Underrated: Tokyo Ghost: The Atomic Garden

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet-pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week:  Tokyo Ghost: The Atomic Garden.

I had never heard of Tokyo Ghost: The Atomic Garden. until I saw the cover of the trade at my LCS, which doesn’t really mean much other than sometimes I miss things. Something about the cover caught my attention as I was putting it on the shelf. There was something about a motorcycle rider stuck full of arrows that made me stop and wonder what the hell I was putting on the shelf, so I flipped the book and read a synopsis that was just curious enough to be immediately interesting, saw Rick Remender’s name and immediately purchased the book.

It never made it to the shelf.

The synopsis that helped to hook me in: The Isles of Los Angeles 2089: Humanity is addicted to technology, a population of unemployed leisure seekers blissfully distracted from toxic contamination, who borrow, steal, and kill to buy their next digital fix. Getting a virtual buzz is the only thing left to live for. It’s the biggest industry, the only industry, the drug everyone needs, and gangsters run it all. And who do these gangsters turn to when they need their rule enforced? Constables Led Dent and Debbie Decay. This duo is about to be given a job that will force them out of the familiar squalor of Los Angeles to take down the last tech-less country on Earth: The Garden Nation of Tokyo. You can check out the first issue on Image’s website from this link if you’re curious.

The promise of a story that deals with the dangers of technology wasn’t lost on the person who works with technology every damn day across two jobs and sees the impact of it on another as digital comics are an always present conversation piece at the shop (usually in how they don’t compare, but then that’s to be expected given the people in the conversation are literally buying physical comics at the time).

Remender takes our current obsession with technology to an extreme with Tokyo Ghost, imagining a world that reminds me of the dystopian future of the Matrix with the worst of a Hollywood drug den spread across LA. If Snake Plisken was here, he’d be trying to escape. Through the haze and horror of a tech addicted world, Remender focuses on a Constable, Led Dent, and his tech-free partner Debbie Decay. We see Debbie try to break Led’s all encompassing tech addiction by forcing him to detox… it’s an oddly uncomfortable story that’s all the more powerful by the striking nature of the addiction.

Look, I know you’re reading this on your phone, tablet, laptop or whatever. But this is a book that’ll remind you to go outside in an oddly non-preachy way. It doesn’t hurt that the art is perfectly suited to do what it needs to do; whether in the hell of LA or the relative paradise of Japan… this is a book that you really should be reading.

That the story is good is a byproduct of it’s message – and that’s one we probably all need to listen to (he says as he goes back to surfing the interwebs, where, incidentally, I discovered this is volume one of two, so maybe technology isn’t all bad…).

Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.