Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Tokyo Ghost 6, originally released April 20th, 2016.
Shelby: I used to listen to the news on NPR every morning, but I’ve stopped for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason is that it’s simply too depressing; so many shitty people being shitty to each other, it’s too much to take. And I’m not even talking about the election coverage, which I am completely sick and tired of, despite the fact we’re still only in the primaries. Not only am I tired of all the bad news about bad people doing bad things, I have very little trust in the news that I hear. Every news story has me wondering who paid for their version of the truth to be broadcast, who is trying the hardest to trick me into being on their side. I can understand why the people of New Los Angeles would rather plug into mindless entertainment than put up with sorting through the spin and PR to find the truth. And that’s exactly what Rick Remender and the rest of the creative team on Tokyo Ghost want me to understand: they want us to understand how easy it can be to become the willingly ignorant, and the cost of breaking free.
Six months have passed since Tokyo was left a barren wasteland, and things are worse than ever in LA. A group of “infantilized nostalgic nursery justice warriors” (read: social justice terrorists) with a serious Mother Goose obsession have kidnapped a bunch of Flak’s lackeys and are holding them hostage, demanding that Flak take the people of L.A. with him to paradise in Tokyo. Constable Led Dent arrives and proceeds to murder the murderers, going so far as to let all the hostages die and lighting the city on fire in the process. Flak isn’t concerned; he owns both the media providing the spin and the tech keeping the people plugged in and entertained, so he can literally do what he wants. And what he wants is to tell the world Tokyo is a radioactive desert so no one will know he’s built a gaudy temple to himself, for him and the “.01% Club” only.
If you think Remender and artist Sean Murphy are trying to evoke, oh, say, Donald Trump with this tacky display of opulent self-adoration, you are more right than you know. This issue is all about the oppressors at the top turning those fighting for justice into the actual villains. As we see the hostage “rescue” unfold, Flak is giving an interview and providing narration for the scene. I’d paraphrase it, but Remender’s words are so perfect on their own there’s no need:
“Look, everyone knows these cries for ‘social justice’ are just thinly veiled plays at self-interest. Scumbags looking for special treatment. Thugs bitching they haven’t been given enough.”
If I didn’t know better, I would swear that was a quote from a right-wing blog talking about Black Lives Matter or Shout Your Abortion or any other social justice movement. That “special treatment” the Mother Goose gang is looking for, by the way, is food, water, and less pollution; what a bunch of entitled babies, am I right? Flak is deflecting attention from his greed and corruption, turning the people against each other so no one notices that he and the über-rich have stolen the world from everyone else. He is telling the media what it wants to hear, and giving the people what he’s convinced them they need. And in case you still think I’m reaching with this Flak/Trump comparison, the interview ends with Flak wiping away alligator tears as he calls himself father to the people; the interviewer drops the mic and literally sucks the man’s dick.
He will make Los Angeles great again: it’s both brilliant and horrifyingly familiar. I love what Remender and Murphy are doing here; they are clearly as tired as we are of seeing what’s been happening in the country, and how those events are being portrayed. You may find it too graphic, or over-exaggerated, but I think we’ve seen enough media outlets suck off enough powerful, terrible men to know the truth behind it.
Remender’s sadly accurate reflection continues, as we overhear a couple henchmen discussing the state of the world as they load up the tech that’s gonna distract the masses while the wealthy get out of Dodge. He outlines the problems very clearly: people are stupid and selfish, and will look to whomever can give them the easiest, fastest, feel-good-est solution to their problems. Remender goes so far as to point out that, at least with corporations in charge, you have a leader who’s good at something; businessmen may not know how to give the people what they need, but they sure do know how to give the people what they want, and people who get what they want are pacified, docile, and easy to manage. Despite everything I’ve said so far, however, hope is not lost; the Tokyo Ghost has arrived, and she’s here to fuck shit up.
With her EMP field disabling the henchmen’s tech and her sword disabling the henchmen, Debbie Decay is back in town and ready to clean house. I cannot wait to see what the relationship between Debbie and Teddy will be now. We know that somewhere, buried beneath the numbingly endless streams of tech, Teddy still has a lot of feelings about how things went down in Tokyo. As the henchmen were talking, they used Teddy as an example of how selfish people can be; their casual discussion about how he killed the village that took him in, and Debbie too, was about to send him into rage mode. Anyone who’s played a barbarian class character in D&D knows how destructive rage can be; to me, the fact that Teddy has any emotions left at all is a very good sign, though I couldn’t begin to guess what those emotions are, how they’re going to come out, and how exactly Debbie is going to respond.
Drew, I could talk about this issue for hours, but I should probably let you have a crack at it. I’m curious to hear your ideas around the terrorist group and their Mother Goose theme; do you think we are supposed to see them as childish, or that they are embracing the child-like aesthetic to brand their needs as basic and innocent? I didn’t even think about the irony of Flak depicting himself as a father to the people as he sent in Led Dent to grind nursery rhyme characters into a paste. What did you think?
Drew: You know, I hadn’t really considered why the terrorist group would choose that Mother Goose iconography — it just seemed like the kind of zany theme that a Batman villain might adopt — but I think you might be onto something in that we’re supposed to see them as childish. And I want to be specific, here: we’re supposed to see them as childish, not because Remender and Murphy see these kinds of social justice causes as childish, but because that’s how the citizens of L.A. would see them. We need a push to see them as whiny babies because their demands are otherwise so reasonable, it would be hard to understand how anyone would oppose them.
Shelby, if I can piggy-back on your distrust of the modern media machine (though I might suggest that the ‘P’ of ‘NPR’ exempts them from the worst corporate slavery), the thing that I’m increasingly aware of is that the 24-hour news channels are after ratings, not objectivity. Moreover, they’ve gotten so good at manipulating our emotions, we’re willing to let their videos take over social media, as well. It’s obvious enough to me that outlets like Fox News are exploiting the very phenomenon CGP Grey outlines in “This Video Will Make You Angry,” but I’d argue that they’ve manage to come up with a formula for veritable social media Rorschach tests — videos that make opposite sides of an issue will share for basically opposite reasons. That is, we’re inclined to see a narrative that confirms our own biases. In that way, some layer of fiction is absolutely necessary for us to see these terrorists as jokes.
Even so, they totally transcend their cartoonish looks, landing a key emotional blow that sets Led’s (albeit small) emotional journey in motion:
This was the first hint that there might be some emotional core of Teddy that’s still reachable when Led is hooked in. Debbie’s eventual arrival (and bionic EMP powers) renders being hooked in moot, but I’m intrigued that Teddy might be in there, somewhere, feeling incredible guilt over what he’s done.
But if we’re talking cartoonishness, I have to touch upon Murphy’s handling of the ultra-violence that is Led’s entrance. It starts out violently enough (like a Verhoeven film), but quickly explodes into a bloody mess (like the end of Dead Alive), as Led’s motorcycle is perpetually haloed in an eruption of blood.
Gross. As funny as it may be to see a totally over-the-top amount of blood, it sets the tone for just how little regard Led has for human life at this point. Even Davey Trauma notes that Led has gone too far, suggesting that, without Debbie, Led is out-of-control.
When you take that instability and combine it with Teddy’s apparent guilt and rage, you can almost feel Teddy fighting for freedom. Unfortunately, I don’t think Debbie is interested in rescuing him anymore. She noted in the previous issue that Teddy was dead “for good this time,” which suggests to me that she isn’t there to convert him again. But who knows? I couldn’t have anticipated this series taking any of the turns it has so far, so I can’t claim to have any insight as to where it might go next.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?