, lending the whole enterprise vital verisimilitude. Concepts and covers by Flint Henry are typically raw and striking and lead to my only complaint about the current trade paperback collection of this 6-issue miniseries from Image Comics: it does not include a gallery of Henry's astounding cover illustrations (like the one I posted above). Instead, they're reproduced thumbnail-sized on the back cover, which is a criminal treatment of Henry's detailed art.

Otherwise, though, the trade paperback is an attractive package for a powerful and damned entertaining pulp adventure. Obviously, I highly recommend The Iron Ghost: Geist Reich.


Glen said...

I got the monthlies. It's a great mini. I've been hoping for a sequel ever since I saw the first solicitation way back when.

Christopher Mills said...

I got five out of six of the monthlies – but I still wish the'd put a cover gallery in the book....