Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel (Canada) - (USA)
Finished: Sept. 25, 2010
First Published: July 1, 2010
Genre: graphic novel, YA, paranormal
Ladies and gentlemen, we're having a little engine trouble.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.
Reason for Reading: I'm always intrigued by stories that take place in the "afterlife".
Frank Gallows is a ghost wrangler. He hunts down ghosts who've escaped the afterlife and sends them back but after 30 years on the job he's losing his touch, bored and plain grumpy with life. Sent to track down a night mare, the skeletal horse is on the run. As she goes through a wall, Frank shackles her and hit's the send button. Problem: on the other side of the wall the skeletal mare had en-caged a human boy, Garth, and he ends up in the afterlife with her. As headquarters sets up a team to rescue him, Frank and his ex-girlfriend, a ghost, go after him themselves. They find Ghostopolis, the city centre of the afterlife, greatly changed and dominated by Vaugner, an evil, powerful human-type being. Garth, Frank and Claire must find a way back to the mortal world and since Vaugner is trying to stop them at every turn they must first stop him.
I found the story a little hard to get into as it starts right away with the action and it takes a bit to figure out what is going on. Plus the artwork was a little startling, the artist's depiction of people are on the ugly side of ugly. Once the plot became clearer, I started to enjoy the book and once the artist had the opportunity to add action scenes with non-human characters to the illustrations, I became more comfortable with the style and even enjoyed it by book's end.
The story has several layers to it: a grown man with the behaviour of a child learns to grow up on the inside, a man who can't express his love outwardly makes the ultimate sacrifice to earn the love he craved and power and the begetting of power for power's sake can only lead to evil in the end, to name a few. Then there is the basic plot which is both exciting and fun. The book is quite dark though, death being the main theme here; my 10yo certainly couldn't handle it. Along the way Garth and company meet killer insects, skeletal armies, zombies, mummies and some other very strange characters. There is humour added to lighten up the darkness mostly in the form of sarcasm and wit, though there is some outright grossness to make you laugh (or cringe) too such as the delicacy of tarantula on a stick and an ancient fortune telling wolf who is blind and tells the future through smells and happens to "toot".
At well over 200 pages there is a lot of story and characterization to be found in this simple story of good vs. evil and redemption for those who seek it.