Of all science fiction subgenres, cyberpunk has the shortest shelflife. That’s not to say there aren’t any timeless stories this bizarre literary and cinematic movement have produced. Cyberpunk gave us the Matrix, which changed the way blockbusters would be made for most of a decade, for better or worse, and William Gibson’s masterpiece Neuromancer (which really gave legitimacy to the whole genre) opened the flood gates for science fiction writers to push boundaries and blur the line between genre fiction and literary fiction. Both of these stories are told with a sort of dream logic, and they explore philosophical ideas that transcend genres and challenge the viewer/reader’s perception of humanity in the digital age. I truly believe they will remain relevant works of fiction for generations to come.
*This is important*
But for every Matrix or Neuromancer filling the science fiction landscape, there’s a Strange Days or Virtual Light (also by Gibson). I don’t mean to say either of these are bad works. In fact, both are quite good…for when they were written. The problem a lot of cyberpunk works have is that their speculations are not terribly far flung. There usually aren’t spaceships or time travel or alien races walking around in these stories, and that’s not necessarily a strike against them. But when you write a story that takes place twelve years in the future, you may want to reel things in and then try to cast your line a bit farther out (I’m looking at you Gibson with your hologram car hoods in the year 2006).
Time catches up to cyberpunk fiction way too quickly. And while some of the predictions made are frighteningly on the nose, some of them (hologram car hoods; sorry for harping on this) are just plain silly and present day audiences (or anyone who consumes these works a decade or so after they’re released) will just laugh them off.
Tokyo Ghost is somewhere in the middle. It’s future is far enough out there (2089) that when things do catch up to the year, all the people who read it will either be dead or too old to give a shit that Rick Remender and Sean Murphy didn’t hit the nail exactly on the head.
The Atomic Garden, which collects the first five issues of Tokyo Ghost, suggests a world where people have become addicted to technology (sound familiar?). This is nothing new in the world of Cyberpunk, but what is new is where the story turns. We follow Led Dent and Debbie Decay, a pair of lovebirds who work as “constables” and handle the dirty work for a shady business mogul/slum lord/gangster (I’m not sure, really). When Dent and Debbie take on a job in Japan, where technology has been outlawed, they find something they weren’t bargaining for, both good and terribly, horribly, violently bad.
This is another one of those books I don’t want to give you too much information about. Much like Rick Remender’s Low (we’ll get to that in a future review), there’s very deliberate story build up and sucker punch character arcs in each issue.
I enjoy this book a great deal. It certainly breathes some life into an all but dead subgenre.
There isn’t a whole lot of new ideas brought to the table in Tokyo Ghost, but the story elements and cyberpunk aesthetics are executed with such confidence you won’t notice how derivative it can be at times.
If I had to pick one thing that really didn’t work for me, it would be the comic’s villian, a twisted murderer who sees the world as nothing more than his digital playground and speaks in mellinial slang. Where this character should be a terrifying nemesis, he just comes off annoying. Hopefully his back story and motivations get fleshed out in future issues.
Ultimately I had a blast with Tokyo Ghost, and I look forward to see what comes next.
Oh…and Led Dent’s motorcycle is called “Zeus’ Dick,” so there’s that…
Final Grade: B