Review by Karl Verhoven
Ghost Stories gathers the three earliest stories of the seemingly undead Elisa Cameron, but they’re hardly a complementary trio, quite schizophrenic in fact, with three different creative teams and three different approaches.
Ghost was introduced in 1993 along with eleven other heroes as Dark Horse attempted to establish a line of superhero comics. Divorced from the remaining three chapters that connect with her introduction, the brief opener is an elusive piece with much unexplained. Ghost manifests on a building site attempting to discover who murdered her, but almost every other aspect of Jerry Prosser’s plot is murky in isolation, although it does introduce us to the vigilante X, from whose title the final piece in this book originates. Ghost’s introduction is intended to intrigue, and does so, but the saving grace is fourteen pages of glorious Adam Hughes art. He presents Ghost as both seductive and vulnerable, with none of the exploitative excess of later appearances.
Eric Luke wrote the majority of Ghost’s early material, and his introduction is the longest story here, in which Ghost discovers who she was, why she’s dead, defines what she can do and is provided with a distinctive narrative voice. Luke begins by setting out some limitations to Ghost’s capabilities and answering some obvious questions, such as what prevents an immaterial girl from sinking to the centre of the planet when she sleeps. Matt Haley’s artwork is eminently suitable to the strip, creating the right atmosphere and impressing with his page layouts. He’s not got the precision of Hughes, but who has? Matched with Luke’s script he creates a tidy piece of noir fiction without a single really likeable character. Yeah, that includes Ghost, who dismisses her family on rediscovering them with a curt “These people are losers. Get me out of here.” Luke would soften the harsher edges of Ghost’s personality when he wrote her regularly.
Despite being introduced alongside X, Ghost’s early relationship with him was one of tolerance at best, and in the final story that’s reinforced on the final page, following Ghost still investigating her murder, a plot that wouldn’t be resolved until the following Nocturnes collection. Haley returns on the art and combines a decorative style with some awful bodies. Steven Grant writes, but relying very much on first person captions he delivers an exaggerated and not very credible personality.
Only the combination of Luke and Haley is found in the otherwise exhaustive first volume of the Ghost Omnibus. Ghost’s introduction makes more sense in the context of the Dark Horse Heroes Omnibus, while the X chapter is also in volume one of the X Omnibus.