Review by Karl Verhoven
By the time he came to Exhuming Elisa Eric Luke had been writing Ghost’s exploits for eighteen months or so, and kept introducing more mysteries to her life and past. She knew she’d been investigative reporter Elisa Cameron until her transformation, which erased most memories of her previous life. Every time she discovered more about that life it was in a form that raised more questions. Exhuming Elisa is the story that pulls together the many threads and mysteries Luke introduced earlier in the series.
Among these is the connection with the city of Arcadia. Luke has made much of how somehow evil is attracted to the city, and has established that it’s built on the wreckage of an older city. “A normal city history is fairly byzantine. In Arcadia it’s like digging through filth”, is Ghost’s conclusion when she begins investigating the past. This isn’t a task she undertakes alone. The brutal crimefighter X, who’s barely tolerated Ghost in the past is involved, as is the psychic Focus, someone who may be able to unlock deeply buried memories, and King Tiger, a martial artist with experience of the supernatural.
This is very early in Ivan Reis’ career, and his artistic development can be seen by comparing the opening pages with those concluding the graphic novel. There’s still an uncertainty and a lack of imagination as he begins the story, although the talent is certainly present, but by the end he’s competent storyteller capable of sensitivity and decorative flourish.
A sub-plot about a group of unfortunates living beneath Arcadia comes across a method of padding a monthly comic rather than the introduction of a genuinely tragic bunch to be pitied, but with reservations Exhuming Elisa is a smart piece of crime fiction with a supernatural tinge. By the end much about the series and about Elisa’s life has been explained, and a credible background has been constructed, not least revealing why Arcadia is a magnet for evil. How this has seeped through the city is a novel concept, and Luke explains almost all the mysteries previously left unanswered. As this will have little relevance to anyone who’s not read the previous issues, many of which were not issued as trades until the Ghost Omnibus, Exhuming Elisa lacks some depth if picked up as a standalone graphic novel. It’s incorporated in Ghost Omnibus Volume Two, where it’s preceded by Ghost stories that aren’t as good, but which provide some extra context.
Luke isn’t going to kill the golden goose, so while reinvigorating Ghost as a character and providing a new purpose he also drops in a few more puzzles. The following comics collected as a graphic novel are in Painful Music, but that skips issues of the original series. These are all found in Ghost Omnibus Volume Three.