Though he may
have a macabre sense of humor, Garth Hale seems like an ordinary
kid. But in the first few pages of Ghostopolis, it
turns out that he's sick. Not the kind of sick like he's gross,
but sick as in it looks like he won't live to adulthood.
Yet he deals. When ghost wrangler Frank Gallows accidentally
chases a nightmare through Garth's bedroom and sends the
boy and skeletal horse into the afterlife, it's just one
more thing that means big deal, Garth's life isn't going
What neither Garth nor Frank expects is that the boy has
a destiny in the afterlife, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't
get back home before his mom gets too worried about him.
Creator Doug TenNapel has a knack for creating secret
worlds bubbling just under the surface of our ordinary lives.
As a writer, he also leaves a lot of those secret worlds
to readers' imaginations, making them work a little harder,
perhaps, but also a little richer.
Here it turns out that the dead keep trying to escape
back into the land of the living, and that to answer, we've
set up a Supernatural Immigration Task Force. In anybody
else's hands, that would be the story. But for TenNapel,
the bizarre is the mundane, and what little we can glean
about the Task Force comes only if it's important to Garth's
That's not to say TenNapel skimps on detail. Clearly,
he has this reality all figured out. The living seem actually
lonelier, as in Creature Tech, TenNapel gives this
a Central California setting, small towns where people aren't
too crowded in on one another.
Contrast that to Ghostopolis, a city of the dead, perhaps,
but buzzing with life. Medieval skeletons, goblins, happy
mummy families and many more crowd the streets. Well, perhaps
I shouldn't have said "happy" mummy families, because Ghostopolis
rests under the thumb of a tyrant who has wrested it away
from its creator's intent. No wonder everyone wants to escape
back to Earth instead of move forward as they were meant
Though Ghostopolis is filled with wonder, TenNapel
has also grounded it in very normal concerns. Garth discovers
the ghost of his grandfather, a man emotionally stunted
in life and thus a perfect companion for his own adolescent
grandson. He has a lot to work through, and it never feels
forced or manipulative.Despite this being a story about
a boy facing mortality, a strong wash of hope runs through
it; ultimately it's extremely uplifting.
Simply, this is a great work for adolescent readers, challenging
in its emotional depth but not too frightening. Though it
is a complete story masterfully told, after finishing Ghostopolis,
you'll want to see further adventures in TenNapel's land
of the dead.