Comic Book / Brody's Ghost

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The two protagonists meet for the first time. Not the most auspicious of starts.

Brody is a young loser living in squalor after a bad breakup. One day, as he's out on the street playing his guitar for tips, he finds a young girl staring at him from the inside of a van. After winning a short Staring Contest with the girl, Brody watches as she passes through the roof of the van, floats over toward him, and begins talking to him.

After Brody regains the power of speech, the girl, Talia, explains her situation: A ghost locked out of heaven for reasons she won’t disclose, she can’t enter until she commits a life task—a "super-good deed". Talia has decided to catch the serial killer known as the Penny Murderer, but as a ghost, she can't affect the world in anything but the most limited of ways. Thus, she has chosen to coerce Brody—who she claims is a ghostseer, a person who can see, and communicate with ghosts—to aid her, even if she finds him, as she puts it, "skuzzy". With the help of Kagemura — a centuries-old ghost with abilities of his own — the two must find a way to unlock Brody's hidden potential and solve the Penny Murders.

Created, written and drawn by Eisner nominee Mark Crilley (Akiko, Miki Falls), Brody's Ghost is his darkest (if not necessarily dark) work to date. It is currently being published as a six-volume mini-series by Dark Horse. Four preview mini-stories can be seen here, in issues 30, 31, 32 and 33.


Tropes:

  • Animesque: While Crilley's style has always had manga influences, he specifically mentions that Brody's and Talia’s designs are inspired by Takeshi Obata's depictions of Light Yagami and Misa Amane.
  • Anti-Hero: Brody's a Classical Anti-Hero, with Kagemura being a Knight in Sour Armor. Talia is either a Nominal Hero or an outright Anti-Villain, given her Manipulative Bastard tendencies, her desire to go after the Penny Murderer being personal, and her lack of remorse in threatening or endangering innocents to get what she wants.
  • Being Good Sucks: All Brody wants is to protect his ex-girlfriend from a serial killer, but because of his situation, no one other than his friend Gabe believes he has powers, and thinks he's either a crazy stalker that's obsessed with his ex, or a pathetic loser that's desperate for the reward money of capturing the Penny Murderer, often leading to him getting into fights and getting his home vandalized. Because of this, his ex-girlfriend hates him, and calls the police on him after getting back at the guy who vandalized his home (who just happens to be her new boyfriend). It doesn't help that he was tricked by Talia to become her instrument of vengeance against said serial killer, either. Poor guy can't catch a break. It's summed up by Brody himself, when all's said and done:
    Brody : "I'm sorry, Talia. But if this is what it's like being a hero... I think I'd rather be the bad guy."
  • Be Yourself: Deconstructed. Kagemura demands that Brody destroy all but his most essential belongings so he can focus on his training, to which Brody refuses, citing that Kagemura is trying to change who he is. Given that at this point Brody has proven to be an out of shape slacker who let one break up ruin his life, Talia rightly points out that he needs to change who he is, because who he currently is is not good.
  • Big "NO!": Talia near the climax of the series, when Brody refuses to carry out her revenge and strangle the Penny Murderer.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Penny Murderer's dead, and Nicole survives. But Landon, who's used every cop and mob connection he has to ruin what's left of Brody's life, gets the credit, and Brody has to stay with Kagemura, as he has nowhere to go after becoming a fugitive. However, he does patch things up with both Talia and Nicole, who's learned the whole story from Gabe, and the ending implies that Nicole and Brody will get back together, with Nicole pulling some strings to get him a new identity and a steady job away from the limelight.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Gabriel, Brody's only friend.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: While the story is a crime thriller with supernatural elements, there's some humor in the first few issues, as it mostly focuses on Brody's crap life, and getting him out of it. Then Brody finds out Nicole is a target for the Penny Murderer, he encounters several families affected by the Penny Murders, and Talia's backstory comes to light, and things get dark real fast.
  • Consummate Liar: Talia. She's sincere about wanting to see the Penny Murderer brought to justice, but beyond that, everything she said about herself prior to Brody learning the truth either happened to someone else, were half-truths, or outright lies.
  • Crapsack World: The story takes place in an urbanized environment where biker gangs run unhindered, and the police are controlled by the mob.
  • Cute Ghost Girl: Talia, of course. In looks anyway. In terms of personality, she's something else.
  • Death Glare: The back cover of Book 4 shows us that Talia is very good at this. It's her reaction to Brody calling her out for lying to him about how she died.
  • Exact Words: In Book 1, Talia explains that she suffered from leukemia and died five years ago, with Book 2 having her discuss her time at a hospital. She did die five years ago - at the hands of the Penny Murderer instead of leukemia. Whether she ever suffered from leukemia is also up for debate, as it turns out it was her father who had been hospitalised, not her.
  • Expy: Talia is similar to another Cute Ghost Girl from a graphic novel whose name is someone´s ghost. Like Emily, Talia is the ghost of a teenage girl with a connection to a mysterious murderer who befriends the protagonist. Also, both of them are manipulative, have an unpleasant personality behind their cute facade (albeit Talia is somewhat snarky from the beginning), lie about their deaths, and use the protagonist to achieve their goals. Also, both Talia and Emily can be considered Jerks With A Heart Of Gold due to their backstories.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Landon gets all the credit for bringing the Penny Murderer to justice. Not only was he never involved in the investigation, he was using his connections to the mob and the police to get Brody killed, and was in the process of trying to shoot Brody from behind before Talia performed a last minute possession of Brody. Thankfully, Gabe and Nicole know better.
  • Femme Fatale: Talia doesn't exactly scream Ms. Fanservice, but in every other respect, she is this. She cajoles Brody to go after the Serial Killer in the first place, and despite feigning the role of a Punch Clock Hero in the first few issues, it becomes clear she knows more than she's letting on. She's one hell of an opportunist and a manipulator when push comes to shove, if that's not enough.
  • Film Noir: A very unconventional example, but Brody's Ghost has all the hallmarks: troubled, down-on-his-luck protagonist who nevertheless proves his moral fiber, approached to solve a Murder Mystery; internal monologues and ruminations over future and past events; a setting in an advanced state of urban decay, dominated by criminals; and a Femme Fatale figure, who's involvement with the protagonist gets him into trouble, and leaves him worse off by the end.
  • Foreshadowing: At the end of Volume 2, Brody has a vision of Nicole's lifeless corpse with a penny on her forehead.
    • As early as volume 1, Brody questions what Talia did that requires putting her through her life task, to which Talia responds by dodging the question and fleeing the scene. In hindsight, this is the biggest sign that Talia's cover story of Ghostly Goals is utterly bogus.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Brody's a hot tempered slacker, Talia's a sardonic teen ghost, and Kagemura is the ancient Japanese equivalent to a grouchy old man, but all three are ultimately good people.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: For a city that doesn't appear to be in Japan, there sure is a lot of kanji and katakana around. It's implied that there was an influx of Japanese immigration at one point, given the presence of run down Shinto temples that Kagemura has attached himself to, as well as Japanese cafes and bookstores.
  • Hair Decorations: Talia wears a skull hairclip.
  • Heel Realization: During the time between dropping him off at a park, and meeting with him again at Kagemura's shrine, Talia realises that while she doesn't regret the Penny Murderer's death, Brody has plenty of reasons to drop her like a hot potato at this point, since getting involved in the case has ruined his relationship with his ex and turned him into a fugitive. Despite claiming that she's not apologising, seeing the situation Brody's in hurts, and she's grateful that he's willing to still have her as a friend in spite of everything.
  • Hero Antagonist: Landon is involved enough in the mob that he has access to personal firearms, can get two criminals to act as his hitmen, and can order the police to have Brody tortured, murdered, and disappeared, but from his perspective, Brody is a deeply disturbed Stalker with a Crush who's harassing his girlfriend after she's made it clear that what happened between them is over. He's basically trying to keep her safe in an extreme way.
  • Heroic Build: Averted. Despite the figure Brody cuts when he's fully clothed, he's got the physique of a scarecrow with a beer gut.
    • Played straight as of Volume 2, as a result of Kagemura's intense training.
  • Hot-Blooded: Brody is a harsh deconstruction. While good natured, his short temper gets him into trouble as the story goes on, and he acknowledges to Talia that his temper was the reason he fell out with Nicole.
  • Hypocrite: Talia claims that she's searching for the Penny Murderer to fulfill her life task, and despite thinking he's a monster, refuses to treat the hunt as a form of revenge, as she doesn't like where that path would take her. Turns out, not only is there no life task for ghosts, her actual goal is all about revenge, and she doesn't attempt to deny it when exposed.
  • Intangible Man: Talia is capable of passing through objects, and any human possessed by a ghost can do this as well.
  • I See Dead People: Ghostseers.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Possibly played straight with Kagemura. Averted with Talia — what she wears as a ghost is not the outfit she was murdered in.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Both Brody and Talia are snarky, self-pitying, but ultimately well meaning. [[spoiler: Talia's jerk side takes center stage as the climax approaches, however. On the other hand, in her last scene with Brody, she appears to be remorseful (even though she doesn't admit it) and she calls Brody a hero.
  • Karma Houdini: Landon has ties to the mob, and has attempted to kill Brody twice: not only does he not get punished, he actually gets the credit, and presumably the reward, for taking down the Penny Murderer. Likewise, despite proving herself a Manipulative Bitch and threatening/endangering Brody numerous times, all Talia gets is a What The Hell Hero Speech from Brody, who nevertheless lets her stay his friend. Justified, in that the city is corrupt, and Talia's a ghost: there's no real way Brody or anyone else could punish them even if they wanted to.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Talia. She uses a cover story of Ghostly Goals, and the offer of a bounty to convince Brody to play along with her revenge scheme against the Penny Murderer. When Brody proves too uncooperative and moral for her liking, and defies her request to not see her mother for information, she lets him get caught by the police, and then extracts a promise to kill the Penny Murderer under threat of torture and death by corrupt police. And when the moment arrives, and he proves unwilling to kill him, she waits until the last second while Landon prepares to shoot, then possesses Brody to move him out of the line of fire, keeping Brody safe, and causing Landon to kill the Penny Murderer.
  • Mind over Matter: Part of the standard ghostseer power.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Nicole is horrified to learn that her turning to Landon to stop Brody from stalking her lead to Landon vandalizing Brody's home and trying to get him killed—as well as learning that Brody was trying to protect her from the Penny Murderer.
  • Narrator: Brody.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: While his involvement with Talia forces Brody to get his life together, he ends up in dangerous scenarios he wouldn't have experienced before he met her. By the end, all the effort he put into bringing the Penny Murderer to justice is credited to the man who sicced the mob and police on him, and he's forced to hole up at Kagemura's temple as a fugitive. Thankfully, Gabe and Nicole manage to make his situation manageable in the aftermath.
    • Horrifically enough, this is the Penny Murderer's Modus Operandi. If any of the women who buy ice cream from him return extra pennies, he chooses them as a target for being "pure" enough to show such kindness. Several women died, including Talia, because they were perceptive enough to realise when they'd been given excess change, and honest enough to correct the vendor's "error". Talia is shaken by the realisation that she died over something so petty.
  • Odd Couple: Brody and Talia.
  • Our Ghosts are Different: The story offers three different kinds of ghosts:
    • Regular ghosts, like Talia, are invisible and intangible, but can interact with the world in a way that's different for every ghost.
    • Site specters, which attach themselves to specific locations.
    • Demighosts, which can touch things and seem to be much less human in appearance.
  • Urban Fantasy: The setting is reminiscent of Cyberpunk works, like Blade Runner or Batman Beyond, albeit much less futuristic and more run down, but the presence of ghosts and spiritual powers counterbalance the crime elements.
  • Redemption Quest: Talia's self-imposed mission to stop the Penny Murders.
    • Subverted; it's revealed that Talia was the first Penny Murder victim, and the whole Redemption Quest deal was a ploy used to con Brody into helping her avenge her death while keeping him from interviewing and potentially upsetting her still-living mother. She reveals to him that the only ghosts that are left behind in the living world are the ones that choose to stay because they have "unfinished business."
  • Teens Are Monsters: In Book 1, Brody encounters one of the many biker gangs troubling the city, and after antagonising them, gets brutalised, and nearly murdered by a dorky looking twelve year old before Talia steps in.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Brody isn't exactly happy being forced to work on a Murder Mystery with Talia, and vice versa. The two do develop a rapport, but they end up back to this when Brody learns just how much Talia has hid from him.
  • The Slacker: Brody, before he undertakes Kagemura's training to improve his powers.
  • They Fight Crime!: One's a "scuzzy" slacker human who has ghostseeing powers and whose life is a wreck, the other is a proactive, snarky teenage ghost girl.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Deconstructed: The Penny Murderer believed his victims to be this, and killed them to prevent them from being "corrupted" by the Crapsack World they lived in. Many of the families the victims belonged to were traumatised as a result, and while the other victims presumably passed on, Talia was pissed at being robbed of her life at such a young age, and came back as decidedly less good as she had been in life.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Talia becomes unpleasant the moment Brody reveals that he knows how she really died in Book 4, and just gets worse from there on out, to the point that she threatens Brody and reveals that she just wants the Penny Murderer dead, whether or not Nicole dies as a consequence. It's not until the climax that she finally lets up.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: The Penny Murderer is a normal looking man who works as an ice cream vendor. Turns out, he selected his victims from the various customers who bought from him.
  • Training from Hell: Kagemura puts Brody through this in Volume 2, which included making him climb up one hundred telephone poles in one day.
  • Unfinished Business: Aside from some ghosts being "locked out" of heaven, some remain on earth because they have unfinished business with their mortal life. Talia states verbatim that the latter are the only types of people who don't get into heaven, her and Kagemura included. His unfinished business is cleaning up the corruption in the world. Her's is exacting vengeance on her murderer.
  • You Have to Believe Me: When Nicole confronts him about his stalking, Brody attempts to explain the events of the preceding books, with predictable results. Learning from this, he gives a visual demonstration of his powers to Gabe when trying to explain what's going on, to much better effect. This is notably inverted when he meets Talia's mother, however. Attempting to use believable cover stories just makes her suspicious, and he has to admit to seeing Talia's ghost for her to be willing to talk to him.
  • Wham Shot: At the end of volume 3, Gabe gives Brody a folder with details of a five-year-old murder case similar to the Penny Murders. Brody opens the folder to find a picture of the murder victim - Talia.
  • With Friends Like These...: After everything she's done (including, but not limited to, attempting to use Brody's ex as bait for a Serial Killer, and threatening to leave Brody in the hands of mobsters to be tortured to death unless he agreed to kill the Penny Murderer) Brody calls Talia out as one of the most manipulative and immoral people he's ever met. But he still lets her stick around as a friend, because as a fugitive in hiding, he needs all the friends he can get at this point.
  • Zettai Ryouiki: Talia wears thigh-high stockings and a pleated skirt.

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