Penciler: Kelley Jones
Inker: Eric Layton
Colorist: Kieran Oats
Letterer: Richard Emms
Editor: Mike Grell
Publisher: Atlas Comics, $2.99
Release Date: March 9th, 2011
For those who've only been reading comics a decade or two, or less, the name "Atlas Comics" probably means one thing: Marvel Comics' distant ancestor. While it's true that the company originally called Timely Publications, and eventually Marvel Comics, was known as Atlas Comics through most of the 50s - there's another company that went by the name in the 1970s. When Martin Goodman, the founder and original owner of Timely/Atlas/Marvel sold the company in the early 1970s, he quickly realized he wasn't done with comics and founded a new company he called Atlas Comics - though it's generally known as Atlas/Seaboard (due to Seaboard Periodicals being its parent company) to distinguish it from the earlier company. While short lived, the company produced a couple dozen individual issues of its several titles and many memorable characters. The general consensus is that Atlas Comics was a good idea at the wrong time in the comics market.
Now, in 2011, Martin Goodman's grandson, Jason, has relaunched the family business starting with The Grim Ghost.
The Grim Ghost is Matthew Dunsinane, the self-styled ruler and protector of a world he calls The Fringe; the Fringe is, literally, the fringe of reality and a place where lost spirits congregate before moving up or down the ladder of the afterlife. Much as in the real world, the Fringe is filled with predators waiting and watching for the opportunity to pounce on a fellow spirit in a moment of weakness, often right after they've arrived and before they've come to grips with their new situation. Souls seem to be the currency of this place, and The Grim Ghost is determined not to let his enemies acquire any more than they can sneak by him.
While I was aware long ago that Atlas's line, the largest privately owned collection of characters in comics, was being relaunched, I only discovered recently that one of my favorite comics writers and Twitter buddy, Tony Isabella, was writing this title. I had been considering picking up the Atlas titles when they were available, but that simply fact made my decision for me.
For the modern comic reader, especially those not well versed in pre-90s comics, The Grim Ghost may feel a bit antiquated. The dialogue harkens back to the superhero comic's Halcyon days of the 1960s and '70s, and at times is a bit verbose. However, as a reader who grew up on The Defenders and Len Wein's Amazing Spider-Man, it was a welcome change from the alternately introspective monologues and nearly-silent issues that modern comics are fond of; this took me back to a more innocent time in the history of comics.
Kelley Jones's art was servicable, though it felt unfinished in places as his work often does to me. Considering, however, that the comic takes place in a world that is only real in the eyes of its beholders, perhaps that unfinished, nearly ethereal quality is just what the book needs.
To sum things up: welcome back, Grim Ghost. Hope you can stay awhile.