Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Last week, I covered Guardian Ghost, a comic about ghosts and hunting spirits. The comic had sloppy art, but the rich backstory which was creatively delivered to the main character (and by extension, the reader). This week, I'm reviewing Post-Mortem, another comic about ghosts and hunting spirits. The similarities end there though, because while Guardian Ghost portrays the ghosts and their earthly attachments as part of some larger power struggle, Post-Mortem is so far a straightforward ghost hunting story. Though the art is cleaner, it has story issues that make me less likely to recommend it.
The story is about Thaxter Mortimer and his daughter Grimm (“Mortimer” likely being derived from the Latin word for “Death” and Grimm either referring to the fairy tale authors or just the word itself) are necromancers, and their job is to find and remove disruptive spirits from an area. A local pet store owner named Drew calls the duo because she believes the place is haunted, and when they investigate, they find that the store is possessed by the man who previously lived on the property and committed suicide to escape accusations of being the culprit of a murder. The three have to find what ties the ghost to the property and exorcise it to release his spirit as the spirit becomes more and more hostile.
Based on the description, it doesn't have that much with Guardian Ghost at all. But it is interesting to contrast the two, seeing how their stylistic choices work towards the narrative. In the case of Guardian Ghost, the protagonists know very little about what's going on, either learning as they go or finding people more experienced sources for explanations. In Post-Mortem, this is the protagonists' career, so it's assumed that they already know the ins and outs. So the audience has to find out the rules of this universe from when they explain their methods to their client Drew after the fact. However, their methods are either shown to be temporary, exacerbating, or something they work out as they go along. So rules get seemingly made and broken, though as the story goes on the inconsistencies get explained by other extenuating circumstances, though Drew nor the audience are really given much time to let these rules sink in before the problem escalates further. Also, it makes Thaxter and Grimm look like they're just throwing herbs and blessed objects at the wall and seeing what sticks because we've never seen any condition in which they've worked successfully.
The characterization in the comic needs work. Based on their portrayal in the comic, I would say that Thaxter acts as if this is all routine but isn't as experienced as his formal demeanor implies, Grimm seems like an insightful but still immature child, and Drew is (understandably) scared out of her mind resulting in a violently fluctuating mood. These would be decent if somewhat not fully fleshed out characters (Grimm being my favorite of the three as she seems more proactive and just plain badass than her father) if not for the fact that the cast page gives different descriptions of the characters than what is shown in the comic. This shows that there needs to be a lot more work on characterization in the comic, or that the characters have changed from what the author originally intended and the cast page should be updated to reflect the change (though I'd much rather read a comic about the people in the cast page. A Super Soaker filled with holy water? A pogo stick that shoots wooden stakes? Those sound awesome).
The comic appears to be digitally inked, filled, and shaded grayscale comic. Some early pages show pencil lines, suggesting that it is at least partially done traditionally, though later comics don't show any stray marks, implying that either the author improved at cleaning these up or now does everything digitally.
Again, going back to Guardian Ghost, the art in Post Mortem is where it excels. In contrast to the sloppy fills, inconsistent use of blur, and scribbly lineart, Post Mortem is relatively clean. The shading is confidently done in a hard round brush and the backgrounds, while looking somewhat artificial early on like they came from texture packs or renders (1, 2, 3), they get better. Both have some strong character design, with Grimm's skull bunny mask being the perfect combination of cute and macabre and Thaxter's uniform a classic mortician's uniform minus the jacket to make it more functional. However, that's not to say that it's flawless. The inking, while adequate, rarely shows depth or weight (for example, areas that are darker having thicker lines to further imply shadow, or objects in the foreground having thicker lines) and there isn't a strong sense of contrast, even in scenes that take place in a darkened basement. There are some pages that do these things, and are some of the best pages in the story for it. I just wish there were more.
Another issue I have with the comic is that the facial expressions in this comic can get into stock manga or over the top to the point of looking offputting (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Drew's reactions to finding bones or being threatened by ghosts are largely okay, given the circumstances. But it's Thaxter's Cheshire grins and bug-eyed shock to things that he should be used to that are some of the worst offenders. They make him look insincere and creepy, which if that was the intention, then I don't know why the author would choose to do this to the protagonist which we have been given little to no reason to doubt. If it was an accident, it shows that more work needs to be done in showing subtle shades of emotion.
I have a feeling that the comic will continue to improve as it continues, but as of now, it doesn't resonate with me. The story needs more work setting up story elements and in making the characters fit their characterization. The art is good, but not great, showing and understanding of line and color, but not taking full advantage of potential uses of line weight and contrast. If you asked me who I was gonna call, it wouldn't be Thaxter and Grimm.