Having greatly enjoyed writer Mark Bertolini’s work in supervillain series Breakneck, I was excited to read Ghost Lines, the Creator’s Edge Press series he is writing in collaboration with artist Carl Yonder. This is a very different comic to Breakneck, in terms of both content and tone, but what remains consistent is the quality of the storytelling behind it, with Bertolini continuing to mark himself out as a comic book writer to watch.
Much of the story is shrouded in mystery at this early stage in the game, but what we do get offers an unnerving central conceit: a mysterious organisation is planting the memories of unsolved murders into the heads of innocent people so that they will confess to the crimes and the cases can be closed. Deacon Sands is one of their victims, his mind loaded with the recollections of so many murders he didn’t commit that he has been pushed to the brink of insanity, convinced he’s a monster. Bertolini does a great job in presenting our troubled protagonist, making us flip back and forth between feeling sympathetic about his plight and nervous about what his unstable mental state will drive him to do next. Not sure what to make of his name though – it’s the kind of name I’d expect Steven Segal to have in a bad 90s action movie. However, in that manner, it is kind of awesome too.
Everything is so efficiently plotted here. I couldn’t believe it when I’d reached the end, as it didn’t feel like 22 pages at all, so natural and effortless was the flow of it all. Much of the focus here is on characterisation, both for Sands and our enigmatic villains. The conversations that the issue is built around give us some insight into this ensemble – the cold ruthlessness of Dr. Fernandez, or the quiet menace of the mysterious Mordecai – but we only get vague allusions to the exact nature of this organisation, or what makes Sands so important to them. If there’s any criticism to be had, it’s an uncertainty over exactly what unelaborated pieces of information are going to be important – for example, I’m not sure if the grisly opening murder mystery will be coming back into the narrative, or if it was merely a plot device to set up the kind of nefarious deeds this organisation is engaged in. But by the climax of this first issue, the plot takes a turn that promises the pace should really pick up in the issues that follow.
As strong as the writing is, I fear Yonder’s art suffers a little in comparison. There are glimpses of quality artwork on display, particularly with some suitably ominous use of shading. But the problem is that it’s inconsistent. While some of the pages are successfully moody and atmospheric, on other pages poor anatomy and awkward facial expressions took me out of the reading experience.
But art grievances aside, Ghost Lines #1 is a highly promising start to the series. It plays like a cross between Memento and The Bourne Identity, blended with some comic book sci-fi spice, and sets the stage for a potentially fascinating narrative to unfold. With plenty of action, suspense and characterisation, Ghost Lines has a little bit of something for everyone. If Mark Bertolini’s work on Breakneck impressed you, definitely go back and check out Ghost Lines.