As sure as night follows day, the release of a Hollywood adaptation of a comic book series will cause a deluxe version of the source material to hit the shelves of your local book-shop. Typically this means that publishers look for the best available version of comic book story to flog to unsuspecting punters. For example, Marvel will cheerfully sell you freshly written tales, even though the movies tend to be based on decades old source material. Same goes for DC; it’s always the new shiny thing, not the Golden Age reprints from the middle of last century. Less mainstream books don’t have that luxury, however.
Masamune Shirow's Ghost in The Shell is as far as you can get from mainstream Western comics, all the way to Japan in fact. These are the books that started off a massive franchise that included a cult animated movie, a pile of TV shows and a rather mediocre Hollywood outing. Ostensibly a cyber-punk crime thriller, most of the fans of the series will tell you that its biggest draw is its main character; sexy super cyborg Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team, Public Security Section 9. The problem is, you can rather tell that this was a ‘90s style comic aimed at adolescent boys.
Ghost in The Shell – Deluxe Edition is a warts and all release. All three books (Self-titled, Man-Machine Interface and Human-Error Processor) have been bunged into lovely hardbacks, had their art cleaned up slightly and have been printed on good quality paper. Masamune Shirow's original manga has never looked so good, especially when you consider they were originally intended as disposable reads for young men.
What’s brutally apparent from the manga is that much of development work came later. Shirow tries to cram a full cyberpunk world into a very small space. The serialised nature is obvious and the pacing is very, very choppy. Even accounting for the way the reading order is different, the action is all over the place and panels don’t tell the story that well. Shirow tells much more often than he shows, saving his attention to detail for big guns and semi-naked ladies.
The storytelling is much better in the anime; the comics are simply unable to draw the reader in. As an artefact of something that would become a huge smash, they’re worth a look, but they simply aren’t good comic books. Ghost in The Shell needs a comic-based reboot; one with better art and writing.
GHOST IN THE SHELL – DELUXE EDITION / WRITER & ARTIST: MASAMUNE SHIROW / PUBLISHER: KODANSHA COMICS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW