Sea Ghost #1

A comic review article by: Penny Kenny
"The Sea Ghost in the Machine"

A mysterious sphere transports Sea Ghost to a world where the sea and land dwellers are at war. Can he convince both sides to end their conflict and unite forces to defeat the real enemy?

No kidding, the theme music from the original Super Friends cartoon was running through my head the entire time I was reading "The Sea Ghost in the Machine." Jay Piscopo's Sea Ghost #1 plays out like a Hanna-Barbara or Filmation Saturday morning cartoon. This one-shot has the same kind of energy and fast pace of those classic action cartoons of the '60s and '70s. Also like those shows, "The Sea Ghost in the Machine" is filled to the brim with concepts like "Temporal Displacement Energy Fields," "Bio-engineered Doomsday Mutants," "Old Gods," and shark-copters. Piscopo tosses them out for the reader to "Oooh" and "Ahhh" over and moves on with the narrative, much the way his inspiration Jack Kirby did.

There's a big, open, anything can happen feel to the story. It begins in the Sea Ghost's underwater headquarters outside Atlantis, bounces across the galaxy, sweeps underwater again, then up to land, and then to an icy, arctic region. At every location something is accomplished. Piscopo isn't just drawing cool looking scenery. He's telling a story that has a beginning, middle, and end and makes sense.

For all the action, and there's plenty of that (Sea Ghost breaks nets, heads, walls, and Lovecraft-lite creatures) Piscopo takes the time to establish Sea Ghost as a person you want to spend time with. The three panels showing him interact with his children and the following two where he speaks to the spirit of his wife set him up as a decent, honorable man. These scenes also play into the story later when he confronts the Phlan and the Simas and tries to get them to see the error of their ways. Sea Ghost is confident, but not cocky, and he'd just as soon talk his way out of trouble as fight his way out. One of the more interesting scenes is when he admits to himself that attacking the Phlan's belief system might not have been the wisest thing to do, showing that he makes mistakes and can admit it.

The art is lovely. Basically, the book looks like a collection of cels for a cartoon, though the figures have a more fluid grace than most cels. Piscopo does a beautiful job of capturing a sense of motion. The page where the sphere carries Sea Ghost across space is wonderful. It zigs and zags across like the universe like a giant pinball, complete with sound effects like "Ping," "Bong," and "Zip." The panel showing him stepping out of the sphere is almost three-dimensional. It's very naturalistic appearing. It doesn't hurt that Sea Ghost is a good-looking guy. He's got a Johnny Quest's "Race Bannon with a mask" look going for him.

The other character designs are also striking. The land based Simas are an obvious homage to the apes from Planet of the Apes, while the sea-dwelling Phlan look more Alex Toth like. The Phlan queen is vaguely familiar, though I can't quite place her.

The action is very easy to follow. Piscopo is a "less is more" type artist. His panels tend to feature one or two main figures and a subordinate background. That isn't to say his backgrounds are bland. They're not. There are lots of fun details, like the aforementioned shark-copters. It's just that he knows where to keep the reader's attention focused for maximum benefit of the story.

Colors are vivid and bright. There's next to no shading, but there is plenty of rich contrast.

Rounding out the package are pin-ups by artist Ramona Fradon, Dan Kelly, Robert Caine Jeffcoat, and Piscopo. Also included is a letter to the readers from Piscopo. This is a nice touch that creates a sense of connection to the creator.

Sea Ghost #1 is a must have for readers looking for a fun, intelligent, action based story and for fans who miss the glory days of Saturday morning cartoons when Space Ghost, Aquaman, and The Herculoids graced the airwaves.

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