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Space Ghost #1 (Review)

Writer: David Pepose
Art: Jonathan Lau
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Publication Date: May, 2024

Comic book readers of the same age as this reviewer may be familiar with the Space Ghost property because of the late-night talk show Space Ghost Coast to Coast, a satirical repurposing of a mostly-forgotten character originally created in the ’60s by Hanna-Barbera Productions. (Comic book readers of the same vintage as this site’s editor will remember the 1960s cartoon as a Saturday morning treat.)

The Hanna-Barbera TV series was a straightforward kid-oriented superhero cartoon that featured a costumed intergalactic crime fighter with a couple of teen sidekicks – very much the oeuvre for superheroes at the time. In the early ’00s, comic book publisher DC Comics revived the property for a comic book mini-series. DC’s take on the character was more serious and grounded, in line with the tone of its mainstream superhero properties (though not apparently folded into its ubiquitous continuity).

David Pepose and Jonathan Lau’s Space Ghost comic for Dynamite Comics, while still retaining the character design (and even the sidekicks) as the original Hanna Barbera series, takes on a tone that is more ’00s than ’60s. Space Ghost #1 retains the basic structure of the character’s mythos: the title character is a space-faring costumed vigilante fighting evil and defending the weak, set in the backdrop of a galaxy beset by pirates, criminals, mercenaries, and corrupt law enforcers. But he is a far from the slightly lumpy white TV cartoon hero, with his cry, “SPAAACE GHOOOOST!”

Space Ghost #1 wastes no time in giving superhero afficionados what they want in a superhero comic – a hefty dose of action. By way of setting the stage for the main characters, we get introduced to the two kids that will eventually serve as Space Ghost’s sidekicks: Jan and Jace, and the hyper-intelligent monkey Blip. The siblings, together with their scientist father, are being chased by a group of mercenaries. The father perishes within the span of a few pages, and Jan and Jace are left alone to fend for themselves.

This is where Space Ghost comes in. Mr Pepose’s Space Ghost feels more in line with the vigilante Batman: a silent predator that relies on gadgetry and environment to take down opponents. While there is banter and wit in the dialogue, it does not come from Space Ghost himself. (Given the cliched themes, we are glad that this Space Ghost is not the kind of fourth wall breaking character that is so popular these days, where some writers seem to be more interested in critiquing the genre than writing a story.)

Mr Pepose does a good job with the 32 pages that he is given. The majority of the story involves characters getting punched or shot with a laser, but there is also ample amount of dialogue to clue readers in on what is happening. Jan and Jace themselves are not being chased by mercenaries: the bad guys want Blip, who is a revolutionary science experiment. The orphaned children are caught in the crossfire. And then we have Space Ghost, who is not so much trying to protect the children as he is trying to take down the mercenaries. It sounds tiresome, but the story is a very serviceable plot springboard. It helps that Mr Pepose’ writing is on point, with dialogue that helps provide exposition without being too verbose or cliched.

When it comes to art, Jonathan Lau is in top form. The pages are action-packed and colorful, without being too cluttered. The inky shadows on the white costume lead a version of Space Ghost that is accurate to the original ’60s depiction, but which make made him fit in with the darker, more violent tone of this modern retelling.

But are we just dealing with Batman in space (with a monkey)? We do not think so. This is only the first issue in a series, so readers should not expect a fully-fleshed out narrative. But it already shows promise.